Sunday, October 21, 2007

Salman Rushdie at Colorado College!

Sorry, folks, no pics allowed for obvious reasons, but he signed my first edition of Satanic Verses!

Rushdie gave a charming and captivating speech to a packed audience at CC Sunday night. Some of his points:
* Westerners consider the storyteller to function best in linear fashion (like the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland who says stories should start at the beginning, wander on, and stop when they get to the end). Punjabi oral story-tellers begin with anecdotes that lead to verbal asides, both political and personal. Listeners keep their attention focused on the wandering story because they want to see if the storyteller can keep all the balls in the air. Novelists could consider the equivalent in linear and nonlinear storytelling.
* Those in cultures like South Asia who must learn three or more languages develop more playfulness in their use of language, developing the equivalent of mash-ups.
* The novel, by its nature, insists on a human scale where the public world need not intrude. This was realized in the novels of Jane Austen, where no mention was ever made of the Napoleonic Wars taking place at the time her novels were written. Today, Rushdie said, the Internet and globalization has forced a closing between personal and public space where history and the larger world will always intrude on a novelist's private space.
* Rushdie quoted a barking dog in Romania, in a Saul Bellow novel, who was telling the world he was tired of the limits of his dog consciousness: "For God's sake, open the universe a little more!" This is the goal of a good novelist, Rushdie said, which requires moving out to the edge and pushing. One cannot dwell in the safe middle space and hope to open the universe.
* The ultimate lesson of the Satanic Verses fatwa is that one must never let an external political, religious, or cultural leader define the right of the artist to re-tell stories. Only the artist can define the limits of the type of story to be re-told, and the way it can be re-told.

What an inspirational evening!

1 comment:

Ruth said...

SO COOOOOL! Sounds very inspiring. Made me inspired too.