Salman Rushdie to speak in Portsmouth
Rushdie's new memoir, “Joseph Anton,” named for the alias under which he lived for a decade, will be published on Sept. 18. The author will read from and discuss his new book on Oct. 10 for the popular Writers on a New England Stage series at The Music Hall.
Tickets went on sale for Music Hall members at 10 a.m. Saturday and some patrons were lined up as much as three hours earlier, according to the box office. The public can buy tickets starting at noon on June 16.
Rushdie has authored 11 novels, three works of non-fiction and a book of stories, but it was his fifth novel, “The Satanic Verses,” published in 1988, that catapulted him to international fame and put a price on his head.
Rushdie, who learned of the “fatwa” against him from a BBC journalist, was accused of writing “against Islam, the Prophet and the Quran,” according to the author's website.
“Joseph Anton” tells the story of “how a writer was forced underground, moving from house to house, with the constant presence of an armed police protection team.” Asked to choose an alias, he combined the first names of two writers he admired: Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekov.
Patricia Lynch, executive director of The Music Hall, declined to speak specifically about what kind of security would be in place for the Rushdie event, saying only, “We'll take the security that we think is prudent.”
Rushdie has been appearing publicly for some time now, Lynch noted. “I think things have changed for Salman Rushdie, thankfully,” she said, adding, “The world's a better place because of that.”
Still, as recently as January, Rushdie cancelled an appearance at a major literary festival in India after intelligence sources there warned him that “paid assassins” were planning to “eliminate” him, according to published reports.
Lynch said Rushdie has been on the Music Hall's list of sought-after writers for five or six years. “You have to be persistent and you have to make your case,” she said. “You need to work around his schedule … And the fact that Portsmouth is such an attractive community doesn't hurt.”
She said the Writers series has earned a reputation among publishers and authors as “a top literary event.”
Still, she said, asking a top author to come talk about his new book “is like asking the most popular girl to the dance: They've got more invitations than they could possibly accept.”
Lynch started the Writers on a New England Stage series in 2005. She said she knew the historic theater was onto something after the first very show, where beloved M*A*S*H* actor Alan Alda talked about his book, “Never Have Your Dog Stuffed.”
“He said to me, 'You've got a hit on your hands,'” she recalled. “And I thought to myself, 'Alan Alda probably knows what a hit looks like.'”
In the years since, such luminaries as Stephen King, John Updike, Neil Gaiman, Madeleine Albright, David McCullough and Barbara Kingsolver have graced the Music Hall stage for the series, which is co-sponsored by New Hampshire Public Radio. The station tapes the appearances and broadcasts them a few days later.
Another secret of the series' success, according to Lynch, is the hospitality her staff provides to these literary lions, who are often rushed from one book tour event to the next. “Kelly Shrimpton (artist hospitality) always has a really nice pot of delicious homemade soup,” she said. “We've found that is just very calming for people and it kind of gives them a sense of connection very quickly.”
The soup was a particular hit with author David McCullough and his wife Rosalee, she recalled; the pair also had fun backstage dancing to the music of house band Dreadnaught.
The theater also holds private receptions with authors, inviting teachers, students and book clubs.
Tickets for Salman Rushdie's Oct. 10 appearance at The Music Hall are on sale at the box office or by phone only. Member tickets ($11) are on sale now; the general public can purchase tickets ($13) starting at noon on June 16. Purchase of a book voucher is required for every two tickets purchased.
For more: themusichall.org.
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