Sometimes pensive, sometimes marvelously funny, always lucid essays, reviews, and occasional pieces by the renowned Anglo-Indian novelist (Fury, 2001, etc.).
Though he’s had a price on his head for more than a dozen years, having offended fundamentalist Muslim clerical sensibilities with The Satanic Verses, Rushdie is not shy of controversy. Indeed, he steps out of the corner swinging, badmouthing political enemies, twitting the refined sensibilities of eminent critics (“the map in Professor [George] Steiner’s head is an imperial map, and Europe’s empires are long gone”), complaining at bad press (“Apparently I am the only person not allowed to make fatwa cracks. My job, no doubt, is to be the butt of them”), and, brilliantly, proving that the cost of his police protection while hiding from would-be assassins has been minimal (“During these dark years I have paid a great deal of income tax on those big book deals and large royalties of which segments of the media—and Islamic members of the House of Lords—so disapprove. I would suggest that the British exchequer has actually made a net profit on our strange relationship”). When not sparring against foes named and unnamed, Rushdie examines the curious history of The Wizard of Oz, revisits the India of his youth, exults in the pleasures of being a rock star for a day (while croaking along onstage with the Irish rebel rockers U2, much to the horror of his teenage son, though, as Rushdie slyly notes, “An association with U2 is good for one’s anecdote stock”), and ventures opinions on such matters as the Elián González affair, the turmoil in Kosovo, the Concorde air crash, and the last American presidential election. It’s all wonderful stuff, arch and eminently literate. And it’s sure to get Rushdie in still more trouble, especially when he ventures observations such as: “Islam is tough on suicides, who are doomed to repeat their deaths through all eternity. However, there needs to be a thorough examination, by Muslims everywhere, of why it is that the faith they love breeds so many violent mutant strains.”
Strongly recommended for fans of good advocacy journalism as well as longtime admirers of Rushdie.