An Extreme Form Of Literary Criticism
This is Salman Rushdie. I've been thinking about him a lot today. You'll recall that after he published his novel, Satanic Verses, Ayatollah Khomeni issued a fatwa condemning him to death. It seems that Satanic Verses appropriated the prophet Muhammad as a character and attributed what some thought were insulting things to him. Later, VS Naipaul, one of my heroes, described the fatwah as "an extreme form of literary criticism."
It may be difficult to tell what will insult readers and even make them throw rocks. As Rushdie wrote in The Ground Beneath Her Feet,
"Insults are mysteries. What seems to the bystander to be the cruelest, most destructive sledgehammer of an assault, whore! slut! tart!, can leave its target undamaged, while an apparently lesser gibe, thank god you're not my child, can fatally penetrate the finest suits of armour, you're nothing to me, you're less than the dirt on the soles of my shoes, and strike directly at the heart."
Which brings me ever so cautiously to today's literary and rock throwing news. The New York Times' story is as frightening as it is hard to fathom.
Alas, I have worried that not enough people would read my book, The Dream Antilles. After all, Amazon has it ranked in the 400,000's today. But that seeming problem, a mix of ego, marketing and personal finance, pales compared with the idea of thousands and thousands in the streets around the world trying to maim and kill people because of the perceived affront of certain cartoons. I just don't get it.
I will admit only that I did smile when Mario Vargas Llosa had crowds attack the radio station in Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter because of insults to Argentinians. I thought that was a riot, and I laughed aloud. But I am not laughing at today's news.