Friday, October 19, 2012

Salman Rushdie Talks about Fatwa, New Memoir

Salman Rushdie says it's "Get-Along Time"

Story and photo by Timothy Gillis

Best-selling novelist Salman Rushdie spoke at the Music Hall last week, about his new memoir called "Joseph Anton" and the life he lived in fear since the 1989 "fatwa," or death sentence, imposed on him by the Ayatollah Khomeini.
The fatwa was for his allegedly blasphemous novel "The Satanic Verses," which Rushdie said is actually one of his least political works, much less so than "Midnight's Children," which took on the public life of India or "Shame," which was based on "genuine political confrontation" in Pakistan.
Rushdie seems to have weathered the storm, though the 600-page book is a harrowing account of the effects of the fatwa decree, including the dissolution of a dying marriage, his raising of his nine-year-old son, and living with a 24-hour security detail from Scotland Yard.
He was shocked at the reaction to "Satanic Verses," especially the accusations in the British press that he did it on purpose to attract attention.
"'Joseph Anton' is how my real life turned into a novel, stranger than anything I had ever made up," Rushdie said.
A dream sequence from the work, in particular, seemed to incite Islamic tension. Rushdie read from this episode to start his talk, and emphasized that "Satanic Verses" was a novel "primarily about migration," he said.
"In the middle of it there was this dream sequence... about a prophet, not called Muhammad, living in a city, not called Mecca, inventing a religion not called Islam. And the person having the dream was losing his mind and going insane. This is what we, in the trade, call ‘fiction.' Unfortunately, it wasn't read like that."
The serious thing that this passage talked about, Rushdie said, was the nature of revelation, or "how does a new idea come into the world?" Also integral to the contentious passage was "what do you do when you are strong? When your enemies are at your mercy?"
After a short break, Rushdie returned to the stage with Virginia Prescott, host of Word of Mouth, for an interview. The Music Hall house band Dreadnaught played the Platters "Great Pretender," and Rushdie noticed the tune and sang along.
Prescott asked how Islamic culture has changed since he was a child. Rushdie said he grew up in a house that was "happily godless," where his father and his father's friends would discuss whatever they wanted. Rushdie was free to think and express himself. That did not mean his opinions went uncontested. There just wasn't a threat of violence for unapproved thoughts. Then came Valentine's Day, 1989, when the fatwa was issued, and there began "the difference between rhetoric and reality," said Rushdie, exasperated after all this time at the extreme reaction.
"Books are books. If you don't like it, don't read it. This is why they have books by more than one person in bookstores," he said. The United States is a very divided country, he pointed out, where half the people are often saying things that the other half of the country can't stand, "but it doesn't occur to either half to burn the country down."
Rushdie was often light-hearted and humorous on the night, belying the years of living in fear. Asked if he was still fearful or looking over his shoulder, Rushdie motioned to the audience and said "Look, there are hundreds of them in the dark. They don't seem that scary."
Audience reaction to Rushdie was overwhelmingly supportive of his plight, even if many in attendance knew more about his life's story than his written works.
Peter Randall, a filmmaker on local farms, was invited to the talk by a friend. He said he was interested in the whole story of Rushdie and the fatwa against him.
"It's ridiculous," Randall said. "I don't understand why people get so upset about something written. An act, I can see, but it's just words."
Henry Linscott said he was in grammar school when the fatwa was issued. "I didn't know what the book was about, but it sounded scary."
Twenty-four years after the fatwa, Rushdie feels it's "get-along time" now and looks forward to discussing the literary merits of "Satanic Verses," a work which has been analyzed through political and religious lenses, but has remained unstudied in the language of literature.
Rushdie said he is proud of the novel, but would have changed its history if he could. Related to the "Satanic Verses," an Italian translator was stabbed, a Norwegian publisher was shot, and a Japanese publisher was killed.
Rushdie lived in hiding, in England first and then in the United States, and tried to provide a normal life for his young son.
"Joseph Anton" tells of his hidden life and was his alias with the police, based on two of his favorite writers, Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov. His case, called Operation Malachi, was considered the most dangerous assignment for the police, and they served by volunteering instead of being required to do so. Despite the disdain from some higher-ups who didn't feel he had done anything to deserve their protection, hadn't "performed a service to the state," Rushdie grew close to many of the police officers who were protecting him. He thought they had it tougher than he did, since "sitting around, looking out the window, wondering what to do next" was the typical life for a writer.
"Joseph Anton" was originally written in the first person, a standard voice for a memoir, but Rushdie changed it to third-person.
"I had to get beyond the anger and resentment. That's why I waited so long to write it," he said. The objective voice also gives him some emotional distance and allows him to write more "novelistically."
"The thing about an autobiography, in the end, is to tell the truth," he said. "Otherwise, why write it?"

Haunted Walks a Halloween Treat

There are several options for haunted walks in southern Maine for this Halloween season. Coming right up, the Raitt Homestead Farm Museum has a “Trail of Terror” and Kittery is holding its final “Night Terrors Haunted Walk.” And recently, local high school and college students teamed up with area charities to hold a haunted walk in West Kennebunk to raise money for the Animal Welfare Society.

Nature Trail Turns Scary in Time for Halloween
The Raitt Homestead Farm Museum fundraiser is set to kick off next weekend, October 19 and 20 with the scary “Trail of Terror.” Running from dusk to 10 p.m., the fundraiser is sure to raise some eyebrows.
For more than seventeen years, the Raitt Homestead Farm Museum has held popular events like the Tractor & Engine Show and Vintage Car Show during the summer.
“A few years ago we decided to do a fall event and thought that a Halloween event would fit perfectly here at the Farm,” said Tom Raitt, museum vice-president. “One of our biggest challenges was getting the long-awaited Nature Trail done, which in turn could be utilized for many of our programs and events.”
“We are excited to start an October schedule of events that has something for everyone,” said Steve Beckert, museum president. “Not only are we doing the Trail of Terror on four nights, but we also have a children's day on October 20 from 2 to 4 p.m. Kids can bring a decorated or carved pumpkin, wear their costumes, ride in the barrel tractors and take a wagon ride as well as play games, trick or treat and more.”
One hundred percent of the proceeds from the events go to the children's programs, restoration and preservation of the thirty-three acre Farm Museum property. The Trail of Terror is $6 admission and the HarvestFest on October 20 is $3.
“It is going to be really fun and terrifying here at the Farm, and we are so grateful for all the support we have from area businesses, the community, our members and volunteers,” said Lisa Raitt, coordinator and trustee. “I personally can't wait to walk the Trail of Terror! I love Halloween and all things scary!”
The Raitt Homestead Farm Museum is always looking for a few more volunteers to help at all of the events throughout the year. For more information on volunteering or info about events, visit, call 207-748-3303 or 207-332-5444.
Raitt Homestead Farm Museum is located at 2077 State Rd (RT 103) in Eliot.

Dave and Marion Raitt hang out in the graveyard (courtesy photo)

Night Terrors Haunted Walk Schedule
Night Terrors Haunted Walk, located at 10 Bridge Street in Kittery, is back for one final year. Admission to the Walk is free and open to the public, but there is a suggested $7 donation for those that are able to help us cover expenses. Experience the Gothic Cemetery, Blood Lust & the Shrine, Doll E. Wood, Barnum & Bedlam Asylum, and The Great Pumpkin, a display area for after-school program pumpkin decorating contest. For more information, contact their hotline at 207-451-9279.
October 26 & 27 – 6:30-11 pm; October 30 - Children’s Twilight (scare-free) walk – 5-6 pm and Regular Walk – 6:30-9:30 pm. October 31 – 6:30-9:30 pm.

Wells High School Cheerleading Squad hams it up before the Haunted Walk at the Animal Welfare Society. (courtesy photo)

Haunted Walk for Animal Welfare Society Draws Hundreds of Scaredy Cats
Animal Welfare Society volunteers, Behind the Scenes Charity, along with University of New England students and the Wells High School Cheerleading Squad, brought the woods to life for the 4th Annual Haunted Walk on October 13. The walk attracted hundreds of people of all ages and raised more than $1,600 for the animal shelter. Included in the cast of characters were zombie cheerleaders, Bigfoot, a mad scientist, a chainsaw murderer, witches and ghouls. Behind the Scenes Charity spends all year preparing for the walk. The week prior to Halloween, the group builds elaborate scenes in the woods with spooky twists and turns around every corner. Gloria Berry says, “It is our way of supporting the work that the AWS does day-in and day-out and allows us to have fun while we are doing it! Every year the walk has grown, we’ve added more and more props and it attracts more and more people.” She added, “It’s a lot of work. When it is over, I’m exhausted but as soon as the last box is packed, I start thinking about ways to improve it the next year!”
About Behind the Scenes Charity
In 2004, Scott Kearney and Gloria Berry, along with family and friends, decided to capitalize on their love of Halloween and their desire to support the work of local nonprofits by creating a haunted walk. Over the years, they have donated thousands of dollars to organizations that address domestic violence, homelessness, hunger and animal welfare. In 2008, they walked through the wooded property of the AWS and decided it was a perfect location and a perfect cause for their group to support.

YCCC Announces Fall 2012 Distinguished Lecturer Series

In keeping with the mission of York County Community College (YCCC), each fall the Distinguished Lecturer Series seeks to celebrate the artistic, innovative, and educational accomplishments of individuals and communities across the state of Maine. The college has offered the series each year since 2009. To continue the tradition, each fall the YCCC invites three distinguished individuals to speak about their experiences and accomplishments as a way to inspire the community toward their own achievements.
The 2012 Distinguished Lecturer Series will feature:
- Bonita Pothier, certified financial educator, Key Bank on Wednesday, October 24.
Born, raised, and educated in Maine, Pothier has made her mark on the town of Biddeford, as mayor, teacher, small business owner, and bank manager.
- Shanna Horner O'Hea, chef/owner of Kennebunk Inn on Tuesday, October 30.
O’Hea studied art and marketing at North Park University in Chicago. She also attended the Culinary Institute of America and is now owner and chef of Kennebunk Academe Brasserie & Tavern at the historic Kennebunk Inn.
- Kathryn Slattery, district attorney of York County on Tuesday, November 6.
After graduating from the University of Maine School of Law, Slattery served as a clerk for Governor Joe Brennan and later as an assistant attorney general. She was a York County Prosecutor from 1987 until 2010, when she was elected district attorney.
The Distinguished Lecturer Series at YCCC is free and open to the public. All lectures will be held in the YCCC Mid Café at 4 p.m.