Being a Rushdie fan, I had been looking forward to the book before it was published, but the reviews were so universally awful that even I opted not to read Joseph Anton. Then, a few weeks ago, it was on the table at the local used bookstore. I reasoned that neither Mr Rushdie nor his publishers would make any money from the purchase (sadly, I do think in such terms) and, when Scott reminded me that Mr Rushdie did not come off at all well in the book I argued, reasonably, I thought, that, "Even if the author is a jerk, he's a good writer and he can tell a good story." Which, you know, based on Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Midnight's Children, and The Satanic Verses is nothing but true. I would include The Ground Beneath Her Feet on that list though others at this address would not. So, truly, I was not prepared to find the writing and storytelling in Joseph Anton so abysmal. It's a first draft, is this book, and why a man who, it seems to me though I haven't actually made the effort to look at the novels on the shelves here to confirm, excels at the first person voice thought it made sense to write a work of autobiographical nonfiction in the third person, I cannot understand. Maybe even Mr Rushdie was embarrassed by what he was spewing forth. There's the expected self-pity and self-importance (and who among us can say that he didn't have plenty of cause?), but also what can only be termed relentless name-dropping. Honestly, did the man not have any contact with anyone who was not an award-winning writer/artist/politician for more than a decade? Mr Rushdie is presented without fail as brave, clever, persecuted but rising above it not in the sort of prose that one might expect from so fine a writer but in the structure and language of, well, a very pedestrian blogger.
Anyway. I've finished the book now. The final, post-9/11 chapter has some fine things to say (mostly quotes from columns Mr Rushdie wrote thirteen years ago) about the importance and power of literature and that, I hope, is what I'll take away from the book. Authors can be frail and flawed individuals, and they can write seriously bad books on occasion, but, at least