Sunday, January 13, 2013
the last book I ever read (Salman Rushdie's Joseph Anton, excerpt sixteen)
from Joseph Anton: A Memoir by Salman Rushdie:
And of course life did go on. One thing had become clearer than ever: He had to take his freedom where he could get it. An “official” end was no longer looking possible, but America beckoned him for another summer break. The uninterest of U.S. policemen in his protection was just fine, in fact it was a real boon. That year Elizabeth, Zafar and he were able to have twenty-five happy summer days of American freedom. Zafar and Elizabeth flew out together on a direct flight; he used Rudolf Scholten’s friends at Austrian Airlines to bring him to JFK via Vienna: a very long way around, but no matter, he was there! And Andrew was there! And they drove straight out to Water Mill for nine wonderful days on Gibson Beach, and at friends’ homes, doing nothing and everything. The simplicity of it—and the contrast with his sequestered British life—brought tears to his eyes. And after Water Mill they went by car and ferry to Martha’s Vineyard, where they would be guests of Doris Lockhart Saatchi on her Chilmark property for eight days more. His main memory of that trip would be of William Styron’s genitalia. Elizabeth and he visited the Styrons at their Vineyard Haven home and there on the porch was the great writer in khaki shorts, sitting with his legs splayed and wearing no underpants, his treasures generously and fully on display. This was more than he had ever hoped to know about the author of and Sophie’s Choice, but all information was useful, he supposed, and he duly filed it away for later use.
Then three nights at the Irvings’, and three at the Herrs’, and three more at the Wylie place on Park Avenue. Zafar for his GCSE results on their last night and they were, thank goodness, good. In the years that followed he often wondered how he would have survived without these annual American safety-valve journeys, when they could pretend to be normal literary folk going about their normal business unaccompanied by men with guns, and it didn’t seem that hard. He became certain, very quickly, that when the day came it would be America that would be easiest for him to reclaim his freedom. When he said this to Elizabeth she frowned and became irritable.