hitch likes salman


At a dinner party that will forever be green in the memory of those who attended it, somebody was complaining not just about the epic badness of the novels of Robert Ludlum but also about the badness of their titles. (You know the sort of pretentiousness: The Bourne Supremacy, The Aquitaine Progression, The Ludlum Impersonation, and so forth.) Then it happily occurred to another guest to wonder aloud what a Shakespeare play might be called if named in the Ludlum manner. At which point Salman Rushdie perked up and started to sniff the air like a retriever. “O.K. then, Salman, what would Hamlet’s title be if submitted to the Ludlum treatment?” “The Elsinore Vacillation,” he replied—and I find I must stress this—in no more time than I have given you. Think it was a fluke? Macbeth? “The Dunsinane Reforestation.” To persist and to come up with The Rialto Sanction and The Kerchief Implication was the work of not too many more moments. This is the way, when discussing Rushdie and his work, that I like to start. He is sublimely funny, and his humor is based on a relationship with language that is more like a musical than a literary one. (I here admit to my own worst plagiarism: invited to write the introduction to Vanity Fair’s “Black & White Issue” some years ago, I took advantage of Salman’s presence in my house to ask him to riff on the two keywords for a bit. He free-associated about everything from photogravure to the Taj Mahal, without a prompt, for about 30 minutes, and my piece was essentially done.) And this is a man whose first language was Urdu!

more from Vanity Fair here.