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“One hundred pages into his absorbing new memoir, written entirely in the third person, Salman Rushdie declares that ‘Friendship had always been of great importance to him,’ since so much of his life had been spent separated, physically and emotionally, from his own family. ‘Friends,’ writes Rushdie, ‘were the family one chose.’
“The conceit of third person remove can be annoying, but I understand why the author chose it for Joseph Anton, the title of the book and Rushdie’s assumed name during his long period in hiding after the Ayatollah Khomeini sentenced him to death. As author of the allegedly blasphemous novel The Satanic Verses, Rushdie’s unhappy tale required telling through another character, since his own identity — his very life — had been stolen, first by the reactionary Iranian theocracy that wanted him punished and then by the liberal western establishment which purported to defend him but wasn’t always up to the job.
“What I don’t understand, however, is Rushdie’s choice of ‘friends’, or at least his notion of what constitutes friendship in a crisis. And as his early supporter and publisher, I feel it’s important to correct and enlarge his narrative, in the name of accuracy but also in the name of friends and colleagues, unmentioned in Joseph Anton, who stuck their necks out for him when it wasn’t so easy to do . . .”
—From “The Friends Rushdie Forgot,” in the September 2012 issue of The Spectator. Subscribers to The Spectator can read more here.
More from John R. MacArthur:
Publisher's Note — July 16, 2015, 6:02 pm
“The fix was in from the beginning, despite the revolt. Fast-track authority was never in danger.”
Publisher's Note — June 12, 2015, 10:53 am
“Rep. Kathleen Rice last week reversed her opposition to fast-track the TPP. If history repeats itself she won’t be the only member of Congress to betray her working class and labor-union supporters.”
Publisher's Note — April 16, 2015, 3:51 pm
“Attributing white-on-black violence entirely to racism misses the larger problems that poorer people face in this country. They suffer a thousand cuts that never get talked about, except when the victims bleed to death.”
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”