Wednesday, January 16, 2013

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

from Joseph Anton: A Memoir by Salman Rushdie:

He flew to New York to do interviews and almost at once began to feel extremely ill. He did his best to keep going through the arduous schedule but in the end the high fever forced him to see a doctor. He was told he had a severe chest infection, near pneumonia, and if he had left it one more day he would almost certainly have been hospitalized. He was put on powerful antibiotics and somehow made it through the interviews. After the work was done, he felt shaky but better, and went to a reception at Tina Brown’s house, where he found himself standing in a small circle of guests whose other members were Martin Amis, Martin Scorsese, David Bowie, Iman, Harrison Ford, Calista Flockhart and Jerry Seinfeld. “Mr. Rushdie,” Seinfeld said, nervously, “did you ever see the episode of the show we did about you?” This was the episode in which Kramer claimed to have seen “Salman Rushdie” in the steam room and he and Jerry interrogated the man whose name, “Sal Bass,” they thought might be code for, well, Salmon. When he reassured Mr. Seinfeld that he had thought the episode very funny, the comedian visibly relaxed.

The eight-city U.S. tour went off without alarms, except that the big trade fair, the BEA in Los Angeles, refused to have him on the premises. However, while he was in L.A. he was invited to the Playboy Mansion, whose owner was plainly braver than the organizers of BookExpo America. Morgan Entrekin, the publisher at Grove/Atlantic, has published a Hugh Hefner volume, The Century of Sex: Playboy’s History of the Sexual Revolution, and as a result was allowed to host a party for bookish folk at the mansion. The bookish folk duly trooped up into the Holmby Hills and excitedly drank warmish champagne in a tent on the lawn of Hefnerland under the disdainful gaze of terminally bored Bunnies. Halfway through the evening Morgan came bounding toward him accompanied by a young blond woman with a nice smile and an improbable body. This was Heather Kozar, the newly elected Playmate of the Year, a very young girl with excellent manners who disappointingly insisted on calling him sir. “I’m sorry, sir, I haven’t read any of your books,” she apologized. “To tell you the truth, I don’t read a lot of books, sir, because they make me feel tired and go to sleep.” Yes, yes, he agreed, he often felt exactly the same way. “But there are some books, sir,” she added, “like Vogue, which I feel I have to read to keep up with what’s going on.”

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