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Today I was lucky enough to get to attend the Salman Rushdie event in Santa Monica with two of my friends. I'd say "reading," but he, like Junot Diaz from last week, didn't actually read from his newest book, the memoir Joseph Anton. Live Talks LA hosted the event in conjunction with a filming they were doing with bio.com, which was great because it meant a pretty tiny audience (maybe less than 100 people). To make things even better, it was at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, which is a train station turned art gallery (I've got to go back to just visit the art one of these days).
NPR's Karen Grigsby Gates led Rushdie's discussion of the nine years he spent in hiding as a result of a "fatwa" (we learned this word has nothing to do with death, but just basically means "edict") calling for his death from Islamic leader Ayatolla Khomeini. Long story short- Rushdie pissed off the wrong people with his novel The Satanic Verses and it's depiction of Mohammad, so people wanted him dead. He spent some time talking about how the British literary community stood by him and kept his location a secret (which changed frequently). Eventually he ended up spending more and more time in the United States. Rushdie also touched on his feud with John le Carre, which was something I totally missed, given the fact I was in middle school when it happened- the literary drama sounds like something I need to read up on, though. There was really very little discussion of the act of writing, but instead his experiences as someone who had to temporarily assume a new identity. It was fascinating.
Rushdie was a bit different from how I thought he'd be- I imagined him more serious, maybe slightly pompous (but rightfully so, give then fact he's an effing Knight), and a bit proper. In reality he seemed very nice and humble, had a sense of humor, and dropped a few four-letter words.
Things he did not talk about: Atheism, if Padma Lakshmi can actually cook, how many wives he plans on having before he dies, his upcoming movie