Salman Rushdie talks (and writes) a lot about the dual nature of Islam, but the notorious author is quite a study in contrasts as well. First, you have Salman Rushdie the intellectual, known for his comprehensive knowledge and understanding of history, a man whose name was included in the title of the book Intellectuals in Politics: From the Dreyfus Affair to Salman Rushdie. This is probably the same Rushdie who tried to warn the United States government that a tragedy like 9/11 would come to pass decades before it actually did. Then you have the whimsical Rushdie, the doting father who has written two novels for his sons. They're fanciful, imaginative fables with plenty of magic, humor, and adventure, e.g. pleasure reading for male progeny and fans of magical realism alike. At this year's Miami Book Fair, he'll discuss his latest, Luka and the Fire of Life. And we can't leave out Rushdie, celebrity fame seeker -- maybe one of the only literary geniuses with his own extensive IMDB page, the one who has made cameo appearances in such Hollywood fluff fare as Bridget Jones's Diary with Rene Zellweger. This Rushdie also has an official website, which includes an About section that reads like the bio of someone who is very, very pleased with himself. As much as he is recognized all over the world for his accomplishments, Rushdie will probably always be best recognized, at least by your average American, for the controversy surrounding his The Satanic Verses, maybe the only book in history to result in a worldwide death sentence on its author. Considered by Muslim extremists as an insult to the Islamic religion and Mohammed in particular, the book led the former supreme leader of Iran, none other than the Ayatollah Khomeini himself, to issue a fatwā on Rushdie along with a bounty of $5.2 million payable to his executioner, causing the author to go into hiding and warrant round-the-clock police protection. Since the Ayatollah's death in 1989, Rushdie breathes easier and is able to do what he was born to do--write. On his latest novel, Luka and the Fire of Life, written for his son Milan, Rushdie says, "It's a story about a boy who has to save his father's life, and the only way of doing it is to do three impossible thing[s]: to step sideways from our world into the world of magic which exists just a little to the right of this one (which you can't do), to find and steal the Fire of Life at the heart of that world (which nobody ever has), and to bring it back to his father (which can't be done)." Almost as proof of his unique take on the world, Rushdie compares the story in Luka to video games. "Certain video games are obviously inspired by classical quest-narratives--the princess to rescue, the grail to find--and the use of "levels" of increasing difficulty parallels the quest myths' idea of the hero having to overcome a series of ever more challenging goals. So, it's a way of joining a very old way of storytelling to a very new one."
Sat., Nov. 20, 5 p.m., 2010