So Salman Rushdie came to Winnipeg to give a lecture. I went. I lost the little green notebook I’ve been taking notes in for the past few months. Including the lecture tonight. Selah.
Here’s what I remember:
He talked a lot about literature. Moreso than I thought he would. I’d have thought it would be a more political kind of thing considering the title (which I can’t remember and am not going to go look up just now), but it was about the importance of surrealism in our non-real world. He talked about our world being odd. He talked about the financial crisis in “this country” (no one corrected him on that, though someone did when he was talking about the collapse of newspapers and he was discussing the Boston Globe and the Washington Post - “You’re in Canada!” and he got flustered and embarrassed and was a bit more conscious of it afterwards) and made casual shots about Dubya and Dan Brown (who my mom had never heard of), and the Ayatollah. That was weird actually. After talking a bit about his “little problem” he ended it by saying something like “but now only one of us is dead” and everyone laughed and applauded. “Woo! Death to the Ayatollah!” Yeah. Weird.
He took issue with people labelling his work magical realism, because so often it stresses the magical and forgets about the realism. He spoke of how “The world isn’t journalistic anymore. It’s fictional.” He talked a lot about Dickens and how novels used to be the media people learned the news. He talked about language and being able to tell your own story. Of artists as rememberers. He made reference to Kundera there, and to Joseph Heller and Jane Austen and Bono. I felt like I was in the right place since I knew 90% of the writers he was talking about. But I also felt like I learned something about what my job as a writer is. And that’s important. If I’m going to try do this thing.
And afterwards I met up with James and LeAnn and we got our books signed after chatting in line. I told Sir Rushdie when he was signing The Ground Beneath Her Feet how it was the book I always give to my musician-type friends. He told me how his musician friends appreciate it too. “‘Yes!’” he said they say “‘That’s how it is!’ And what better review can a person get?” I didn’t tell him how much one of my musician friends hated it. James got Haroun and the Sea of Stories signed and told him how he’s taught it in grade nine for years. SR told James that the companion volume will be coming out in the next few months. It’s about Haroun’s little brother.
Yeah. I had a wonderful time.ayatollah charles dickens east west haroun and the sea of stories james friesen jane austen joseph heller journalism leann friesen lecture literature milan kundera politics salman rushdie signing the ground beneath her feet