This is the newest collection of Salman Rushdie essays, and like the previous two cover a little more than 15 years or so. The consistency of all three is his wit and intellect, but especially his promotion of social causes, especially regarding race and representation.
If you’ve read any Salman Rushdie novels, you might recognize or agree that they often involve elaborate story-telling, often silly dives into the minutiae of life, and lofty language, peppered with erudition and intelligence. He’s one of those writers for me who just has high brain power. His nonfiction is often much like this, but because it’s not his main outlet for writing, it’s often quite a bit more muted and direct. His reviews and other writings about book and art show real love for literature and art and a passionate curiosity about it, rather than the kind of academic erudition of critique. I like reading writers tell me about the books they love because they keep the work alive in important ways. I also like when writers talk about great and perfect books too, because I am often encouraged to pick these up again or for the first time. Salman Rushdie discussing reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Faulkner, Angela Carter, and Nabokov really makes me want to immediately start reading them again. He also grew up reading old sci-fi, and that too feels appealing.
What’s very different about reading this book is that it ends with thoughts about Covid. He’s in specifically fragile place because of his age, his former life as a smoker, and having several lung-related disorders. And of course it’s different because he was very recently the victim of horrific violence. If the tenor of these last sections is right, that he feels like he’s hanging it up a little, especially given recent events and a recovery period, it’s clear how much we’re going to miss him when he’s gone.