Set in an exotic Eastern landscape peopled by magicians and fantastic talking animals, Salman Rushdie's classic children's novel Haroun and the Sea of Stories inhabits the same imaginative space as Gulliver's Travels, Alice in Wonderland, and The Wizard of Oz. In this captivating adaptation for the stage, Haroun sets out on an adventure to restore the poisoned source of the sea of stories. On the way, he encounters many foes, all intent on draining the sea of all its storytelling powers.
Following the unprecedented controversy generated by The Satanic Verses , Rushdie offers as eloquent a defense of art as any Renaissance treatise. Supposedly begun as a bedtime story for Rushdie's son, Haroun concerns a supremely talented storyteller named Rashid whose wife is lured away by the same saturnine neighbor who poisons Rashid's son Haroun's thoughts. ``What's the use of stories that aren't even true?'' Haroun demands, parroting the neighbor and thus unintentionally paralyzing Rashid's imagination. The clocks freeze: time literally stops when the ability to narrate its passing is lost. Repentant, Haroun quests through a fantastic realm in order to restore his father's gift for storytelling. Saturated with the hyperreal color of such classic fantasies as the Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland , Rushdie's fabulous landscape operates by P2C2Es (Processes Too Complicated To Explain), features a court where all the attendant Pages are numbered, and unfurls a riotous display of verbal pranks (one defiant character chants ``You can chop suey, but / You can't chop me!''; elsewhere, from another character: `` `Gogogol,' he gurgled. `` `Kafkafka,' he coughed''). But although the pyrotechnics here are entertaining in and of themselves, the irresistible force of the novel rests in Rushdie's wholehearted embrace of the fable--its form as well as its significance. It's almost as if Rushdie has invented a new form, the meta-fable. Rather than retreating under the famous death threats, Rushdie reiterates the importance of literature, stressing not just the good of stories ``that aren't even true'' but persuading us that these stories convey the truth. As Haroun realizes, ``He knew what he knew: that the real world was full of magic, so magical worlds could easily be real.'' (Jan.)