Salon.com: February, 2012
Salman Rushdie Fears Nothing
Plates and glasses are cleared away, and a hush descends on the packed private dining room of a fancy Manhattan Indian restaurant; a distinguished writer — the star of the evening’s event — is about to give a reading. The iPad in his hands bathes his familiar features in a soft, electric glow that complements the muted lights and blinking candles spaced around the room.
As Salman Rushdie intones his own elegant prose in a rich, musical British accent, a soundtrack plays softly but distinctly in the background. If the music seems particularly well-selected — if its rhythms subtly match the story’s turning points — that’s because it was commissioned expressly for the purpose.
Though the story is short, Rushdie stops several times to ask the audience if he should continue. At each juncture, rapt listeners beg him to go on. After the performance is over, guests murmur words like “mesmerizing” and “transporting” as they turn back to their tablemates — and I’m one of them.
The event is a glitzy dinner organized by Booktrack, a company that publishes e-books with “synchronized soundtracks”; the occasion is the launch of the e-publisher’s first short story — Rushdie’s “In the South” — with accompanying music composed by John Psathas. (“In the South” is available for download now from Booktrack’s website.) ...
What does Rushdie — who has embraced social media wholeheartedly over the past several months — think of the Booktrack project?
“I had to be convinced that this was a good thing,” he says. “But actually, when I heard the music, I thought it really went very well.” Although Rushdie’s own instinct is to read without music, Booktrack’s presentation of his story eventually “won [him] over.”
“I always yield to [my younger son] in these decisions,” he notes graciously. “He said, ‘It’s super cool, dad.’ If he thinks it’s super cool, he’s right. What do I know?”