A must-read article on Rushdie

February 24, 2023 • 1:30 pm

I’m not a huge fan of The New Yorker or its editor David Remnick, and eventually I let my subscription lapse. That had its bad side, for there are lots of good articles in the magazine. I just didn’t like the political tenor, and, importantly, I couldn’t keep up with the many issues.

Here’s an article someone sent me from the magazine, and it’s by David Remnick. It’s actually the best career/literary summary of Rusdhie, as well as of the recent (and near fatal) attack on him that I’ve seen. It’s not paywalled, and if you’re a Rushdie fan, or have been following his career since the fatwa, I recommend it highly. Click on the screenshot to read it:

(From NYer): Photograph by Richard Burbridge for The New Yorker

I first heard of Rushdie at the beginning of a month-long trip to India, when I scoured the used-book sellers around the cinema in Connaught Circus in Delhi, looking for some reading material to take along. I found a novel called Midnight’s Children, knew nothing about it except that it looked interesting, and bought it. I was mesmerized—transported into another world. (It of course won the Booker Prize, and then the “Booker of Booker”: the best of the Booker Prize winners, but I didn’t know about the Prize.) Since that time I’ve been a fan.

When attacked in New York state, Rushdie was on a book tour promoting his newest novel, Victory City (Remnick lauds the book). That’s the book he refers to in the bit below, and I’m glad (but not surprised) to see that Rushdie still has his sense of humor.

“I’ve always tried very hard not to adopt the role of a victim,” he said. “Then you’re just sitting there saying, Somebody stuck a knife in me! Poor me. . . . Which I do sometimes think.” He laughed. “It hurts. But what I don’t think is: That’s what I want people reading the book to think. I want them to be captured by the tale, to be carried away.”

Many years ago, he recalled, there were people who seemed to grow tired of his persistent existence. “People didn’t like it. Because I should have died. Now that I’ve almost died, everybody loves me. . . . That was my mistake, back then. Not only did I live but I tried to live well. Bad mistake. Get fifteen stab wounds, much better.”

Lagniappe: Read this extract from Rushdie’s essay “Imagine No Heaven“, which is free online at the Guardian. It appeared in longer form (and under the title under the title “‘Imagine There’s no Heaven’: A Letter to the Six Billionth World Citizen”) in Hitchens’s collection of writing about atheism, The Portable Atheist.

8 thoughts on “A must-read article on Rushdie

  1. For years I used that “letter” in my philosophy classes to show students what a naturalistic worldview was, and that it was really a thing, not some made up philosophical creature. Of course a short letter, no matter how well written, is not a defense of the position, but it gets them in the ballpark.

  2. I read the Remnick profile about a week ago and have returned to it several times since. It is a gem (for me). I couldn’t help but think about the enormity of the task of doing what he did and Remnick made me realize didn’t understand the half of it all in ~10pp. Remnick is brilliant, always at the top of his game when he writes these extraordinary pieces and occasional editorials. I smiled when I read about Rushdie’s advert career, e.g., the chocolate words he invented: “Adorabubble.” “Delectabubble.” “Irrestabubble.” I’d just read a very technical paper (for me) on the science of chocolate. I’ll stop with a comment about another of Remnick’s abilities: synthesis used in a way to inform, e.g., sliding in Rushdie’s mother comment on dealing with unhappiness, in the form of an aphorism: “Some people have a memory. I have a forget-ory.”

  3. I got the audiobook of Victory City for my next long drive. I have so far enjoyed each of his books that I have read, and really admire his spirit.

  4. I enjoyed The New Yorker article on Rushdie. I’m almost halfway through his new book, Victory City, and I like it very much. The latest issue of Harper’s has a short article about Rushdie and the current climate of self-censorship among publishers and the literary left.

  5. An aside: note the new fashion in portrait photography—convert a digital photo to black and white and turn the ‘Clarity’ filter in Lightroom way too high. Poor saps do it to try to emulate the look of grainy high speed B&W film, like Tri-X pushed to ISO 1600. They’d have better results and more fun if they did it the proper way, with film and some lovely chemicals.

  6. NPR: I was a decades-long contributor to whichever was my local NPR station. Then, in 2020/21 they did the about face you mention and become National Woke Radio. I used to joke: They can’t give me the weather without scolding us with, “and *we know* that weather disproportionately affects BIPOC.”

    That change brought the end of my contributions.

  7. The inner most parts of the earth are solid not liquid because of pressure. With pressure and temperature the phase of materials change. And pressures are really high inside the Earth.

Leave a Reply