It’s taken us a few days to clear our thoughts (and our desks!) enough to post about Salman Rushdie’s marvelous visit last week. He spoke to our students and about 30 LW Online participants from 2:45-3:45, then he gave a combination talk and reading before a standing-room-only crowd in the Memorial Chapel. (Among other things, he read the letter to religion and to God from the memoir.)
Here is a link to the story and photos that appeared in the Syracuse Post-Standard.
Afterward, he was the guest of honor at a fabulous Merrill House dinner attended by students, faculty, staff, and more LW Online participants and their guests. On Friday morning, he was whisked away to catch an early flight, while the two of us met for breakfast and conversation with a fairly large group of LW Online participants who’d come from places as far flung as India (!) and Kansas City, and as nearby as Manlius, New York.
Below, we’ve listed some highlights from the class session on Thursday. We’d love to hear impressions from those of you who were in the room as well. What was memorable for you? What, if any, questions still linger in your mind?
On Writing and Politics…
• “Writers are still alarming to the tyrannical bent of mind.”
• “The size of the apparatus sent to repress it reflects the value that a society places on literature.”
• “I thought the Satanic Verses was the least controversial book I’d written. Wrong.”
• “What happened to me was generated largely by people who didn’t read the book.”
• “You owe it to the art not to be chicken, to say what you have to say.”
• “One thing all persecuted writers have in common is they don’t want to be talked about as persecuted writers. They just want to be thought of as writers.”
On Joseph Anton
• The choice to write it in the third person was an afterthought, something he tried because it didn’t seem to him to be working in the first person.
• “I had to be tougher on myself than on anyone else, otherwise the memoir would be looked at as an exercise in self-justification or narcissism.”
• “It does feel a little bit like undressing in public.”
• “I was never interested in autobiography as a form. There’s not going to be a Volume 2.”
• The only thing he changed was some police officers’ names. “It’s a terrible thing. Everything in the book is true.”
Advice for Young Writers
• “Get to the end.” [He quoted Phillip Roth: “Writers are people who finish books.”] “Then you can look over what you’ve got with both a critical and creative intelligence.”
• He praised the “durable virtues” of literature: character, language, form.
• “Steal, steal, steal the good stuff.”
• “You have to set yourself the task of doing what does not come naturally.”
A student asked, “What was the worst thing about being forced into hiding for more than a decade?”
“I lost my 40s,” he replied, adding that, for a writer, the 40s may be the most crucial decade. “And I got to be very famous for the wrong reason.”