What I Happen to Be Reading At the Moment

"A thirteen-year-old is a kaleidoscope of different personalities, if not in most ways a mere figment of her own imagination. At that age, what and who you are depends largely on what book you happen to be reading at the moment.”

 

While not 13 anymore, the desire to read almost anything and everything in order to read for fun and for experience is still around. I'm currently working on my PhD in a physical science, but I love to read and books are one of my non-science hobbies.

Joseph Anton. A Memoir - Salman Rushdie Joseph Anton, Salman Rushdie's pseudonym while in hiding as a consequence of the 1989 fatwa against him for the authorship of The Satanic Verses, is Rushdie's memoir of his experiences until the early 2000's, when there was no longer a credible threat to his life. He takes a non-traditional take on memoirs, writing about himself in the third person. It's an understandable device because it is readily apparent that his life is not his own in these years, between going into hiding, being the Rushdie that Ayatollah Khomeini wanted dead, and assuming the identity of Joseph Anton while in the protection of the British police. However, this memoir may also verge on something less factual than many biographies assume, because Rushdie recounts most of his home life without asking for comment from his family, a fair enough writing tool but also opening him up to criticism. Reading about the out of the ordinary circumstances of police protection (even when the British government was taking criticism from individuals that thought, for whatever reason, Rushdie was not important to protect) was fascinating, though after a while the monotony of Rushdie's descriptions of public appearances and travel being hampered by reluctance to provide security or deal with the controversy get tiring. However, being familiar with Rushdie's writing style made this easer to recognize as style instead of poor writing. Rushdie can take a while for the plot to move forward in some of his longer novels, and in some ways the third person narration indicates that this is not going to be Salman Rushdie the man speaking but Rushdie writing about Joseph Anton. This memoir also recounts trying to accomplish daily life under constant threat of danger, including in Rushdie's case the end of two marriages. Whatever his personal life, reading about the fights and bitter divorces was like the reader was invading his privacy. Rushdie has almost no kind things to say about his second or fourth wives, and I can't help but wonder what their side of the story may be. This and the kind of monotonous, almost day-book style descriptions of his life in these years dropped this otherwise interesting memoir from a 4 to 3 star rating. It is much more of literary memoir in the sense that it's not supposed to be a recounting of daily activities but as a work where fiction conventions are used to tell the story of the author's life, even including anecdotes about how the French government will allow him into the country but to not stay over night. However, it took reading about 300 pages before this became apparent and this was difficult to grasp as a reader. Overall, Joseph Anton captures a time in the more recent literary past, where the high-strung tensions between extremism and art first become a major international issue, and one person who exercises free speech and becomes the poster child for this conflict.

Currently reading

Native Son
Richard Wright
The Great Glass Sea
Josh Weil
The Elder Edda
Anonymous, Andrew Orchard