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'Over the quick sprint of an essay, Rushdie dazzles and swoops' Financial Times

About the Author

Salman Rushdie is the author of ten novels, one collection of short stories, three works of non-fiction, and the co-editor of The Vintage Book of Indian Writing. In 1993 Midnight's Children was judged to be the Best of the Booker, the best novel to have won the Booker Prize in its forty year history. The Moor's Last Sigh won the Whitbread Prize in 1995 and the European Union's Aristeion Prize for Literature in 1996. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres.


Roughly one-fourth of these essays deals with the response of the media, various governments and Rushdie himself to what he calls the "unfunny Valentine" he received on February 14, 1989, from the Ayatollah Khomeini: the fatwa calling for his death. Everyone, it seems, had a script for Rushdie to follow, though none of these fantasies resembled the rather simple one the author fancied (and which seems to have been realized), which is that his problems gradually disappear and he be allowed to resume a more or less normal writerly life. To paraphrase an idea that appears in several of these essays, the problem is that frontiers cross us rather than the other way around: we are going about our business when our country is divided (as happened to Rushdie's native India in 1947) or we encounter a shocking work of art or our enemies declare they will kill us. Many respond to unnerving changes by embracing religion, but, says Rushdie, "ancient wisdoms are modern nonsenses"; in place of sectarian fervor, he recommends intellectual freedom, a simple concept yet a rigorous practice, as this book proves. These essays range over literature, politics and religion, as well as Rushdie's two private passions, rock music and soccer. They are united by a play of sparkling intelligence seasoned with sly wit, qualities that would serve the world at any time in its long, flawed history. After all, says Rushdie, the story he loved first and still loves best, perhaps the story of all humanity, is The Wizard of Oz, a fable that tells us the grown-up world doesn't really work, that adults can be good people and still be bad wizards. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Thanks to some Iranian ayatollahs, Rushdie is probably the most famous writer still alive. Although he remains under partial protection, he has continued to write since 1989, producing several novels and many articles. This first collection of short nonfiction includes material about his life under the fatwa ("Messages from the Plague Years") but ranges from discussions of The Wizard of Oz and rock music to his February 2002 lectures on human values at Yale. The title is well chosen; Rushdie tends to be confrontational, and the white-hot publicity has not mellowed him-a 1999 piece debates whether Charlton Heston or Austrian writer Peter Handke, a supporter of Slobodan Milosevic, should be dubbed "Moron of the Year." Although some of the pieces themselves are a bit dated, Rushdie has added updates in footnotes, and in any case he always makes his point. For large collections or journalism special collections.-Shelley Cox, Special Collections, Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale

This impressive book limits itself to neither the light-hearted nor the undisturbably grave * Sunday Times *
He has a great deal to say-a likeable, readable and profoundly gripping book * Scotland on Sunday *
Ten years of Salman Rushdie's incisive non-fiction * Independent *
Rushdie has used all his experience and literary skills to defend what is most worth defending: our freedom to think, and say, and write what we want, without fear for our lives * Sunday Telegraph *
Rushdie is the most assiduous reader of other people's work, a true and tireless man of literature...a total believer in the power of the word * Observer *

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