Earlier this week, six authors — Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Peter Carey, and Taiye Selasi — announced their withdrawal as literary hosts of this year’s PEN America gala, over the group’s acknowledgment of Charlie Hebdo with its annual Freedom of Expression Courage Award. Responding to what Kushner referred to as the magazine’s “cultural intolerance,” the writers met with quick condemnation from both PEN itself and one of its loudest spokesmen, Salman Rushdie.
So, who’s right? Is the Charlie Hebdo staff’s martyrdom enough to justify honoring them? Or should an award like this be reserved for work that PEN and its constituency actually endorse? Flavorwire Editor-at-Large Sarah Seltzer and Literary Editor Jonathon Sturgeon found themselves on the opposite sides of these questions. Below, each argues their point of view.
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Six writers — Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Peter Carey, and Taiye Selasi — will withdraw as literary hosts from the PEN American Center’s annual gala in response to the organization’s decision to recognize Charlie Hebdo with the James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award. But instead of recognizing the power of their gesture, PEN has met these writers with a pose of incredulity and a statement written in the language of a GOP primary.
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Salman Rushdie, the literary mastermind who hasn’t lent adult fiction his masterful mind in nearly eight years (since The Enchantress of… Read More
Novelist Salman Rushdie is no stranger to literary controversy (being the target of an infamous 1989 fatwa after the publication of his… Read More
This week, Olive Films is releasing, for the first time on Blu-ray, The Road to Hong Kong, the last of the seven “Road” buddy comedies starring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Hitting theaters a full decade after the penultimate entry, Hong Kong is an occasionally funny and occasionally wheezy bit of business, with one honest-to-God great sequence: an unbilled cameo by Peter Sellers, who strolls into the picture and steals the damn thing outright. Hope and Crosby were early adopters of the kind of inside-joke comedy that yielded such cameos, which became increasingly common in the years that followed; we’ve gathered up some of the funniest in movie… Read More
After the display of inhumanity (a stupid word, really, for something really just describing a frightening human capacity for favoring ideology over human life) — by gunmen who broke into the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris and took the lives of 12, injuring many more — the whole day seemed underscored by the sickening notion, as we’d seen recently with the Sony Hacks, that comedic criticism is becoming more and more of a life-threatening undertaking. Atlantic writer Peter Beinart drew parallels between these recent instances of media-centric terrorism, while also addressing the fact that the antagonizing forces in both cases have not officially been identified. Over at Slate, there’s an article on the importance and evolution of the political cartoon in France. Celebrities such as Salman Rushdie and Tina Fey have also voiced their concerns on the state of free speech, as well as their vehemence about protecting it.
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This morning, the world was greeted with perhaps the first great international tragedy of 2015, merely a week into… Read More
One of the things literature does better than almost any other medium is allow us to experience another person’s quality of mind, and sometimes even inhabit it. It follows, then, that every avid reader has a favorite literary character — whether they’re beloved for dastardly deeds, tough-girl antics, sex appeal, or a high snark quotient — and that there are many impossibly good ones out there. Click through to find 50 of the… Read More
Fabulism, it seems, is having a moment — although whether it’s truly a trend is up for debate. Some might say it’s been right there, purring along, all this time, while others might blink and wonder what you’re talking about. Such is always the case with magic. But whether you’re a newbie or an old hat, there are always new corners of the fantastic to discover. So, here you’ll find 50 excellent novels and short story collections by fabulists, fantasists, and fairy-tale-tellers, literary books that incorporate the irreal, the surreal, and the… Read More
I remember the exact moment I realized there were two Salman Rushdies. It was when I read his 2001 humblebrag about palling around with U2. “I’ve been crossing frontiers all my life — physical, social, intellectual, artistic borderlines,” Rushdie wrote, “and I spotted, in Bono and the Edge, whom I’ve so far come to know better than the others, an equal hunger for the new, for whatever nourishes.” The truth is that Rushdie’s camaraderie with the members of U2 — particularly Bono — makes total sense, and the fact that he finds them to be kindred spirits even more: both of them did their best work in the 1980s, and both of them (at least in Bono’s case) have spent the bulk of their careers advocating and being the faces of specific causes. Bono’s tend to vary, while Rushdie is the freedom of speech hero who faced religious crazies that threatened his life after Ayatollah Khomeini, the spiritual leader of Iran, placed a fatwā on Rushdie’s head for his 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses, which the Ayatollah claimed was “blasphemous against Islam.”
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