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kind of black and white terms if you if they're ready to stabilize work with them. to contain iran to squats the non-state actors to bolster the order, but if they're not if they're going to support these non-state actors in disrupting the status quo then you have to counter them as well. yeah. yeah, and that's a very important reflection on yeah on current us. policy and views of the region and interaction with the rising or resurgent great powers china and russia you all can find it just a knee jerk and it's but, you know great power competition. we must win the others must, you know, retreat and so on without taking into account. we the potential common interest. of a state order that everybody can benefit it from stability absence of war that's almost
never taken into account as as a measurement as but you're as you're laying it out. it depends what china is doing, you know if china's helping stabilize and build states. okay, we compete with them, but they're basically contributing to order and it's not and they're not so i just wanted to underline that let sort of link. little bit go back to kissinger, but then to you get your views and there's a lot of bunch of questions. maybe let's start with the you know the jordanian option that you talk a lot about but really zeroing in on the question of the palestinians initially was you know as you recount in the book jordan as the state would be the state option get jordan back involved and the palestinians would become part of some expanded hashemite something or other some federation or something. but as you say over time, that is, you know became discounted and you know that astonians as
a, you know, a nation a people and then recognized a pretty internationally and moving towards deserving of their own state. coming to the point where we are all the way now. we're given as you said sort of the settlement policy and all of that one can hardly see we let alone palestinian leadership and divisions and problems and corruption and their own set of problems. one cannot see really a pathway. to a two-state solution one cannot see a pathway to a one-state solution. and and if kissing joe's approach to peace was create a balance of power eventually that would lead to peace. there's been such an imbalance of power between the israelis palestinians that it prevents. now they're too powerful. you know why you know, why? but i guess boils down to what's your view? where are we? given your long history and understanding and struggling with these issues.
what's the path? is there a path forward? what does it look like whether it's an indic view or a kissinger view? how can we move forward on the palestinian israeli issue? abraham accords have done breakthroughs of other areas we could talk about them but the palestinian israeli issue that internal issue almost it's almost a civil war that's been going on since the 20s. remains unresolved what? what is the martin indicue on that? well first of all are very strongly believe that it is a huge mistake. so the palestinians particularly young. smart highly educated highly professional and very admirable advocates for for palestinian cores who have been shut out of palestinian politics.
i think it's a huge mistake for them. to go down the road of the one-state solution, which is where they're headed now now for me. it's a rabbit hole. it it will not achieve their rights and to abandon. the right to self-determination when it has been recognized. by the whole world including israel is is a mistake of historic proportions? it should not be abandoned. it should be rehabilitated. palestinians should have a state of their own and that is the only solution one state solutions are not solution for just recipes for continuing the conference pure and simple. so i understand fully the argument that you know, it's hard to believe in the two state solution. it's hard to imagine that the palestinians will a viable contiguous state. and that israel will ever agree that but i do think that it's
essential to keep the hope of that solution alive, and then we go back to something i said about kissingerie and principles. the first is that the palestinians should have a state. and the second is that we need a gradual. process that involves incremental steps that get them there. and and in along the way they need to acquire attributes of sovereignty. they need to become a state in the making this was very much. fiatism the approach promoted by solemn player we need to get back. to that practical approach of state building and recognition yeah in the pit the alternate prime minister of israel and the foreign minister now. it's like you.
that israel should recognize a palestinian state with its borders to be negotiated later. that would be a kissingerie instead. but there are a lot of other things that need to be due done lapid is actually up like the planet a few weeks ago which started with a hoodner a long-term ceasefire with hummus in gaza. that would eventually lead to the palestinian authority taking over in gaza, which will only happen as you and i know paul if thomas and and the palestinian authority reconcile so, you know, there's a lot that needs to be done, but you kind of put the abraham chords to the side and said well, that's a separate process. no, it is not a separate process. and it should never be viewed as a separate process. the emiratis stopped the annexation in return for normalization. and the saudis will not
normalize unless there's progress towards a palestinian solution progress towards and is their position as i understand it and that is precisely what we're talking about here in a kind of step-by-step kissing during an approach. jordan and egypt have critical roles to play egypt is beginning to play that role in gaza in a way that it was not willing to do before. what is their roles they as states neighboring israel at peace with israel? now able to move forward with israel because they have legitimacy that comes from the abraham accords and the normalization that other arab states have made towards israel. you notice how they feel it more comfortable about moving forward because they're not isolated. and that's that's equivalent to kiss and just getting to legitimize what egypt? they ever have a court is
legitimizing a role for egypt and jordan in the solution of the palestinian problem. not to impose their will to take it over but to support the palestinian state in the making. and jordan has an important role to play there. these are two states capable with institutions. they can commit and fulfill commitments in a way that the palestinians have a terribly hard time doing because they don't have those institutions of state of so it's that kind of approach in which which is incremental which is territorial. but also involves the arab states particularly egypt for gaza jordan for the west bank in helping the palestinians achieve attributes of sovereignty and eventually statehood. thank you martin. that's that's a very detailed. excellent answer also hopeful and realistic at the same time.
let me ask a question that asked in the number of questions on on the q&a function, which is about nuclear weapons obvious. it's mentioned in the book the issue of israel's israel's weapons at some point and a nuclear weapons were not a big part of the 67 war or the 73 war. that you know the thing thought of using them came up in the om kippur war. yes. they were not a major factor, but let's bring it to today's world. obviously the iranian nuclear program has mobilize a lot of us administrations and different ways to try to deal with this problem obama through negotiation trump through maximum pressure biden again through attentive negotiation libyan iraqi, syrian programs motivated a lot of us action to try to block that. we're moving into a 21st century
where a nuclear power is going to be. have to be part of non-carbon energy mix i understand. i mean, so again talk that's about your views. maybe kissinger has a kissinger death with it with the soviets and with the chinese obviously not so much context. israel today as you say is extremely powerful. they're not vulnerable the way they were, you know many decades ago where maybe the argument in the defensive way that they need nuclear rapids because they're so weak. iran sometimes although it denies wanting them. it says oh well, you know vulnerable and we you know, where we need some protection and so on but what would a do you see a nuclear-free or a pathway to a nuclear free middle east is that achievable obviously with iran involves the negotiations that are ongoing
and hopefully, you know pathways in that direction. israel continues to deny or not, you know not even engage that issue. but i think it's a very serious issue for the remainder of the century. what are your thoughts on that? so and i think again it's kind of like like the canty and approach to peace eventually. you would want to get to a nuclear-free zone and it's it's an admirable objective like this. but you can't get there from here. so you know kissinger cut his teeth on nuclear strategy. that's how he became famous. as a public policy intellectual with his american nuclear weapons study for the council on formulations that really projected him in the 1960s onto
onto the them into the public policy debate. so during the time when he was in the white house. he crafted. the strategy of nuclear ambiguity that israel has adopted ever since in which the united states was? very alarmed at the way in which they felt that israel was advancing towards nuclear weapons. and so they reached and understanding mix it with gold in the ear. but forge pakistan, which essentially israel would adopt the policy of nuclear ambiguity. never declaring that it had nuclear weapons are always obfuscating that it should. and never doing anything that would indicate that nuclear weapons. and in return the united states would look the other way about america and israel's nuclear program and that understanding
continues to this day the great one of the great dangers in iran's advanced towards a nuclear threshold. and you may have already seen it in reporting from israel. so the israelis are now talking about ending then nuclear ambiguity. and and the implication would be that they would. you know bring the bomb out of the basement if that's where it is and and declare themselves as a nuclear power. and the purpose of that would be to deter. the iranians from ever thinking about actually using nuclear weapons if they were to require acquire them. that and it just nigerian approach would be a big mistake. why because it would together with the iranian youtube program triggering nuclear arms race across the region. and so as you write approaches the nuclear threshold.
and kissingerion approach. i'm not saying that this is what kissinger believes because i haven't really talked to him about it. and i'm not sure that he's thought it through. but a kiss nigerian approach would be to focus on containment of urata so explained before and deterrence of iran. and deterrence in this case. would mean in my view. extending a new american nuclear umbrella to israel and the arab states, why would israel need a nuclear umbrella precisely so that it maintains its and nuclear ambiguity, but enjoys the strength and deterred to the united states. and the other arab states in this kind of coalition broad coalition that i was describing of status quo powers that want to contain iran. those arab states would also enjoy the nuclear umbrella of
the united states and and in that way you could stabilize the situation and tell all these powers you have no reason and no justification in seeking nuclear weapons because you've got protection. you've got a nuclear umbrella to protect you. it's kind of like a nato type article 5 commitment on the nuclear level not on the conventional. i made that's never really been discussed. but i think when now moving into a world in which it needs to be on the table and and discussed. well martin, we've run out of time. i want to thank you. this was. unlike many book talks. i've been very good. this is been extremely it thoughtful. it's like kind of reading chapters of the book. so thanks martin for being so thoughtful and responding to the questions in the comments in a very studied and thoughtful way.
again, this is the book that you must purchase a very important and interesting read. thank you martin for writing it next time. i see you you will you will sign it for me. so i have an author's car pleasure. thank you everyone for joining us today. and thanks for the meit team for putting this all together. have a good rest every day every everybody and martin cell. see you soon. inshallah. take care. thank you. thank you for for having me. thank you all. book tv continues now television for serious readers hi, i'm carl hiaas, and i'm very honored to be here tonight to introduce almond rushdie who was probably doesn't need an introduction. well, give them a short one. anyway, who the author of so many acclaimed novels the the nice children, of course the
satanic verses which we can talk about these new book is the most important thing and languages of truth a collection of wonderful. wonderful essays. i'm going to ask about some of those that he had public between 2003 and 2020. so it was quite a political and cultural span there and again, i'm really honored to be here and and happy to see you. again. thank you carla. he's so great of you to do it. i always remember. meeting you in in miami a million years ago. and listening to you. give me the inside story on everything that happens in, florida. i've kind of tempted to ask you to do that again now, i'm surprised you you've ever come back since that conversation. i usually scare people away. what's happening now as well, you know as well known we have governor desantis and our covid
battle going on and you you even write about the pandemic, which is cool that the publishing public publishing times from the time one turns in a manuscript to when it's done are usually can be a year nine months. but yeah, this is very very current. so i hats off. i don't know how they did it. but like, you know, i got my pandemic in early because i i actually got i got the illness. i mean i got covid right right at the beginning when when none of us really fully understood. what it was or what or what it was going to be. i mean in in march of 2020, i guess, you know, i i got i got second. i was very lucky. i mean i didn't i didn't have to go to hospital. i just had to stick it out at home for a couple of weeks and and then i was in this strange situation of being of having immunities, you know and in a way in a way felt almost
fortunate to have got it over with. and walking around new york city, which was like a ghost town. and that had to be so surreal. and were you were you able you were well enough during that period right after you got it to write i mean at in real time or no, it was actually for a while. i didn't write anything at all, you know, and and even when i did get back to writing i initially i didn't i didn't think i didn't i wasn't sure that i wanted to write about the pandemic because i thought this is something which all of us are experiencing at the same time, you know, and and so what do i have to say that everybody doesn't know already, you know, and and actually was my publisher about editor at random house who said, you know, maybe just write a personal view because people can can make their own connection with that, you know, and and i thought it was good advice so that that's what i did. no and it it's important because
it is it is a current and what the one thing that can and my experience was sort of book. essays and sort of telescope time and get the sense that you know, it's at some point the way headlines move. yeah what you wrote gets lost in the rear view period feels like feels like yesterday's papers. oh all these hold up so well, and and so there's and in almost a harrowing way. there's foreshadowing in these about politically has happened in this country and actually around the world since trump became president. i mean that you there is an ominous tone. it's it's wise and it's smart, but i looked at the date of some of these to make sure what to see when you were written because it it some of it came true. i don't know. i mean i i really dislike the way in which sometimes things i write.
kind of happened later. yeah, that's a novelist worse worst nightmare really because you think you've created something so extraordinary and special and then you're reading about it happening. and yeah exactly. i have a friend right now and jamaican writer who wrote a novel a long time ago about a crazy cult leader in jamaica and then last week in the news. there's his novel in the news headlines. so exactly he wrote about. actually in your i think i have a friend of mine who it writes, you know the sort of detective murder mysteries and and kind of serial killer stuff and it's very successful and it his worst nightmare came true. there was a series of crimes and when they arrested the suspect and went into his room he had a he had a copy of that particular novel and oh my god some of the actual crimes resembled.
a methodology what it occurred in the novel. it's every i think that that is the kind of absolutely most terrifying thing that you could discover about your work. um you we have to start i think to talk about the fatwa and just the your extraordinary resilience but also for most of us. writers are deep in our hearts the ones i know are cowardly and and would have disappeared or gone away, and i don't say that harshly. it's just a heavy heavy thing when you're trying to create anything to know that someone's out to kill you and i don't know how productive i could have ever been in that situation and yet um you not only persevered but you triumph. well, thank you, but you know, i mean, we're fortunate. i think that living in the united states, i think maybe the worst problem we have is that
nobody gives a -- about what we're writing job and there are plenty of parts of the world in which actually people do give a -- about what people are writing and sometimes those writers are endangered as a result, you know, and and they all keep going. i mean, i remember years ago meeting a wonderful. somali writing farah who has spent a lot of his life in exile because back in somalia the dictator of the moment wanted to kill him because of something he wrote so so he and he's had that happen more than once more than one dictator has as wanted to kill him and so he's had a life of wandering, you know, and yet he carries somalia in his heart so much that every book he's ever written has been set there as if he never left. i mean that's it's it's not only
courageous but it's a i mean it's a form of an integrity that you don't you're just not going to you're not going to give up and you're not going to try something else or do something more innocuous and together, but i i think i think a lot of us are really quite stubborn, you know. and somebody tries to shut you up it it actually has a kind of it has a kind of opposite reaction you what you want to you know, somebody wants to shut you up. you want to shout louder? well, i mean it just from years in the newspaper business that you occasionally got these kind of you especially writing a column occasionally got sort of random threats or goofball, you know they can and there's credit they come with crayon on the written and crayon and on the envelope, you know, and you you said i'm a side but it's part of he doesn't really want to take it seriously and then things happen that that change the change your mind about that but i one of the best moments for me and this is not a literary
moment regarding you is when i was sitting there with my wife watching curb your enthusiasm and there and then and you and when larry david had the five top and you're in and you were terrific you were saying you great and i thought this i mean this may be the one of the only countries where where you could do that and come and just come with flying colors come through and put you i mean, actually, i didn't know i'd really didn't know larry david. i'd met him like briefly once. and and out of the blue he kind of got in touch and and and said would i what i do this and and and my initial response was you know, is this really funny or is this kind of not funny? and and then i thought about it and i thought you know, there was obviously a point in my life, but it would have been not
funny. no, no, and i thought if we've actually reached the point where we can make fun of it. then that feels like a kind of victory. and and so i thought i said yeah, i'll do it and then i got i said can i see the script and he said well, you know, you can't because there's no script because it's all improv. and so then i show up. i mean i was there for two days and here are these people who are geniuses of improv? you know. and i thought i don't want to be the only person on curb your enthusiasm who's no good. but that was very scary, but i got away with it. i think you did and can i ask what? what the reaction was because no i mean i mean, i i loved the work that larry david does not you know, but he is he's a little prickly and i'm just wondering i don't know. what would did you get a positive reaction overall was? yeah.
no everybody. everybody liked it. yeah when i should it was great. i wanted to ask you what some of the things some of these essays that and this is almost selfish for me, but you have some great lines in here about writing. yeah and and some of the contexts also the it applies very well to writing satirical now, there's a novels with with the satirical tone which are very very tricky, it's easy to it's easy to miss the mark and it's easy and a lot of people have no sense of humor also, and as you're aware, actually true, there's a there's a line that describes writing. i i hope i can do it justice it's it's about it's about fiction and the contract that writers have with their readers in fiction and and it says it the fictionality of fiction as an important matter lies at the heart of the transaction. um the contract between the work
and its audience the work confessing its untruth while promising to uncover truth. it's one of the descriptions of what at least you're trying to do or trying to what writers try to achieve and connecting with their audience. yeah. well, thank you. i mean, i remember you know in the aftermath of trump when when lies became, you know, like something that happened every five minutes. i remember people began to ask novelists. why do you go on making things up, aren't you just adding to the mountain of lies, you know and and i think margaret atwood said something which i mean i've paraphrased a few times where she tried to have a difference between fiction and lies and and what she said, is that fiction what essentially i'm paraphrasing but whatever
techniques fiction uses whether they're naturalistic or fantasticated or whatever. the purpose is to tell some kind of truth. the purpose is to some kind of truth about human nature or human society or you know, the purpose is truth. whereas the purpose of allies to obscure the truth. so that even though they even though they look on the surface as if they might be doing the same thing. they're actually doing opposite things. and and i thought that was a very helpful distinction. it's it's absolutely true. i i mean i i remember i had friend of mine. in she wasn't trying to be mean or anything. she just said well the these folks are funny, but when it when you're gonna write something serious, and i said you don't understand. yeah, this is scary. it's serious exactly, but but you get what i'm saying, and
especially i mean the the characters that you have to get to know yourself before you can share them with readers and everything's got to be just right and every line of dialogue and and the meticulousness it and if you really doing it, well, it doesn't really show it reads easily, but your home ready to put knitting needles in your scope, you know you agonizing over that adjective and you you capture some some of that process so so well and it's so so rare and yet at the same time, you're you're maddeningly prolific, which is aggravating the right. i think i am not sure which of us is more prolific actually carl, but it's a it's a close thing. i mean, i just think you know, it's it's what i do for a living. i mean, what would i do if i wasn't writing a book? i have no. i have no i have no other skill. absolutely. yes, exactly. i couldn't i couldn't run like a
landscaping. service, right. i couldn't i couldn't run a post office. i mean i could you know, i mean, i remember being very envious. once i was in germany, and i was introduced to the great german writer gunter grass. and he had he was living in a village outside hamburg at the time and he had two houses in the village and in one he lived and he did his writing. and the other one he walked down the road in the evening after he'd done his writing and he had an artist studio. and he used to make dry point etchings and bronzes and terracotta pieces and and and they all used exactly the same iconography as his novels. so there were pictures of little boys with tin drums or they were eels or they were rats or flounders or all these characters who cropped up in his novels, but i thought how wonderful at the end of a day's writing to be able to walk a hundred yards down the road.
and be another kind of artist. you know, that's i unfathomable, you know in a way. yeah, i mean because with your writing you can get wrung out. yeah, and and i would rather head for a pub and then you know, and so some days are like that. i'm seven days like that. there are fortunately one or two days. when you think oh, this is easy. yeah, it's again. it's it's all self delusion and it's it's almost like a cruel trap because then you go in the third day and it's not easy at all turns to -- right in front of you, but the other thing that i found that i talk about envious of the amount of reading that you're able to do the breadth of it in in the languages of truth, there's i mean, it's just extraordinary and it almost daunting how much you've read and what the and
what you read? and i look pretty i mean you can see there's a few books here, and i'm sure you have a room like this too because for me reading is is just one of the great pleasures, you know, and and i'm lucky in that i can read pretty fast, but when i but i can always tell how much i'm enjoying the book because the more i enjoy the book the more slowly i read. do you find ask because i mean you you have a very unique style, but do you ever find yourself worried about if you're in the middle of a particularly good book on cautiously absorbing. yes a rhythm a rhythm. well, i'd worry about it's why when i'm writing fiction, i really don't read much. of it. that's what i was getting at or if i do i try to if i'm reading
anything. it's nonfiction and it's yeah, i mean i read around what i'm writing that's exactly what i was saying because i feel like i told somebody asked and they said that you like i said, i love to read i said, but there's if you pick up. a really bad novel and you probably get sent a few of those and yeah, do i and you i don't start in the beginning. i i turn to a middle page and start to read and because i think the beginning can be edited to looking great and then it's getting there and it's great. it's good. it's not good. the really bad ones make you feel like you know. i'm hemingway and then you read a really good novel and you want to just tear up everything you're working on. no, and then there's the problem with you said earlier over the problem of being infected. yes by somebody's style. i mean, i mean hemingway for example is very infectious. i think so because the simplicity i think draws is
attractive if you're in the middle of a complicated. yes story. actually you can't do anyway, i mean, no nobody could actually in the end of his life. he couldn't do anything. it's true. but no, so i i really i don't read a lot of fiction when i'm writing fiction that i tried. make up for that when i finish that when i finish writing a book. the other wonderful thing about this book is the variety of different subjects and you have a wonderful story about the late. carrie fisher. oh, yeah. i mean you you have that you have the most interesting friendships that are written about and many of them are completely accidental. i mean carrie. i met my accident because i was i was publishing some book and i was invited on to a british late night talk show. and she was the other guest.
and so we were there the two of us and the host. sitting around a table pretending to have dinner when actually being on tv to have a talk show. and and she was so funny and so smart. that i thought i really want to. get to know this person and unfortunately, she thought the same about me so so we became very close friends, you know, even though she was living in hollywood and i was living in first in london and then new york, so we didn't see each other all the time, but it became a very very close friendship my favorite moment. i think all i can't remember if i put it in the essay was given that it's about to be halloween. there was a there was a time when we were together on halloween in new york and neither of us felt at all halloweenie neither of us wanted to find a costume or put on weird face paint or anything. so we went out to dinner together. deciding that we would tell
people that we were there as each other. and that's what it was like me with carrie. you know that the world just became. funny became funny. there's a wonderful anecdote. i won't give it away because it's probably the only anecdote and i don't know how i've missed this about napoleon bonaparte's --. we won't give it away, but it's not it's worth the investigated. yeah it no. i mean i could just do the beginning of it, which is that i found my chance an obituary in the new york times. of a gentleman in new jersey who just passed away who had a habit of collecting strange memorabilia. and so one of the things he had for example was the blood-stained shirt that that president lincoln was wearing at the theater that night. if and he also claimed to have
in a box with an excellent provenance. the -- of napoleon bonaparte so i was having dinner with carrie. and peter farrelly of the farrelly brothers that night and i told them this story. and they became very excited of course, but what we could do with this said -- and for the rest of it, you have to read the book. yeah, you have to yeah it is it is it is quite a story. i i one time in a novel i made reference to the wildly repeated urban rumor that john dillinger's --. is it the smithsonian museum? i just made it past a character in the book made it passing reference. i had got a letter from the smoke smithsonian that i saved to this day and i don't have in front of me, but it a wonderful straight straight face tone the curator of whatever department that would be said no contrary to rumors a week.
we do not have that and have never had john dillinger death. and so i think i was on smithsonian letterhead. i thought this this is pretty good. well, yeah. well there that's that's two feet. this is out with the um, you're a great aficionado of art and are you a collector as well? you know, what happened is when i was quite young. i fell in where they got to know quite well quite substantial number of brilliant indian artists and and and i began to collect bits of their stuff, you know, really because i knew them and in those days. indian art was just obscenely cheap. nobody nobody had discovered it, you know the in the international art market. wasn't aware of the fact that there was actually some very remarkable work being done in india. and so i have i have quite a
bunch of of contemporary indian artists and and actually even the other artists i have stuff off is mostly to do with some kind of personal connections. so so, you know, i became friendly with the italian painter francesco clemente, so i have some of his stuff and i became i got to know a wonderful african-american artist kara walker. so i have i have one of her amazing cutouts. and so yeah, a lot of it is to do with with friendship in french and a personal connection, but one of the things you write about in your essays is also the process that the artist the painter would go through and it in its very close relation to the process that are a writer goes through. it's not the it's not the same muscle, but it's it's the same. i mean, i remember but when i first met karaoke, for example, she had written a sort of text
about about this, know about process. and when i read it i thought well, that's kind of almost exactly what i would say. you know except that she's talking about visual arts, and i've talked about writing and and one of the reasons we got to know each other is that she felt that she felt that in her in my writing. she recognized something of her process. and i felt that in her visual art. i recognized something of mine, you know, and and so we became friends. i mean the you know you i think when you're in the middle of the novel, i don't know. this is what i'm going to ask you do you feel at times and i you never use the word block but you feel at times like you you've wandered down the wrong order as the right water past. the the cars are headlights would show yeah. i don't know. i don't know how much of a planner you are. you know, i mean i i used to be
it's one of the things that's really changed in my writing is it when i started out but like wrote midline children's or that i needed a great big piece of architecture. before i could start putting you know putting flesh on those bones, i really had to know. the structure in considerable detail and and what's happened to me is i've got older is that that's less and less the case, you know, and and i feel it's as if i've gone. from being a composer of symphonies to being a to being a composer of jazz. okay, and because jazz has a kind of structure, but it but it's a loose structure and it allows discovery all the time, you know, and and i feel more and more that for me writing has become an active discovery, you know, and and of course the problem with that is that you can go down blind alleys. yeah, and that is don't you do you?
you're you're fine your character surprise you more. yeah, i mean i in fact i get disappointed. i think i think there's something wrong if they don't. you know because i feel that they're not. somehow not fully imagined if they if they don't have that capacity to have their own life. when you wrote anyway, when many of you know, but when you especially the satanic verses when it was clear as i mentioned before that, you know some there are some things or there's some people who are are never going to have any sense of humor about some things. yeah, but and that was to such an alarming the response. it's such an alarming degree. did you spend a lot of time? trying to explain sort of point in satire. yeah, i mean there was point just off to the trouble started when i mistakenly thought oh,
this is just a terrible misunderstanding. they just they just they just they don't get it and if i can just explain it to them, then they'll see. that they're wrong. you know and and that there's actually no problem here. and i quite rapidly discovered that there was no way of explaining. because in order to explain you to somebody that person has to be prepared to listen to the explanation. exactly, and it's and then if the other person is is simply closed then there's nothing you can say to them that will change their mind. and also then you find yourself you're walking this line of you don't want to insult them by suggesting that they don't get a joke or that they don't see what's obvious satire. but at the same time if they're hypersensitive to it, there's no really other way to explain it except to say you don't understand. it's supposed to be i mean, there's another thing i feel too, which is i don't want to explain my book. yeah, you know, you don't want
to be that right to who tells his reader how to read his book, you know, because one of the great joys of reading is that you discover how you're going to read that book, you know, and and one of the great joys of being the writer is to discover how differently different readers respond to a book. know and and then you don't want to order them that you've got to just read it this way because all other ways are wrong, you know, but when you get into this situation where somebody has read your book in such a way that they want to kill you then explanation becomes something you think you to do. but of course one of the things that happened one of the things i discovered was that. 90% or more of the people who attacked the book had never picked it up never picked up a coffee course. yeah, but never read ascensions of it and i have had i can't tell you. i mean it's now a long time, you know, the book came out.
in 1988 where it's a long time ago. oh my goodness. yeah, and i can't tell you how many letters i've received from people who have read the book. either saying one of two things saying which is the bit. that was the problem because i can't find it. that's one and the other is who knew it was funny. you know, i mean, nobody told me it was funny. that it does so many ways to take that as is it right. well, i in a way it's wonderful that they went back to it. and oh, yeah that i don't think it's good about now, you know now that the temperature is lower and and that people can just read it as a novel on a bookshelf. they pick up and read it. is that people are beginning to see the book that was actually written as opposed to the book that was made all the noise was made about. that it that it endures is
encouraging. yeah. i mean i'm kind of proud of that because that really was a destruction test. no, i mean in more ways than one it was and but the idea that it's that it's still there and being read and will be read and and it's not even from a writer from a vainglory is point of view. it's just that it's stands up. yeah and what you want to do, isn't it? you want leave books behind? that people will read you know, and i mean i remember who was it friend of of mine. i think martin amis said that what he'd like what he hoped to do was just leave behind a shelf of books. you know, you could say, you know from here to here, it's me. you know, and i think that's that's what you hope for, you know to leave behind a shelf of books when when you send a manuscript to off. hmm. is it? are you are use editing to the bitter end or are you when
you're done, you know, you're done. no, i'm editing until they take my my cold dead hands off the manuscript. i mean basically until they say it's going to the printers today. it's about i'm still reading it and removing a comma here or an adjective exactly. i tried to explain that to other writers because i have friends who are very successful. who are i mean literally every six months or once or twice a year. they're they're putting out books and they're honest a very strict schedule with their publisher and i that would be torture for me because i can do that because it would be to me. no, no how it cannot possibly be done because i know later when i pick it up and look at it. and yeah this experience. i don't know if you can go back and read or you have gone back in read your own work, but for me, it tends to be a little painful because on every page
that i let that get by i know that's it is and there's a my one of my favorite lines of literary criticism is the american critic randall jarreau. said something he said a novel is a long piece of writing that has something wrong with it. because when you're writing 100,150,200,000 words, i don't care who you are. i don't care if your shakespeare or tolstoy. they can't all be perfect that there's no perfection is a kind of dream, you know and so you have to accept that no matter how hard you work no matter how much you keep going till the last day when they're putting putting it into the printer. there will still be shut the stuff that when you look at it two years later you go. oh my god. i wish i hadn't said that. yeah, just it can be one piece of dialogue. it could be anything we but we both had a deer mutual friend sunny matter who yes, i was
blessed enough, you know to have as my editor and i know there were times when i would be begging. can i just have one more crack it just one and he any would just say no. it really has to go now you well sunny, you know once i mean i had the experience of being edited but by him on a nonfiction book i wrote this this reputage book about the contra war in nicaragua. and it had to be brought out very fast because it was kind of reportage book, you know say we couldn't bring it out a year later. it would be meaningless. and sunny and i sat in a room, but while he line edited it and and almost everything he said was to ask for more because one of the things that i very hard to judge with that kind of book is how much knowledge. can you expect that the reader has about a news event, you know and and he would say i don't know who is sandino. you know, what is the frente,
sandinista? he just every every page. he said i need to know more here. i need to know more here. and so the book ended up being. maybe 50% longer that it was when when i gave it to him and and much much better for his intervention. it's it's interesting because i've had i had that same experience with kind of several times where he would. you know i get i like all of this. but anyway and one time he raised the issue of one character. it was in the book and because i like her very much. um, i don't think she belongs in this book and i said what he said give me more so i went back and which and i but it was out of my imagination. it wasn't right and i did all that and i sent it to him and said i still think i still think she belongs somewhere else and i had such respect from that i went and i removed that character and reassigned all the plot points that that character was involved and it was i
totally it was like taking a palm tree in a racing your footprints on the desert behind behind you because it could be no trace and and manuscript was essentially completed but i he was he was always he i never knew him to be wrong when i was he writing that the character was useful to you in some other place. i think i throw nothing away i learned. yeah, yours and journalism. you start nothing nothing away like but i had a little when when i handed in midnight's children to my british editor is called a up. there was a game one character of a woman. i've been pretty secondary character, but one that recurred at various points in the in the book. and she said i just don't think you need this character. i don't know what she's doing here. and an initially i was defensive and i said, you know. that's my book and don't take your hands off it and then
somebody else read it. and without conferring said the same thing. and then i thought okay well. let me see. if it's very difficult to remove the character. i will tend to think i'm right in there wrong. and i sat that and i took the character out of the book in 24 hours. that's amazing. it just fell out of the fill out on the floor. that's it. and i thought okay. well, then they're right and i'm wrong. so now i'm incredibly grateful to have removed her. yeah, i i and back on. you know feel how lucky i am to to have had him guiding me as i think though. i don't know what happens in a writer's mind, but sometimes something will just trigger that sounds like it seems like a -- good idea at the time, but it's good just it just runs off the page somewhere. well, that's that. i mean we came back to hemingway, but hemingway has that line about needing to have a very good -- detector.
yes, and and i think that is absolutely right you if you don't know when it's bad, you don't know when it's good. you know when you when you're working on a manuscript or when you more or less finish the manuscript do you have do you have a core of people that you let read it ahead or just a few or how do you do? i don't i don't let anybody. i don't let anybody see it while i'm writing it. yeah, i mean there are people who hand out chapters. you know, i know i know those. yeah that that's terrifying to me friend. yeah, but when it's finished, yeah, i do have i mean they're not particularly people in the book world, you know, and they're just the they're just readers that i first of all i trust their taste and secondly, i trust their honesty. that's that's yeah because i always say to them i don't need to tell me. i don't need you to flatter me, you know, i need you to tell me here i get bored or here i get
confused or i don't understand this bit or i want to know the problem. i'm much more than i want to know how good it is, you know, so and i have two or three people who will who will who will read it that way? that that's very valuable. i think. you know many writers are i think maybe most are deep down insecure. i mean you think you know what you're doing, but you want to get some validation for this before it. yeah publication. i don't know about you. i i find publication more and more terrifying as i get older. no, instead of being exciting and fun. it's now scary. it it is and i think the pen. i don't know how much of that is. the pandemic that that sort of
neutralized a lot of interaction that you normally have at book events or just meeting actual real people, you know pleasure pleasure. yeah, or is it just that you know in my case and am i just getting a older and and do i? here did the stakes of the whole thing scare me more than it used to. yeah. i mean, i think it's that i would certainly it's that for me. i mean i had what i one or two. i mean i had some nice reviews for this for this book of essays, but i had i did have one or two, which said he's over the hill. he's irrelevant. it's pointless. there's nothing here that need interest anybody. i had i had i had one or two. there's very very unpleasant. oh, i mean, you know, we all get those and and i and i thought are they right? and that that's a terrible thing not to be able to just turn the page and move on.
well, i i always dealt with it by being so cowardly that i just didn't didn't look at the reviews and i and i told like my agent and sunny would be great. he wouldn't ever don't send them. send me any the bad ones because you it would probably paralyze me even if it was from some crackpot who or some some somebody reviewing the book who couldn't write a postcard if their life depended on it, but it didn't matter, you know, like you i just felt it. here's what i thought it would be counterproductive to whatever i was working on then, you know, freeze me because i and i just didn't have enough faith in myself to be able to roll through it. no, i mean, i think it's it's very difficult. you know, i mean, i i also i think you get to a point. in the literary world, which is not very big you get to a point where you know who your enemies are. okay, and you know that if your
book falls into the hands of one of those people then you're screwed. you could you could have written anything you could have written madame bovary and it would be would be trashed. oh, yeah, but i know you've done this one sometimes to sort of rejuvenate myself out go back and read accounts of some of the great books of all time and the reviews that yeah that books of those those that their little books. they're called they're called rotten reviews. and and it's all like, you know, virginia woolf trashing james joyce. you know, i look back not everybody loved catch 22 when it came up. i mean, i mean, there's books that have become iconic that i mean, not everybody loved the great gatsby. no, no, so it you know, i might have never put myself in that category, but it makes me okay, you know everybody you feel the probably probably the iliad got
mad reviews. it speaking with i'm gonna paraphrase. there's a great line. i read your the your address to emory university because i actually went to emory for the first couple years. i was an english major there. oh wait. yeah before i before i switched to the journalism at university of florida, but but i'm paraphrasing was line that you were talking to the graduates where you said, go basically go out there and don't be smaller than life. be larger than life. yeah, that is the coolest thing. i i you know, i mean, it's such a great and so important for free kids, but you want to say to them something which isn't just sentimental yeah. oh cliche, like tell you everything will work out fine. it doesn't necessarily and tell them something. that maybe they haven't thought.
you know one or two people got annoyed about my that that speech at emory, which was a commencement speech. because i said 102 things disobliging about religion. you did and there were some emory parents who? didn't like that. okay, i can imagine but and that's it's it's a theme i mean in in your in your writing and in some of the essays, i mean there's we and all i i can't imagine being a writer a novelist or even a nonfiction not having some in a suspicion. hmm of religion based on history and what we've seen and even even what we're seeing now based on the history of the world. it's a yeah, i've always felt you know, because i grew up in india with surrounded by religions. of which the two are in my family was an indian muslim family, although pretty much
non-practicing. but all around you is is hinduism and and i always felt more. sympathetic to polytheism than to monotheism you know many gods rather than one god because the stories are better, you know you get into the greek gods you do a great job. and i mean the stories are the stories are wonderful, you know, and so i i've always been drawn to those those pantheons, you know, whether it's valhalla or olympus or wherever it maybe those are more interesting to me than than one one old bearded dude up there. telling us out of behave. yes one one old vengeful guy isn't isn't really all that interesting. i mean and but you're right there was there's a creative component to to the others. yeah, it's like why i like the old testament more