virginia woolf

My Beef with Salman Rushdie

I am critical of Rushdie but I still consider him to be an important literary figure

When I was in college, Salman Rushdie came and spoke in the school’s auditorium. The English department had reserved tickets for its students. Of course, I eagerly scooped two up. At the time, I had read part of The Satanic Verses, thought the prose was lovely and the story interesting, and like most literary folk, am vehemently against censorship of speech and writing, as well as issuing fatwas.

So, back to our story. I was sitting in the audience, prepared to hear words of wisdom or in the very least, a gripping tale of how he lived part of his life in hiding from radical Muslims. Instead of choosing to speak on this or perhaps, even on craft or technique like other writers do at lectures, he pretty much turned in to an annoying, bloated old man.

Rushdie did not say it directly (at least I can’t recall), but his lecture could be summed up with the following statement: Men are better writers than women.

He said: who was Virginia Woolf to criticize James Joyce? Um, she’s Virginia Woolf was my initial thought and then secondly, anyone can be critical of anyone else’s output. Woolf’s famous thoughts on Ulysses,

Ulysses; to which I bind myself like a martyr to a stake, and have thank God, now finished– My martyrdom is over. I hope to sell it for £4.10.

A second comment that stood out was a terrible criticism about Jane Austen. He declared that unlike her male peers, Austen’s novels were frivolous and just soldiers dancing with ladies at parties. That’s sort of like saying, The Satanic Verses is just about a plane crash.

Now, I know I’m being critical about someone else being critical and could be labelled a hypocrite but Rushdie was criticizing these canonical writers for their gender instead of proffering specific examples in their respective works to structure his critique.

You might be asking yourself, why I am writing about my beef with the Rushanator? To explain this, I will have to divulge a guilty pleasure–Gawker. Sometimes, I just have to turn my brain off and one way that I do this is to read ridiculous articles on Gawker. Today, I came across this. Apparently, Rushdie had some sort of relationship with a person I’ve never heard of but might be pseudo-famous(?) He said some unflattering comments about her that were printed in a newspaper, so she released their Facebook correspondences.

I was going to put a screenshot of Rushdie's Facebook message exchange but I thought I would take the high road and post this photo of Woolf in "Abyssinian regalia"; she is the bearded figure on the far left.