Sunday, January 6, 2013

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

from Joseph Anton: A Memoir by Salman Rushdie:

The book did not immediately begin to flow, even though he had the story. The noise of the storm outside the windows of the cottage was too loud, and his wisdom teeth hurt, and the book’s language proved hard to find. He made false starts—too childish, too grown-up—and the tone of voice he needed eluded him. It would be some months before he wrote the words that unlocked the mystery. “There was once, in the country of Alifbay, a sad city, the saddest of cities, a city so ruinously sad that it had forgotten its name. It stood by a mournful sea of glumfish . . .” Joseph Heller had once told him that his books grew out of sentences. The sentences “I get the willies when I see closed doors” and “In the office in which I work there are five people of whom I am afraid” had been the genesis of his great novel Something Happened, and Catch-22 too sprang from its opening sentences. He understood what Heller meant. There were sentences that one knew, when one wrote them, contained or made possible dozens or perhaps even hundreds of other sentences. Midnight’s Children had revealed its secrets, after much struggle, only when he sat down one day and wrote I was born in the city of Bombay . . . once upon a time. And so it was with Haroun. The moment he had the sad city and the glumfish he knew how the book had to go. He may even have leaped to his feet and clapped his hands. But that moment was months in the future. For now there was only the struggle and the storm.

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