Really the only thing I'd really known about Salman Rushdie prior to purchasing this book was of course that he was the author of the Satanic Verses. This book chronicles his life up until the time of the release of that novel, and through that time in detail.
As a listener, I found the third person narrative off putting at times - 1. there are instances where more than one person are being discussed, and you often realise that the "he" who the author is talking about is now the writer, where as ten seconds earlier, the "he" in question was someone else, and 2. the third person style can come across as pompous. I am sure the author had his reason for choosing this style, most likely because the events in this memoir are indeed important, and perhaps he wished to distance himself somewhat from their importance, in other words, an attempt at humility.
The narrator insists on inserting accents for all the other people in the book, and these accents all fall into cliche. In addition to this, he also adds accents when he is simply quoting people - one of the most ridiculous instances when he quotes lyrics from Michael Jackson's song "Black & White" in a hilariously bad American accent - I nearly crashed my car laughing.....
The story however rescues this audiobook from the off putting performance.
I found myself to have a rather schizophrenic reaction to Salman Rushdie's story as I listened. There were times I found myself wondering why sometimes he needs so many words to simply say it was morning, but other times where he charmed me as he faced a horribly unfair sentence on both his life and character.
This poor man suffered through a long barrage of mindless religious zealotry and sentences of condemnation on both his life and his character, and was used countless times as a political pawn, and had no option but to roll with the punches. The revelations he makes in this book describing the cowardly way his government, the publishing industry, some fellow writers, and of course the media are an indictment on our society's bizarre views on religious tolerance. On top of this, the poor man had to deal with an undoubtedly psychopathic wife during this time. This was no man sealed off in an ivory tower - he was a man with no control over where he lived, where he went and how he lived for a very long time.
The memoir seems fairly balanced - Salman Rushdie seems quite prepared to admit his shortcomings and mistakes, and he describes his crazy and manipulative wife with far more grace than she deserved. He takes plenty of pot shots at politicians, religious clerics and others whose behaviour was abominable, but you can't blame him, and I certainly felt like he used an admirable amount of restraint. I finished the book with admiration for him and a hope that he goes on to write without the need to look over his shoulder or second guess his motives.
This is a story that needed to be told. Unfortunately, religious fanaticism is still a powerful force in these time, as we all saw only 10 years ago in New York. Somewhere down the line, I have a feeling a similar story will sadly need to be told by some other poor unfortunate victim who inadvertently offends the barbaric and superstitious.