Actually, this post is more about how you shouldn't talk to famous people.
Last week I had the unique opportunity to see Salman Rushdie
give a talk about writing at the Boston Public Library. He spoke for about an hour and discussed political writing, religion, freedom of expression, and the role of the novel in the modern world.
I'm a big fan of Rushdie's work. I haven't read all of his novels, but I try to read one a year - they are so dense and fantastic that I really take my time with them. I luxuriate in them and take weeks to finish. The man is a genius – I don’t use that term lightly here - and I admire his work a great deal.
But back to the library….
The room was packed. I noted several students talking about having to read Rushdie for a class. I sat next to a very cute, elderly couple. She was working on sudoku and he was doing a crossword puzzle before the talk began.
On my other side a very well-dressed business man fidgeted with his expensive watch. I heard him mention to his friend, another well-appointed gentleman, that he had never read any of Rushdie's work. The friend confessed he hadn't either.
Someone nearby was wearing way too much cologne. I surreptitiously breathed through my mouth, sometimes digging my nose into my shoulder.
After Rushdie spoke, he offered to hang around for a few more minutes to answer some questions. Rushdie was fighting a cold and I thought it was rather generous to offer to spend more time talking when clearly wasn't that well.
He asked, rather simply, that we stick to questions and avoid making speeches. Clearly he's been to Q&A sessions at the Brattle Theater
The first question was a brief one about religion. Rushdie offered a clear, cogent argument for his position while being charming and funny.
The next question was from a man who started by saying something along the lines of "I too have been the victim of persecution. A fatwa, if you will....." then the guy rambled for another minute about his own works, plugging a book and alluding to an appearance in several well-known magazines.
Everyone slumped into their seats as soon as they realized a rambler had gotten a hold of the microphone and it appeared little could be done to shut him up. Finally, the man next to me - fancy watch - decided he'd had enough and started to shout down the blowhard. A few other audience members rumbled their agreement.
Rushdie finally was able to break in and noted "I didn't hear a question, but I'll find one anyway..." and talked about freedom of speech and expression in the US and UK.
I suppose the irony was lost on fancy watch - trying to shut up someone at a talk that covered communication and the first amendment. But then again, fancy watch was well within his rights to express his views.
Boorishness is protected by the first amendment, but it doesn't mean we have to listen to it.
Labels: 2007, Boston, weird stuff