Yesterday afternoon as I skipped up Bay Street to meet my husband after work I came face to face with the smiling, gentle face of Salman Rushdie. His photo is on the front page of this week’s Eye magazine. It rarely occurs to me to pick up the Toronto weeklies, which may explain why I can often be found watching TV as opposed to being out doing exciting stuff. Although I have yet to read one of his novels, Salman Rushdie has long been a hero of mine, so I picked this issue up.
Yes, it sounds odd for me to call him a hero without being versed in his work, but he seems to be such a remarkable human I can’t help but hold him in high regard. After everything the man has been through he is still so gracious and full of humility when most people would be seething with bitterness and rage. For example, the article* quotes Rushdie as saying, "Whole communities seem to define themselves by what makes them angry rather than what gives them pleasure or joy." Here is a man with so much to be angry about yet here he is lamenting the anger of others.
I haven’t read his fiction yet because I feel as though I have to come to it with a bigger brain than the cranium I am currently working with. I want to be prepared. But in many ways, I’m not sure I will ever be ready to read words so powerful that a price was put on the head of their author.
The article discusses how much it saddens Rushdie that some bookstores and libraries restrict access to his novels as a means of preventing shoplifting and defacement. He says, "… a Barnes & Noble in Union Square in New York was keeping them behind the place where the cash tills are. I said, ‘Why aren’t the books up on the shelves like anyone else’s books?’ They said, ‘It’s a kind of compliment — it means you’re one of the most stolen authors.’ It was good company: Paul Auster, Don DeLillo, et cetera. And I said, ‘Would you please not do so? Because it just seems kind of awful.’"
I was struck by this comment. It seems that even those who are larger than life, just want the same things the rest of us want. To be like everyone else. And to define one’s self by what brings one joy.
* "The Tightrope Walker", Mike Doherty, Eye Weekly, September 22, 2005.