The Books of My Numberless Dreams

Glad I could help!

Posted on: August 4, 2008

It’s a civic holiday in glorious Ontario, Canada. (My roommates and I have no idea what we’re supposed to be celebrating, except summer weather and Tim Horton’s ice caps, maybe.) Therefore I should give my magnificent brain a rest but when I see a fellow human in need I cannot turn my head aside. I cannot deny our shared humanity (as much as I may like to).

Rushdie is threatening legal action over some of Evans’s wilder allegations, which of course places him in a difficult situation. Two decades back, he was being held up as an icon of free speech beset by censorship, theocratic totalitarianism and mob violence. He’s clearly aware of the potential ironies: “I am not in the business of suppressing books,” he declares. “I just want the stuff taken out of which he knows to be untrue.”

“Untrue”; a tricky word. On Her Majesty’s Service purports to be a non-fiction book, and must be judged on that basis. But Rushdie’s whole career has been based on the artful renegotiation of the distinction between fact and fiction, history and fantasy. The magic realism of Midnight’s Children; the alternate history of The Ground Beneath Her Feet; the postmodern self-reference of Fury; the liberties taken with Hamlet and Star Trek in East, West; above all, the cavalier reworking of ancient texts and myths in The Satanic Verses; all of these are liable to the pedantic corrective that “it didn’t really happen like that”.

Yes, Mr. Footman, very good! You’re almost there. Your final conclusion should be: Mr. Salman Rushdie writes fiction: “An imaginative creation or a pretense that does not represent actuality but has been invented.” F-I-C-T-I-O-N.

Hint: Any need for the word “magic”, “myth” etc.

Bonus charity gesture: Hamlet is a play (P-L-A-Y), also an imaginative work, and while you may have endeared yourself to some fan boy communities, even Wikipedia knows that Star Trek isn’t depicting reality either.

Helpful suggestion: A political science beginner’s course on matters related to free speech and the limits thereof.

Token of thanks: No tangible objects needed! Just promise to think before you hand Guardian any more word vomit, especially on Rushdie news of which we readers get far too much. I’m subscribed to its RSS feed after all. Cheers!

17 Responses to "Glad I could help!"

You always find such funny articles! (Not funny like jokes. Funny like lunacy.) But seriously, though, life is very, very silly, and people’s capacity to carry on being silly without ever noticing that they are, it does my head in.

You forget, it’s not that Rushdie reworks myths, it’s that (“above all”!) his reworkings are “cavalier.” Perhaps even insouciant.

Jenny I know. Probably says more about my reading habits than anything else. 😐

Amateur Reader I’m expecting him to a huge leading article on what a lying liar Shakespeare was in all of his historical plays. Maybe we should even reconsider his place in canon because of it, hmmm?

Now that I think about it, maybe it was supposed to be ironic? That darn British humour. It’s the Star Trek mention. No one could have made it seriously. Unfortunately, none of commentors on the Guardian site, some of whom I assume are British, have picked up on it either. Like me, they hope the article is a joke but can’t convince themselves.

oh you are too funny!

i live in the town where a bookstore was bombed for having satanic verses in the window, so somehow my ears always perk up when i hear his name.

please do a column on the various shadings of lying, writing fiction, being a bush staff-member, forgetting, and truth.

it’s so hard to keep track.

the bookstore, after 50 years, has closed, the independents having a harder and harder time.

thing is, online bookstores can’t put books in their windows, and b & n won’t.

Wonderful post. The Guardian opiner seems to be saying that “But he writes fiction” is a defense against slander and libel.

lotusgreen so nice to see a comment from you *hugs* Yes, there is something irresistible about Rushdie news, though I limit myself to headlines only these days.

How awful about that book store bombing! I did not know that that had happened only about the murdered translator. Too sorry to hear that it’s closed now. I’m really very very grateful that I live in a town in which book stores don’t seem to be so close to the brink (near as I can tell).

K thank you. 🙂

do the chains and amazon have a stranglehold there like they do here?

hey! where did that icon come from??!

There is a hefty dose of irony in this article, you’re quite right. And Footman seems almost as critical of Rushdie as you do yourself! But I think he makes his point really neatly: Rushdie can give it but he can’t take it, and there’s the dilemma.

We only have one national chain now when Indigo bought up the others (Chapters and Coles). It is pretty dominant, though, as the acquisition gave it more store locations. In Toronto you will find Indigo, Chapters and Cole stores all selling books.

Independent store owners do complain about it and Amazon a lot in the industry mag. The matter doesn’t get that much mainstream press attention though (based on what I read) so I’m not sure how bad it is in comparison to the US.

My local indie is pretty fierce and much more active in terms of author events (or events in general) compared to the local chain which…doesn’t do anything really. lol. I think it has a book club and every so often it hosts a Cornelia Funke-types.

Icon? What icon? 😉

Lesley, the “journalist” is equating a man allegedly publishing lies to Rushdie fudging Star Trek. He is clearly bonkers and his argument too stupid to be treated with anything but gentle ridicule touched with condescension and pity. Irony works if there’s an underlying legitimate point but there is none here.

I didn’t actually need the article explained, but thanks anyway.
I simply do not understand your vehement reaction.
Footman is commenting (a) by saying that some authors do play fast and loose with history/fact/other literature, and in this Rushdie is no different from his detractor; and (b) that by his anger over Evans’s book, Rushdie puts himself in an invidious position because he has been such a vocal exponent of free speech.
Footman’s mistake is in assuming that because Rushdie’s cavalier use of fact in creating his fiction, he is somehow disqualified from wanting to sue Evans for libel.
Evans, the poor plodding dolt who sees a meal ticket in an expose of Rushdie’s eccentricities — allegedly titillated for the British palate — should not be allowed to publish lies.
Whatever your feelings for Rushdie, he is perfectly within his rights to feel pissed off.

Hmmm. We seem to have crossed wires. First, I thought my post was nothing but light mockery and condescension. Where’s the vehemence? (Is it because I used the word “stupid” in a comment? “Bonkers”? I thought that was a fittingly silly word.)

Second, how does my feelings for Rushdie figure into anything? Who says I don’t like him? Are we on the same blog, reading the same post?

Third, why are you explaining the article to me in return (in far more lines than I ever bothered with in my alleged “explanation”)? :p I already know Footman’s point and my response is that it is irrelevant to his argument. Rushdie is not placed into any kind of “invidious” position because of “free speech” (hence why I recommended Footman enroll in a first year Political Science course). To think so shows a fundamental misunderstanding of a) the license of fiction and b) free speech as it is typically understood in most Western societies.

What other response can be given to the “Rushdie plays with history too just like the bodyguard!! Oooooo” but a non-plussed, “Yeah, dude….he writes fiction. Unlike his ex-bodyguard who is branding his as “non-fiction. Anything else?” It just doesn’t go anywhere, not even if you add the word “cavalier”.

Hey – we’ll just agree to disagree here. Very few Poms are worth getting heated up over anyway, let’s be honest.
I’m still a fan of your blog!

No problemo. Thanks for the discussion anyway and for the great feedback on my pitifully updated blog. Much appreciated.

IMANI!!!! How are you? I’ve been gone for a while but I am back now… summer was crazy busy. Interesting post… I used to side with Rushdie (blindly I must say) in just about every subject… this made me think twice. Thanks.

Hey there just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the pictures aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different internet browsers and both show the same results.
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