Friday, January 11, 2013

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

from Joseph Anton: A Memoir by Salman Rushdie:

The drive to John Irving’s place in Vermont was about three hours long. They stopped near the state line for lunch. The restaurant was run by an Algerian named Rouchdy, who inevitably grew very excited. “Rushdie! We have the same name! I always getting mistaken for you! I say, no, no, I am much better looking!” (On another visit to American an Egyptian maître d’ at Harry Cipriani in midtown New York waxed similarly lyrical. “Rushdie! I like you! That book, your book, I read it! Rushdie, I like your book, that book! I am from Egypt! Egypt! In Egypt, that book is banned! Your book! It is totally banned! But everyone has read it!”)

John and Janet Irving lived in a long house on a hillside above the town of Dorset. John said, “When we talked to the architect we just put napkin squares down in a line, some of them set at angles, like this. We told him, build it this way, and he did.” There was a New York Times bestseller list framed on a wall, with The Satanic Verses one place above John’s book. There were other framed bestseller lists and in all of them John stood at number one. Local writers came for dinner and there were shouts and arguments and drinks. He recalled that when he first met John he had had the temerity to ask him, “Why all the bears in your books? Were there bears that were important in your life?” No, John answered, and anyway—this was after The Hotel New Hampshire—he was done with bears now. He was writing the book for a ballet for Baryshnikov, he added, and there was only one problem. “What problem?” “Baryshnikov doesn’t want to wear the bear suit.”

They went to a state fair and failed dismally to guess the weight of the pig. Some pig, he said, and Elizabeth answered, Radiant. They looked at each other, finding it hard to believe that all this was really happening. After two days he bundled Elizabeth and Zafar into the Lincoln Town Car and drove to New London to get the ferry to Orient Point on the North Fork of Long Island. As the ferry left New London a black nuclear submarine like a giant blind cetacean was coming into harbor. That night they reached Andrew’s house in Water Mill. The simplest things brought them close to ecstasy. He horsed around in Andrew’s pool with Zafar and had rarely seen his teenage son so happy. Zafar Rollerbladed down the leafy lanes and he followed on a borrowed bike. They went to the beach. Zafar and Andrew’s daughter Erica got Chevy Chase’s autograph in a restaurant. Elizabeth bought summer dresses in Southampton. Then the spell broke and it was time to go home. Elizabeth and Zafar flew home on one of the many airlines that were forbidden to him. He flew to Oslo and changed planes. We are going to do this again, for much longer, he promised himself. America had given him back his liberty for a few precious days. There was no sweeter narcotic, and, like any addict, he immediately wanted more.

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