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Languages of Truth: Essays 2003-2020

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Newly collected, revised, and expanded nonfiction--including many texts never previously in print--from the first two decades of the twenty-first century by the Booker Prize-winning, internationally bestselling author Salman Rushdie is celebrated as a storyteller of the highest order, illuminating truths about our society and culture through his gorgeous, often searing pros Newly collected, revised, and expanded nonfiction--including many texts never previously in print--from the first two decades of the twenty-first century by the Booker Prize-winning, internationally bestselling author Salman Rushdie is celebrated as a storyteller of the highest order, illuminating truths about our society and culture through his gorgeous, often searing prose. Now, in his latest collection of nonfiction, he brings together insightful and inspiring essays, criticism, and speeches that focus on his relationship with the written word and solidify his place as one of the most original thinkers of our time. Gathering pieces written between 2003 and 2020, Languages of Truth chronicles Rushdie's intellectual engagement with a period of momentous cultural shifts. Immersing the reader in a wide variety of subjects, he delves into the nature of storytelling as a human need, and what emerges is, in myriad ways, a love letter to literature itself. Rushdie explores what the work of authors from Shakespeare and Cervantes to Samuel Beckett, Eudora Welty, and Toni Morrison mean to him, whether on the page or in person. He delves deep into the nature of "truth," revels in the vibrant malleability of language and the creative lines that can join art and life, and looks anew at migration, multiculturalism, and censorship. Enlivened on every page by Rushdie's signature wit and dazzling voice, Languages of Truth offers the author's most piercingly analytical views yet on the evolution of literature and culture even as he takes us on an exhilarating tour of his own exuberant and fearless imagination.


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Newly collected, revised, and expanded nonfiction--including many texts never previously in print--from the first two decades of the twenty-first century by the Booker Prize-winning, internationally bestselling author Salman Rushdie is celebrated as a storyteller of the highest order, illuminating truths about our society and culture through his gorgeous, often searing pros Newly collected, revised, and expanded nonfiction--including many texts never previously in print--from the first two decades of the twenty-first century by the Booker Prize-winning, internationally bestselling author Salman Rushdie is celebrated as a storyteller of the highest order, illuminating truths about our society and culture through his gorgeous, often searing prose. Now, in his latest collection of nonfiction, he brings together insightful and inspiring essays, criticism, and speeches that focus on his relationship with the written word and solidify his place as one of the most original thinkers of our time. Gathering pieces written between 2003 and 2020, Languages of Truth chronicles Rushdie's intellectual engagement with a period of momentous cultural shifts. Immersing the reader in a wide variety of subjects, he delves into the nature of storytelling as a human need, and what emerges is, in myriad ways, a love letter to literature itself. Rushdie explores what the work of authors from Shakespeare and Cervantes to Samuel Beckett, Eudora Welty, and Toni Morrison mean to him, whether on the page or in person. He delves deep into the nature of "truth," revels in the vibrant malleability of language and the creative lines that can join art and life, and looks anew at migration, multiculturalism, and censorship. Enlivened on every page by Rushdie's signature wit and dazzling voice, Languages of Truth offers the author's most piercingly analytical views yet on the evolution of literature and culture even as he takes us on an exhilarating tour of his own exuberant and fearless imagination.

30 review for Languages of Truth: Essays 2003-2020

  1. 5 out of 5

    Faith

    “Only write what you know if what you know is interesting. If you live in a neighborhood like Harper Lee’s or William Faulkner’s, by all means feel free to tell heated tales of your own personal Yoknapatawpha, and you’ll probably find you never need to leave home at all. But unless what you know is really interesting, don’t write about it. Write what you don’t know.” (From Wonder Tales) This is a collection of essays by the author. Some were previously published but have been reworked. Included a “Only write what you know if what you know is interesting. If you live in a neighborhood like Harper Lee’s or William Faulkner’s, by all means feel free to tell heated tales of your own personal Yoknapatawpha, and you’ll probably find you never need to leave home at all. But unless what you know is really interesting, don’t write about it. Write what you don’t know.” (From Wonder Tales) This is a collection of essays by the author. Some were previously published but have been reworked. Included are college lectures, commencement speeches, magazine articles and introductions to books and exhibit catalogs. Among the themes touched upon are artistic expression, censorship, politics, religion, art, literature and the pandemic. I especially enjoyed: Wonder Tales, about writing. Proteus, also about writing. “I say this as a person who believes in neither God nor the devil, I believe only in Virgil, but I understand the nature of the contract of fiction, so I can agree to suspend disbelief in what I know is not to be believed in the hope of finding, by doing so, some truth on which I can rely, in which I can have faith.” Gabo and I. It includes an explanation and assessment of magical realism, but I still don’t want to read any more of that. Autobiography and the Novel. When asked whether your novel is autobiographical, the author suggests that you just say yes, it’s completely autobiographical and then you can move on to more interesting topics. The Liberty Instinct. About religion. “If I had stood before you a decade ago, I might have argued here that religious extremism was the greatest threat to liberty we faced. I did not foresee what seems to me to be a secularization of that fanaticism. The Trump phenomenon has all the qualities of a religious cult, in which truth becomes what the leader says it is, and only what he says it is, and in which evil becomes everything that is outside the cult.” Carrie Fisher. The author and actor were close friends. Pandemic. The author’s personal experience with COVID-19. I wasn’t particularly interested in the essays about photographers and painters, although they were well-written. The essays were interesting, perceptive and witty, but I prefer his fiction. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    This may be my favorite book this year. So much to address here, so much richness on full display on a number of subjects and of course, literature being the most prominent as that is the what most people think of when they think of Sir Rushdie. Along with the publication of George Saunders's A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, several of the entries included in this anthology present a master class in the understanding and exploration of the finer points of literature, as Rushdie has included lecture This may be my favorite book this year. So much to address here, so much richness on full display on a number of subjects and of course, literature being the most prominent as that is the what most people think of when they think of Sir Rushdie. Along with the publication of George Saunders's A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, several of the entries included in this anthology present a master class in the understanding and exploration of the finer points of literature, as Rushdie has included lectures from his teachings at Emory University. But it is his lifelong love of beauty and appreciation of art and artists that add additional shades to this collection. Then again, there are musings on authors who have meant so much to him, presented with wit and humanity. The fact that he has counted many friends among his subjects gives these an immediacy. There are pieces he wrote as introductions to exhibition catalogues, addresses presented to the PEN Gala, and pieces honoring great dear friends as only he can. Given the two novels he has published during years when America threatened to devolve into Trumpistan, I was not surprised at the NY Times article Truth in which he succinctly and eloquently provides the strongest argument against the perceived danger to art and artists presented by the "cabinet of billionaires." Altogether, this collection form a portrait of a man of exceedingly acute perception and humanity.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Parvathy

    The erudition is impressive. From Proteus to Marquez, Roth to Cervantes, Pinter to Hans Christian Anderson; Osama to Ai Weiwei to hijras in India; Amrita Sher-Gil and Bhupen Khakhar to Taryn Simon and Kara Walker. Rushdie knows much, has opinions and is not shy about holding forth. Thankfully it’s Rushdie - his writing is fabulous and you can rest assured that even when he is talking of the novels of Samuel Becket or artists you have never heard of, you will not be bored. I particularly loved ‘W The erudition is impressive. From Proteus to Marquez, Roth to Cervantes, Pinter to Hans Christian Anderson; Osama to Ai Weiwei to hijras in India; Amrita Sher-Gil and Bhupen Khakhar to Taryn Simon and Kara Walker. Rushdie knows much, has opinions and is not shy about holding forth. Thankfully it’s Rushdie - his writing is fabulous and you can rest assured that even when he is talking of the novels of Samuel Becket or artists you have never heard of, you will not be bored. I particularly loved ‘Wonder Tales’, the first essay in the book where he explores the role of stories in our shared humanity. It’s a theme he keeps coming back to, along with that of freedom of expression and the need to safeguard it in a less than free world. Truly enjoyed this one.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Chloe

    An erudite book which rockets you in several directions, discovering new authors, artists and deliciously plumbing new depths of stupidity in politics. As records of speeches it brings Rushdie into your reading room in a direct vivid manner, something lockdown has lacked and connects writer to reader immediately.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Angie Boyter

    There are 38 essays in this collection, so it should come as no surprise that the subjects are wide-ranging. The emphasis is on the arts, ALL of the arts, including literature, films, stage, painting, and photography. Given Rushdie’s background it is also not surprising that the scope is worldwide, including persons most Americans have probably never heard of. There are also perspectives on society around the world, with some special emphasis on Rushdie’s native India. Some get personal, includi There are 38 essays in this collection, so it should come as no surprise that the subjects are wide-ranging. The emphasis is on the arts, ALL of the arts, including literature, films, stage, painting, and photography. Given Rushdie’s background it is also not surprising that the scope is worldwide, including persons most Americans have probably never heard of. There are also perspectives on society around the world, with some special emphasis on Rushdie’s native India. Some get personal, including beautiful homages to deceased friends like Carrie Fisher, Harold Pinter, and Christopher Hitchens and an account of Rushdie’s own “personal engagement with the coronavirus”. These essays are beautifully written, but what made them stand out to me was the sheer breadth of the author’s knowledge about these subjects, as well as his personal acquaintance with just about every prominent person in the arts of the past 50 years. How many authors are likely to cite both Heraclitus and Popeye the Sailor on the same page? These are not just recitations of what Rushdie knows. There are thoughtful analyses of his subjects. The scope may also, however, present some problems for readers. I do not think anyone except Rushdie is likely to be familiar with everyone he cites in the essays. Sometimes he explains enough for the reader to grasp his point even when the work or person is unfamiliar, but sometimes he does not. I found myself resorting to Google on numerous occasions. Also, some essays are very specific, e.g., “Samuel Beckett’s Novels”, and readers like me who are not Beckett fans may just not be interested. Others may not want to see his political views creep into essays on other subjects. Since these are separate essays, if you do not find an essay of interest, you can skip to the next with no loss of context. On the other hand, an essay on a topic new to you can be fascinating. Even if you eliminate some essays, though, there is a lot to like and learn and admire in this book. The first essay alone, Wonder Tales, on the importance of stories, makes the book worthwhile. And the concluding essay, The Proust Questionnaire, will give you a picture of Salmon Rushdie that you are not likely to find anywhere else.

  6. 4 out of 5

    R.

    The literary criticism is great, the art reviews priceless. Even made notes of artworks and writers to later research. BUT Needed editing for repetition: too often Salman ("Salman") thumps his chest every third paragraph about atheism (hope Hitchens sees this, bro)... The literary criticism is great, the art reviews priceless. Even made notes of artworks and writers to later research. BUT Needed editing for repetition: too often Salman ("Salman") thumps his chest every third paragraph about atheism (hope Hitchens sees this, bro)...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Minna

    Imagine a days long, rambling, often humorous, soliloquy by a favorite elderly professor: Thoughts on writing and reading, memoir, and so many book/author name drops my eyes glaze over. I wonder: How did we come to this point in the conversation? I’m lost within continual references to obscure books, plays, and characters, without explanation, as if everyone would be intimately familiar. This is a dense read, best for well-read scholars, lovers of historical political movements, or extremely stu Imagine a days long, rambling, often humorous, soliloquy by a favorite elderly professor: Thoughts on writing and reading, memoir, and so many book/author name drops my eyes glaze over. I wonder: How did we come to this point in the conversation? I’m lost within continual references to obscure books, plays, and characters, without explanation, as if everyone would be intimately familiar. This is a dense read, best for well-read scholars, lovers of historical political movements, or extremely studious readers. At times Languages of Truth is deeply inspiring, with essays on: how fiction enriches reality, how rereadings over the years highlight our changing perceptions, and what is lost and gained through translation. I admire Rushdie for his moral bravery and for challenging religious orthodoxy. And for helping persecuted authors through PEN International. And for his oceans of knowledge and opinions. I have discovered so many great books and authors through Languages, and renewed my love of fiction after a long binge on nonfiction. Thanks so much, Rushdie. But for now I need to let this book go. DNF at page 222

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joy

    In addition to publications, many of the essays compiled here come from lectures or presentations given by Rushdie over the years, providing the reader the opportunity to sit in the classroom or the audience and learn from a master. Whether it is the craft of writing or political events, each topic is approached with confidence and laser focus. At times, perhaps, the confidence crosses the line into arrogance, but with the many years of success as well as the dues he has paid, Rushdie can probab In addition to publications, many of the essays compiled here come from lectures or presentations given by Rushdie over the years, providing the reader the opportunity to sit in the classroom or the audience and learn from a master. Whether it is the craft of writing or political events, each topic is approached with confidence and laser focus. At times, perhaps, the confidence crosses the line into arrogance, but with the many years of success as well as the dues he has paid, Rushdie can probably be forgiven for flexing his rhetorical muscles a bit. This is a collection that can be returned to over time, in much the same way as it came about. It is a legacy preserved for sure. Thank you to Salman Rushdie, Random House, and NetGalley for an Advance Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Trevor Seigler

    Salman Rushdie's new collection of essays, "Languages of Truth," manages to be a great collection with pieces ranging from literary topics to world-changing ones. Rushdie, a prolific novelist, is at his best in talking about literary issues, but he's no slouch when it comes to covering events in the wider world (such as the rise of Trump, the very Trump-like government of India, and so on). Including reminisces of Philip Roth, Christopher Hitchens, Harold Pinter, and Carrie Fisher, as well as in Salman Rushdie's new collection of essays, "Languages of Truth," manages to be a great collection with pieces ranging from literary topics to world-changing ones. Rushdie, a prolific novelist, is at his best in talking about literary issues, but he's no slouch when it comes to covering events in the wider world (such as the rise of Trump, the very Trump-like government of India, and so on). Including reminisces of Philip Roth, Christopher Hitchens, Harold Pinter, and Carrie Fisher, as well as in-depth discussions about the "hijra" of India, artists that he admires, and how he came to grow up as an atheist in a very religious country, Rushdie's essays are delights in themselves, and the book as a whole rarely falters in maintaining interest.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Deedi Brown (DeediReads)

    All my reviews live at https://deedispeaking.com/reads/. First, thank you to Random House for the gifted copy of this book! It is a beautiful addition to my shelves, and I really enjoyed it. Languages of Truth is a collection of essays and speeches that Salman Rushdie has written or delivered over the years. Most of these are relatively short, which makes it digestible and easy to pick away at over time. Topics range from literature and writing to world events and dedications. My favorite ones wer All my reviews live at https://deedispeaking.com/reads/. First, thank you to Random House for the gifted copy of this book! It is a beautiful addition to my shelves, and I really enjoyed it. Languages of Truth is a collection of essays and speeches that Salman Rushdie has written or delivered over the years. Most of these are relatively short, which makes it digestible and easy to pick away at over time. Topics range from literature and writing to world events and dedications. My favorite ones were actually the first three in the book (the ones on storytelling), which were also read by Rushdie himself in the audiobook. I did read (or listen to) all of this one, but there were definitely some essays that I didn’t follow or understand as well as others, just because he was talking about an author or an event that I wasn’t familiar with. So I’d encourage you not to be afraid to skip around and over anything that doesn’t seem like it’s for you; the book will still be worth your time. All in all, I’m always glad to have more of Rushdie’s brain in my brain!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bhavsi

    Salman Rushdie’s essay collection, Languages of Truth spans over almost two decades. In this collection, Rushdie covers storytelling, writing, art and his views on the world with a few sprinkles of name-dropping. Rushdie also illustrates a vulnerable look into his personal life. His literary voice is singular and his perspective is unique. Rushdie’s wit and wisdom is enlightening and his reflections are full of shocking insight. I was enthralled from the very first essay to the last one. However Salman Rushdie’s essay collection, Languages of Truth spans over almost two decades. In this collection, Rushdie covers storytelling, writing, art and his views on the world with a few sprinkles of name-dropping. Rushdie also illustrates a vulnerable look into his personal life. His literary voice is singular and his perspective is unique. Rushdie’s wit and wisdom is enlightening and his reflections are full of shocking insight. I was enthralled from the very first essay to the last one. However, the essays that lost my full attention were ones where I needed to know some more background of the topic being discussed. I feel this to be true for almost every essay collection but reading Rushdie’s musings has been an enriching experience. This is the first time I’ve read Salman Rushdie’s work and I cannot wait to dive into his fictional stories soon. Thank you Salman Rushdie, Penguin Random House and NetGalley for this advance review copy.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Holz

    I can never decide if I like Rushdie’s nonfiction more when we agree (i.e., Shakespeare) or disagree (i.e., Ulysses), but I always enjoy picking his brain for what art — written and visual — is energizing him at any given moment. As a writer still straddling the East/West divide so many years later, that usually provides a delicious and culturally holistic array that leaves me with questions, arguments, and an ever-lengthening to-read shelf.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ingrid

    A compendium of essays on writing, storytelling, writers, artists and the increasing elusiveness of truth spanning Greek and Indian mythology, family Christmases and surviving COVID-19 as an individual and a species, religion and atheism, freedom and morality, questioning beliefs and unhesitatingly challenging authoritarianism — the author’s erudition, voracious curiosity and linguistic virtuosity permeate every page.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nina Keller

    So good, for so many reasons. I love Salman Rushdie. I appreciated his thoughts on fiction as a greater revealer of truth than even nonfiction. We learn themes and lessons that express universal truths perhaps more illustratively than works of nonfiction. This is true in one of my favorite Rushdie books, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, which responds to the fatwah issued upon Rushdie by the ayatollah of Iran. Rushdie cites a study in which children who are deprived of stories and song do not quite So good, for so many reasons. I love Salman Rushdie. I appreciated his thoughts on fiction as a greater revealer of truth than even nonfiction. We learn themes and lessons that express universal truths perhaps more illustratively than works of nonfiction. This is true in one of my favorite Rushdie books, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, which responds to the fatwah issued upon Rushdie by the ayatollah of Iran. Rushdie cites a study in which children who are deprived of stories and song do not quite develop appropriately, concluding that we are all born wanting food, shelter, stories, and song. Indeed, stories and music are essential parts of humanity. He analyzes the works of many writers and artists, many whom I already admire, and I now have added Philip Roth and Kara Walker to my to-view list. I also appreciated the author’s telling of his experience in contracting and recovering from the virus during the current pandemic, and his warnings about the state of politics and culture wars in the US.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dev Pradhan

    "For innovation, for newness we must turn to irrealism and find new ways of approaching the truth through lies." Languages of Truth is a collection of essays and speeches on writing, language, criticism, storytelling and fiction by Salman Rushdie from the last two decades. The book gripped me from the first essay, 'Wonder Tales' which is about importance of stories. However, there were essays which I found uninteresting because I had no background on them. The first essay was my favourite in this "For innovation, for newness we must turn to irrealism and find new ways of approaching the truth through lies." Languages of Truth is a collection of essays and speeches on writing, language, criticism, storytelling and fiction by Salman Rushdie from the last two decades. The book gripped me from the first essay, 'Wonder Tales' which is about importance of stories. However, there were essays which I found uninteresting because I had no background on them. The first essay was my favourite in this book. I liked the way how Rushdie exlplained the significance of fiction in that essay. In the last eassy he shared his personal engagement with coronavirus and about the pandemic in the world.

  16. 5 out of 5

    kathryn donovan

    I'm generally turned off by Rushdie's image-conscious social life, angry arrogance and creepy old man vibes. But 5 stars for this collection of essays!! It was like having a discussion about all my favorite novels and authors with a best friend that I would never really be friends with in real life. I also now know the reason why Pablo, a dear friend who took over my reading life years ago, made me suffer through "Tristram Shandy" and "Gargantua and Panagruel". The book in one sentence: Literatu I'm generally turned off by Rushdie's image-conscious social life, angry arrogance and creepy old man vibes. But 5 stars for this collection of essays!! It was like having a discussion about all my favorite novels and authors with a best friend that I would never really be friends with in real life. I also now know the reason why Pablo, a dear friend who took over my reading life years ago, made me suffer through "Tristram Shandy" and "Gargantua and Panagruel". The book in one sentence: Literature (non-fiction) has the ability to uncover universal truths that reality and fiction cannot. Sections to skip: Part 4. Even the most eloquent of writers will fail with words when it comes to describing art. Also, in Part 4, Rushdie fills out a Vanity Fair Questionnaire better suited for Facebook than for publishing.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I'm not usually one for collections of essays or short stories, but I'll make an exception for this. Not only were the essays fantastic, but they made me want to stop and go read (or reread) whatever he was talking about. I'm not usually one for collections of essays or short stories, but I'll make an exception for this. Not only were the essays fantastic, but they made me want to stop and go read (or reread) whatever he was talking about.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Steven Witt

    Excellent collection of essays from Salman Rushdie from 2003 to 2020 that share his love of literature, art, and the world. If you are a fan of Salman Rushdie, this is a must read. His essays include Shakespeare, Cervantes, Kurt Vonnegut, Philip Roth, his friendships with Christopher Hitchens and Carrie Fisher, so much more. These essays are great reading.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Swarup Chakraborty

    Best non-fiction from the master Storyteller. It is a collection of essays touching variety of subjects and each one is presented in an uncanny narrative pattern, which evokes an aura of magic around it like his fictional writings, yet they are clear and straight from the heart. Loved it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jan Peregrine

    I've only enjoyed two books of Bombay-born and raised Salman Rushdie. I had to read The Satanic Verses that made a Muslim radical put out a contract on his life, a fatwa, in the late 80s. I'm not sure I really understood or appreciated it like I should have, but it definitely didn't deserve the assassination of Rushdie. I need to read it again. The other one I read was one of his children's books written for his second son. I loved it. Now I've read his latest essay collection called The Languag I've only enjoyed two books of Bombay-born and raised Salman Rushdie. I had to read The Satanic Verses that made a Muslim radical put out a contract on his life, a fatwa, in the late 80s. I'm not sure I really understood or appreciated it like I should have, but it definitely didn't deserve the assassination of Rushdie. I need to read it again. The other one I read was one of his children's books written for his second son. I loved it. Now I've read his latest essay collection called The Languages of Truth, which are from 2003 to 2020. I found most of it quite compelling. Sir Rushdie has written eighteen books if I've counted right. His themes develop magic realism (to be explained), satire, historical and philosophical interests, and, I would add, personal transformation. He writes for migrants in an age of migration. By combining historical fiction with surreal characters, or infusing real life with a magical ambiance, he feels his writing with magical realism captures life more profoundly and meaningfully. This new book illustrates all of these themes. It reveals not only the imaginative writer he is, but the sensitive, intelligent person he is, now at the ripe age of 74. To be sure, his Satanic Verses are only objectionable to Muslim radicals who don't wish to think of their prophet Muhammed as anything other than a holy messenger of Allah and not a human being hallucinating a visit with angels in a cave. Rushdie, a product of a secular Indian family amid a happy soup of many nonradicalized religions, needed security from Scotland Yard until the fatwa was allowed to expire in 1998, but he kept writing. Certainly he didn't regret writing the book. I found out in his new book that the late Christopher Hitchens defended Rushdie's right to have written the book, and even gave him shelter. It's difficult to really summarize Languages of Truth with a short review. Sure, it's about the many facets of truth and how he's tried in his books to convey the beauty of free expression and the courage to be every wonderful or dark facet of a diamond you are. But it's even more than that. It's not just an inspirational book for writers or other artists. You could call it a book of meditations, an intimate look at his life's journey, a clarion call for saving the integrity of art to help transform and unify society I'm reminded of this sculpture across the street. One black and white head has a face without expression and its twin has no face. We''re all like that if you think about it. We show people one face and hide the other, maybe because we don't know how to or don't want to express our real feelings, but I think Rushdie would say we all have many faces and that's okay. We're human beings and life has gotten a lot more complicated and even scary since he grew up in the 50s mostly. I didn't recognize many of his favorite artists, but some I did. I was delighted to know he's a Marilyn Monroe fan and was a great friend of the late Carrie Fisher. I'm sorry he had a bad bout with COVID-19 and could've died if he hadn't had such good care. Look for reviews of more of his books!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This much anticipated volume includes a series of essays written over a period of almost 20 years, so they are quite varied and on a wide range of topics. In the first essay Rushdie relates how he first listened to stories as a child at the feet of his parents and grandfather. Reading his work, I feel like a child at the feet of an elder, rapt, and amazed by the wonders filling my mind. His fiction holds a special place in my heart. I only let myself read one of his books a year because I don’t This much anticipated volume includes a series of essays written over a period of almost 20 years, so they are quite varied and on a wide range of topics. In the first essay Rushdie relates how he first listened to stories as a child at the feet of his parents and grandfather. Reading his work, I feel like a child at the feet of an elder, rapt, and amazed by the wonders filling my mind. His fiction holds a special place in my heart. I only let myself read one of his books a year because I don’t ever want to run out of new stories. I guess I’m a super-fan! I think this collection is the first Rushdie non-fiction I have read. and I was eager to enter his mind in a different way. His distinct voice is clear in any genre--clever, funny, and a bit naughty. While I haven’t read all the books that he discusses, not even close, I found his take on them interesting and intelligent. He helps me see and understand the value of these sometimes-dusty stories. Instead of being dazzled by the glitter and glamour of the newest best seller, I may even be inspired to tackle some of those hoary old classics I’ve been putting off. While I love Rushdie, I don’t always agree with his opinions. They are always thoughtful and beautifully written. They make me think more deeply about the world and our place as thinking humans within it. Reading these essays, I did find that sometimes he can be a touch elitist and condescending. He writes and prefers “Literature” with a capital L. In one of the first essays, he trashes popular novels such as Twilight and The Hunger Games as worthless. Sorry dear sir, I love you to pieces but those stories are meant for teens and not the likes of you or I. We are not the target audience, so it is no surprise that Young Adult stories don’t always resonate with older readers. They aren’t meant to be for us (the middle aged or straight up old) they are for them (the youths) and seem to connect just fine with their intended readers. Despite a few minor quibbles, these essays were a joy to read. It took me an inordinately long time to get through this book as I wanted to and needed to pause after each essay and digest what I had just consumed. This isn’t a quick or easy read. It is incredibly dense with information and ideas. You can’t just fly though the pages thoughtlessly to get to the end. It is demanding and exacting but also rewarding. (Maybe just ignore the literary snobbery regarding popular YA books.) Thank you to Random House Publishing Group - Random House for providing an Electronic Advance Reader Copy via NetGalley for review.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Matt Bender

    An exceptional collection of writings by Rushdie, Languages of Truth is sort of four things. First, Rushdie celebrates a multicultural and interfaith mythology and how that has inspired art and literature. A theme of his is the functionality of fiction is “it is a work confessing its untruth while promising to uncover truth.” Rushdie also shares stories of other authors and thinkers in shorter essays, including a few reviews of their work. I enjoyed each of these and the care the subject and the An exceptional collection of writings by Rushdie, Languages of Truth is sort of four things. First, Rushdie celebrates a multicultural and interfaith mythology and how that has inspired art and literature. A theme of his is the functionality of fiction is “it is a work confessing its untruth while promising to uncover truth.” Rushdie also shares stories of other authors and thinkers in shorter essays, including a few reviews of their work. I enjoyed each of these and the care the subject and their work was given. Throughout all of this, Rushdie describes a ton of autobiographical details from what inspired his books to his relationships with friends. Finally, Rushdie writes several essays on specific topics. Anyone can get a glimpse of them from the table of contents, but some of these essays are spectacular. Many of these intertwine Rushdie’s struggle with the importance of culture and myth and religion with a respect for individual liberty and free expression. For instance, Rushdie’s essay on Liberty and the First Amendment being a novel compact between freedoms of religion and thought was incredibly thought provoking. Rushdie’s argument is that liberty in America grew from a different form of persecution than the European tradition. In Europe, freedom from the Church was paramount while freedom of a church from another church defined a lot of ideas of liberty in America— at least in Rushdie’s reconstruction. Consequently, what we often have today is liberty being defined as a form of “divinely authorized bigotry.” While Rushdie’s originalist research may not be completely accurate, his observations of the present seem spot on. He ultimately makes the point that “outgrowing the gods is the birth of social and individual liberty” and the stories of science are often better and more verifiable than those of religion. In his view, there is at least more liberty in embracing a system that concedes its limitations. Rushdie’s appreciation, contextualizing, and critiques of storytelling and how they influence culture and individuals is a wonderful read. His writing is personable, clever, and full of excellent examples and metaphors.

  23. 4 out of 5

    T.P. Williams

    I used to read the New Yorker magazine many years ago, and read it for many years. Prior to its decline publishing Vanity Fair style puff celebrity pieces, running photographs, usage of coarse - but realistic - words and expressions, and before the political content of the "Talk of the Town" column leached into everything published, it was the gold standard for the written word. The writers were so good -Joseph Mitchel, Roger Angell, Pauline Kael, Donald Barthelme, et al. - that you would be dra I used to read the New Yorker magazine many years ago, and read it for many years. Prior to its decline publishing Vanity Fair style puff celebrity pieces, running photographs, usage of coarse - but realistic - words and expressions, and before the political content of the "Talk of the Town" column leached into everything published, it was the gold standard for the written word. The writers were so good -Joseph Mitchel, Roger Angell, Pauline Kael, Donald Barthelme, et al. - that you would be drawn into stories and articles about things and people you had no interest in whatsoever (four part series on Boeing, for example), but the writing was so good, you couldn't put it down. Salman Rushdie is a kind of throwback to that type of writing. Just superb sentence construction, references and allusions to culture, high and low (it may resonate more with me since he and I are rough contemporaries) and a wicked sense of humor. These essays, speeches, reviews and such, collected in this volume are incredibly well-written. I really like the one on adaptations of books into movies, which then morphed into how we adapt to life. Top notch. Having said that I must also point out what I felt weakened the book. For starters, it appears that these pieces were in fact created in the 2003-2020 time frame, but not specifically dated. It also appears that he had, as is his right, updated these pieces. But the updating looks like cynically adding some (tedious) Trump bashing, perhaps to prove his leftist orientation (which we knew already) or to show how au courant he was. An arrogant tone pervades the writing; and how many times is he going to relive his bullying at prep school in England. Time to move I would think. Maybe being ridiculed over not eating kippers the correct way (that was it, wasn't it) is a small price to pay for an education at Rugby and Cambridge. The self-professed atheism comes off as narcissism. There is a "look at me" quality to some of the pieces - Salman Rushdie, author, poet, college professor, name dropper, etc. But as I said, the writing is so good that you can respect his sometimes peevish opinions and still enjoy the book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dipankar Mitra

    As the title suggests, this book is a collection of essays. I wasn't sure if I would like it when I picked it up, but just after the first few pages, I was hooked. The thing I love about Salman Rushdie's books - wether fiction or non-fiction - is that I always learn something new from reading them. He starts off by writing about fantasy fiction, with the colloquially known "Arabian Nights" (which I learnt is not Arabian but Persian in origin, and may well end up being banned in the Middle East d As the title suggests, this book is a collection of essays. I wasn't sure if I would like it when I picked it up, but just after the first few pages, I was hooked. The thing I love about Salman Rushdie's books - wether fiction or non-fiction - is that I always learn something new from reading them. He starts off by writing about fantasy fiction, with the colloquially known "Arabian Nights" (which I learnt is not Arabian but Persian in origin, and may well end up being banned in the Middle East due to too many references to sex). He writes about his experiences and the back story behind his popular novels. He writes about his childhood in Bombay, and his decision to continue his education in London. He writes about his experiences of racist taunts in school, the later open acceptance in college, and his rented home where he started his journey as a writer. These chapters, or essays, would be appreciated by anyone who is a Rushdie fan, and also by anyone aspiring to be a fiction novelist. Later essays deal with artists he had known personally, as well as those he did not know personally, but admired. One especially interesting chapter (to those interested in Indian Mughal history) was on Akbar's commissioning of the Hamzanama paintings. I went down an amazing rabbit hole exploring the Hamzanama paintings on a tablet while reading this chapter. The last few essays deal with various topics, including a personal account of his experience during the pandemic. I definitely recommend this book to anyone - whether a Rushdie fan or not.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    My thanks to both NetGalley and Random House for a copy of this book. Languages of Truth: Essays 2003-2020, the new collection of essays by the writer Salman Rushdie is not only well written, as goes without saying, and well argued, but is filled with the trenchant criticism, jokes and pop culture references and personal reflections long time readers have come to expect. Culled from introductions from literary collections, college lectures and other media, the essays cover classical literature, w My thanks to both NetGalley and Random House for a copy of this book. Languages of Truth: Essays 2003-2020, the new collection of essays by the writer Salman Rushdie is not only well written, as goes without saying, and well argued, but is filled with the trenchant criticism, jokes and pop culture references and personal reflections long time readers have come to expect. Culled from introductions from literary collections, college lectures and other media, the essays cover classical literature, writers of repute and a few of ill repute, and his interplay with celebrity. From Philip Roth, Carrie Fisher and Heraclitus, Mr. Rushdie writes with both knowledge of the subject and asides for the reader to enjoy. His most personal essay is the last, detailing his bout with COVID, and how it affected him and the way he sees life. Another outstanding collection, which after he last chapter excites the reader to know that there will be more.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Alan Gerstle

    A rather dull collection of essays with some interesting reflections on writing and culture. However many of the entries are repetitive and contain 'insights' which may seem significant to the writer but are uninspiring to the reader. One of the better essays is 'Adaptation', about the merits and deficiencies of making books into movies, texts into comic books, novels into graphic novels, and movies into remakes of movies. However, the essays often are dull essays attempting to be adapted into i A rather dull collection of essays with some interesting reflections on writing and culture. However many of the entries are repetitive and contain 'insights' which may seem significant to the writer but are uninspiring to the reader. One of the better essays is 'Adaptation', about the merits and deficiencies of making books into movies, texts into comic books, novels into graphic novels, and movies into remakes of movies. However, the essays often are dull essays attempting to be adapted into interesting essays, which, unfortunately, this collection fails to succeed at. The book seems more like an adaptation of a wikipedia entry broken up and assembled into an essay anthology. The writing reminds me of a line from the play Uncle Vanya, when Vanya critiques the activities of his elderly brother-in-law intellectual: 'He writes of things the educated already know and the ignorant have no use for.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dana RR

    DNF. On one hand, beautifully written great ideas and explanations about literature and writing, about what makes a good adaptation and the importance of imagination in accurately describing and understanding the mundane. On the other hand - stupid political preaching. For example, it was very disappointing to hear Rushdie, who's supposed to know better, put Chomsky in the same list of corageous people like Osiph Mandelshtam and the heroes of Tianamen Square, because "he spoke up against the USA" DNF. On one hand, beautifully written great ideas and explanations about literature and writing, about what makes a good adaptation and the importance of imagination in accurately describing and understanding the mundane. On the other hand - stupid political preaching. For example, it was very disappointing to hear Rushdie, who's supposed to know better, put Chomsky in the same list of corageous people like Osiph Mandelshtam and the heroes of Tianamen Square, because "he spoke up against the USA", as if anybody thought for a moment he'd ever pay a price for doing so. Also, Peter Jackson does NOT "make films better than Tolkien wrote books". He made the *** Hobbit a humorless oh-so-American trilogy, for heaven's sake. I was wiiling to forgive him for writing it, though, if he kept speaking literature. Unfortunately he did not.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ellen Hunter

    I read most of this. I know it's a valuable work and I enjoyed learning about Rushdie's ideas on story telling; using the great myths from the Romans and the Greeks, and using metaphor to tell tales is an excellent way to come to the truth of things. He speculates on religion and on philosophies of other writers he admires, reinforcing their wisdom, abilities, and achievements. He expresses the value of friendships and family. He shares his experiences of being targeted by Muslim extremists, and I read most of this. I know it's a valuable work and I enjoyed learning about Rushdie's ideas on story telling; using the great myths from the Romans and the Greeks, and using metaphor to tell tales is an excellent way to come to the truth of things. He speculates on religion and on philosophies of other writers he admires, reinforcing their wisdom, abilities, and achievements. He expresses the value of friendships and family. He shares his experiences of being targeted by Muslim extremists, and his loneliness and fear for his life during the time he was under threat. He warns against the dangers of political compromises, which derail liberties and give power to the Trumps of the world. There is often humor in the narrative, and a variety of subjects and musings to keep the reader interested.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    What an astonishing snob. Rushdie may well have a lot to say about the art and craft of writing, and about the place of fantasy in literature, and "We are all dreaming creatures. Dream on paper," is a wonderful encouragement to replace "Write what you know." But to continue with, "And if it turns out like Twilight or The Hunger Games, tear it up, and try to have a better dream," is a disgusting disparagement of works that are popular entertainment. This classism that holds some works up to be "G What an astonishing snob. Rushdie may well have a lot to say about the art and craft of writing, and about the place of fantasy in literature, and "We are all dreaming creatures. Dream on paper," is a wonderful encouragement to replace "Write what you know." But to continue with, "And if it turns out like Twilight or The Hunger Games, tear it up, and try to have a better dream," is a disgusting disparagement of works that are popular entertainment. This classism that holds some works up to be "Good" and others to be "Schlock" neglects one of the primary functions of wonder tales, which is to be wonderful. As CS Lewis said, "The only people who hate escapism are jailers."

  30. 4 out of 5

    Prathyush Parasuraman

    This book isn’t a distillation of Rushdie at his best. It is an archive of all his non-fiction (as in other than fiction, but also, yes, not fiction) work, and like any archive it brings out, sandpapered and exposed edges alike, a sense of Rushdie’s uneven genius. But the central driving force of this archive, an idea of truth, is so pat and unoriginal, that even at its best, the essays work only when they are cloaked in his witty, charming voice. I reviewed the collection of essays here: www.fir This book isn’t a distillation of Rushdie at his best. It is an archive of all his non-fiction (as in other than fiction, but also, yes, not fiction) work, and like any archive it brings out, sandpapered and exposed edges alike, a sense of Rushdie’s uneven genius. But the central driving force of this archive, an idea of truth, is so pat and unoriginal, that even at its best, the essays work only when they are cloaked in his witty, charming voice. I reviewed the collection of essays here: www.firstpost.com/art-and-culture/sal...

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