Saturday, December 29, 2012

the last book I ever read (Salman Rushdie's Joseph Anton, excerpt one)

from Joseph Anton: A Memoir by Salman Rushdie:

His mother, Negin, had stories for him too. Negin Rushdie had been born Zohra Butt. When she married Anis she changed not just her surname but her given name as well, reinventing herself for him, leaving behind the Zohra he didn’t want to think about, who had once been deeply in love with another man. Whether she was Zohra or Negin in her heart of hearts her son never knew, for she never spoke to him about the man she left behind, choosing, instead, to spill everyone’s secrets except her own. She was a gossip of world class, and sitting on her bed pressing her feet the way she liked him to, he, her eldest child and only son, drank in the delicious and sometimes salacious local news she carried in her head, the gigantic branching interwoven forests of whispering family trees she bore within her, hung with the juicy forbidden fruit of scandal. And these secrets too, he came to feel, belonged to him, for once a secret had been told it no longer belonged to her who told it but to him who received it. If you did not want a secret to get out there was only one rule: Tell it to nobody. This rule, too, would be useful to him in later life. In that later life, when he had become a writer, his mother said to him, “I’m going to stop telling you these things, because you put them in your books and then I get into trouble.” Which was true, and perhaps she would have been well advised to stop, but gossip was her addiction, and she could not, any more than her husband, his father, could give up drink.

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