The Salman Rushdie Case by Zoe Heller in the NY Review of Books.
“One is struck here, not just by the implied disregard for the free speech of other writers who might not qualify for “the quality defense,” but also by the lordly nonchalance with which Rushdie places himself alongside Lawrence, Joyce, and Nabokov in the ranks of literary merit.”
“A man living under threat of death for nine years is not to be blamed for occasionally characterizing his plight in grandiloquent terms. But one would hope that when recollecting his emotions in freedom and safety, he might bring some ironic detachment to bear on his own bombast. Hindsight, alas, has had no sobering effect on Rushdie’s magisterial amour propre. An unembarrassed sense of what he is owed as an embattled, literary immortal-in-waiting pervades his book. He wants us to sympathize with the irritation he felt when the men in his protection team abbreviated his grand, Conradian-Chekhovian alias to “Joe.””
“Some of his most egregiously uncharitable moments occur when writing about his four marriages. Rushdie has a habit of excusing his own fairly frequent infidelities and betrayals with reference to the imperative nature of his own desires. (“His own needs were like commands,” he recalls when explaining why he had to leave his third wife, Elizabeth West, and young son to go gallivanting in America.) The various failings of the wives—their money-grubbing and nagging, their jealousy of his talent, and so on—are not so readily excused.”
“Rushdie’s shuddering hauteur at this moment may strike the reader as a bit rich, coming from a man who spends much of his memoir recalling encounters with pop stars, Playboy bunnies, and “hot” pop-star girlfriends in the breathless style of a young Austen character writing up her first visit to the pump rooms at Bath. But Rushdie would have us understand that his copious accounts of nightclubbing with celebrities are the record of a doughty man’s will to survive, of his commitment to a moral duty…”
Oh read the whole thing.