Life of the author of The Satanic Verses, who may now be the most famous novelist alive and yet is even more of an Invisible...


SALMAN RUSHDIE: Sentenced to Death

Life of the author of The Satanic Verses, who may now be the most famous novelist alive and yet is even more of an Invisible Man than J.D. Salinger and Thomas Pynchon; by the author of James Baldwin: Artist on Fire (1989). Weatherby's biography makes a good companion to Daniel Pipes' The Rushdie Affair: The Novel, the Ayatollah and the West (p. 408), which gave a worthy, well-reasoned, all-inclusive weighing of the edict for the assassination of Rushdie and was a kind of encyclopedic legal brief for and against Rushdie. Weatherby too says he started out as an open-minded biographer, trying to give Muslims a fair hearing, but found himself persuaded that capital punishment is not effective and ""does not truly represent the faith of which Muhammad was the Prophet."" He finds that the seed for Rushdie's aggressive public character was first planted in reaction to harsh treatment at the Rugby School. Raised as a Muslim in Bombay, Rushdie later found out at Cambridge that Muhammad ibn Abdallah had a worldly side usually ignored by Islam--a great revelation to young Salman. When the student decided to become a writer, his father, a prosperous businessman, despaired. Friends back home found him terribly ""corrupted and brainwashed by the godless, materialistic West"" and joked about his Cambridge accent. He started out as an advertising copywriter, wrote an unpublished experimental novel he admitted was ""totally incomprehensible,"" entered in and lost a science-fiction contest but got his novel Grimus published anyway, only to see it savaged by critics as ""deeply terrible."" His next, Midnight's Children, won the prestigious Booker Prize. But it was The Satanic Verses that became a world event. Despite attackers who say he knew what he was doing in stirring up the Muslims, Rushdie holds not only that he didn't but also that his book was misused as a rallying point for the faithful against the Great Satan. Spicy pictures of Rushdie's agents, editors, and publishers, tied in with Rushdie's egotism and wit, make this lively but otherwise familiar.

Pub Date: July 30, 1990


Page Count: -

Publisher: Carroll & Graf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1990