Obama, Rushdie and the Path to Pure Reading

Sometimes a book is just a book. That’s the message Salman Rushdie does not seem to be super-clear on. But maybe an author who came of age as the enfant terrible of the literary world has a hard time just seeing things that way.

Who can blame him? Rushdie’s first novel, Midnight’s Children, won the Booker Prize in 1981. That’s a hard act to follow, but he did it with several books, including 1988’s The Satanic Verses, a rather ordinary work that nonetheless gained extraordinary results when “a fatwā requiring Rushdie’s execution was proclaimed on Radio Tehran by Ayatollah Khomeini, the spiritual leader of Iran at the time, calling the book ‘blasphemous against Islam,’” according to Wikipedia.

Fast forward nearly three decades to last Saturday afternoon, when US President Barrack Obama took his two daughters book shopping and he bought himself a copy of Rushdie’s latest work, as reported by CNN:

US President Barack Obama’s purchase of author Salman Rushdie’s latest volume caused a stir on Twitter today as the author asked if there was a reason for Mr. Obama choosing a volume “not related” to Ayatollah Khomeini.

Mr. Obama had made a visit to a local bookstore with daughters Sasha and Malia to buy nine books, one of which was Mr. Rushdie’s “Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights,” published in September.

As the media reported the event and a section of fans interpreted it as a show of the US President’s support to Mr. Rushdie over the Iranian leader’s fatwa on him. But fans were quick to respond, pointing out that buying a book need not be a political statement, even for the President of the United States.

According to CNN, the books the Obamas acquired at Washington’s Upshur Books included the following:

Purity: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen
Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights: A Novel by Salman Rushdie
Elske: A Novel of the Kingdom by Cynthia Voigt
On Fortune’s Wheel by Cynthia Voigt
Jackaroo: A Novel of the Kingdom by Cynthia Voigt
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck, Book 8 by Jeff Kinney
Dork Diaries 1: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life by Rachel Renée Russell

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