In Salman Rushdie’s new memoir, Joseph Anton, he describes (in minute detail) his life during the fatwa against him. The fatwa was issued in response to his controversial novel The Satanic Verses. Interpreting his purely fictitious novel as an affront on Islam, Ayatollah Khomeini called for his murder. Forced to live under the protection of the British police, Rushdie renamed himself Joseph Anton (after writers Conrad and Chekhov).
This autobiographical account of his life (focused on the decade-long fatwa from 1988 to 1998) is both a testament to his survival from religious fanaticism and his fight for freedom of speech (not just for himself but for others in similar positions as his). This is a very detailed and in-depth memoir that at times feels too bogged down in the minute details of travels while in hiding or the excessive amounts of name dropping he uses—the latter proves to be both exciting and tiresome in its execution. But for all that, we do get fascinating insight into his life, both personal and professional, and learn a lot about his writing processes as well.
Rushdie acts as an almost impersonal historian, writing the novel in the third-person perspective. He refers to himself simply as “he,” only referencing his name when it concerns the name’s origins (or a play on their origins). This, combined with his astute writing style, gives the memoir a more literary feel as opposed to a tell-all memoir that other celebrities are penning these days. However, you must wonder how reliable an author he is, when he openly admits to altered remembrances of certain events. But the same is true of any autobiographical text.
Clocking in at 600-odd pages, this book loses much energy in the middle third. At times, surviving the fatwa feels almost as tiresome as reading about it. But Rushdie sprinkles enough interesting anecdotes throughout that you can find enjoyable moments even in the more tedious chapters. Of course, what was most fascinating to me was seeing how his personal life attributed to what he writes in his novels (how an interaction with a certain person would lead to the creation of a character in his novel). If you are unfamiliar with Rushdie as an author, then Joseph Anton may not be the best jumping-off point, although it does provide the perfect framework for his writing.
Posted by xoxojk on March 13, 2013
In Top of the Rock former NBC President of Entertainment Warren Littlefield discusses “the rise and fall of Must See TV.” If you’re a fan of Cheers, Frasier, Seinfeld, Friends, ER, 3rd Rock from the Sun or Will & Grace then you are in for a real treat.
The book is told through snippets of interview conversations with actors, producer, directors, and executives who were involved with the creative processes on these Must See TV shows. The main focus is on Warren’s involvement with making the pilots for these shows and pushing for them to air on NBC. It’s fascinating to see how everything fell together in such precarious ways to form such hit TV shows.
There are great anecdotes throughout the book, and it gives a great glimpse into the executive world of television. (Fans of 30 Rock will see some familiar characters pop up.) Although, as they point out, much of the industry has changed since then, there is still a lot of information to be gleaned.
They also add their own critique of what the industry has become since the Must See TV era. Warren isn’t afraid to talk about what happened to NBC after he left and how they went from being on top to falling back down again.
Any fan of television would greatly enjoy this book.
Posted by xoxojk on July 3, 2012
Bill Clegg’s follow-up to last year’s outstanding debut memoir Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man is equally outstanding. Ninety Days picks up after Bill leaves the rehab he ended up at the end of Portrait and follows his journey to recovery.
As he struggles to stay sober, the reader feels like they, too, are a part of the struggle. And those times when he relapses can be deeply affecting passages. (I cried about three times while reading this book.) Bill moves back to NYC and tries to build a community of people who support him and his recovery. It is not an easy task and he runs into many stumbling blocks. But while this book is certainly gut wrenching, it is also very uplifting.
His final chapter addresses something that is oftentimes overlooked on the recovery front. It shows his life five and a half years after reaching that ninety-day mark and how he still has to struggle with his inner demons. However, he has learned how to save himself and learned how to keep his life straight. And for those of you who are struggling with addiction, his two books are very inspirational.
Posted by xoxojk on June 6, 2012
This book, edited by Sarah Moon and produced by The Trevor Project, focuses on the “It Gets Better” campaign. A slew of queer writers pen notes to their younger selves to inform that everything is gonna be OK (more or less). This is exactly the kind of book I would have loved to read in high school when I was questioning so many things in my life (and it seems like these writers could have used this book as well).
The letters in the book are inspiring and uplifting. It’s a hopeful book, and one that every teenager questioning their sexuality should read. It is also an important book for any adult to read as well. Any and every queer person can relate to so many different things in this book.
Most of the letters are just variations of the same message, but each writer is unique and in their different styles you can find new things that resonate with you as a reader. Some of the writers are illustrators as well, and they drew their letter in comic book style. Here are some quotations that I found inspirational in this book:
- “There is an elusive border dividing the great nation of Self-Respect from the third world country called Wallowing.” –Nick Burd
- “You will discover that all gay men are not stylish, witty, promiscuous, and viciously entertaining. No one said that equality was going to be fun.” –Paul Rudnick
- “Your best friend since fourth grade is gay. Just so you know.” –Rakesh Satyal (this happened to me too!)
- “It will take some time, but you will fall truly, madly, deeply, and finally in love.” –James Lecesne
There are many other gems in this book, and I dare you to read this book and NOT get something out of it.
Posted by xoxojk on May 29, 2012