Salman Rushdie

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Posted by pompos 04/13/2009 @ 18:07

Tags : salman rushdie, authors, books, fine arts

News headlines
Novelist praised by Salman Rushdie to read in Portsmouth - Seacoastonline.com
PORTSMOUTH — Kamila Shamsie, a novelist praised by Salman Rushdie and short-listed for the prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction, will be at RiverRun Bookstore this Friday, May 8. She will meet in book group discussion format at 6 pm to talk about her...
Michelle Obama named as one of the 100 most beautiful women in the ... - Telegraph.co.uk
The First Lady was No 93 in the magazine's list, beating Padma Lakshmi, the former wife of Sir Salman Rushdie, and Marisa Tomei, the Hollywood actress. Iman was reflecting on the experiences of black women who achieve fame, such as Mrs Obama,...
Salman Rushdie wants Imran for Midnight's Children - Oneindia
Casting Imran Khan as the historically-plush Saleem Sinai in Deepa Mehta's adaptation of Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children is an idea that appeals to the author. Though the young Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na actor doesn't have the 'special' nose that the...
'Rushdie believes Pakistan is fundamentally flawed' - Times of India
NEW DELHI: Controversial author Salman Rushdie believes "Pakistan is fundamentally flawed and insufficiently imagined," according to a new book. He also feels India was a happy contrast but its edge "slipped with the rise of Hindu nationalism"....
Sir revival instinct - The Southland Times
Salman Rushdie's knighthood caused much debate, with the likes of novellist-journalist Will Self who cited the offence that Rushdie's book The Satanic Verses caused in the Muslim world, and said any responsible writer might ask himself "whether the...
Movie Review: Angels and Demons - The New American
But he is no Salman Rushdie. He would never create a work impugning Islam, and not just because he probably has more sympathy for it. He also likes his head way too much. Yet I would encourage Howard to make that his next project. I mean, come on, Ron,...
Yusuf Islam resurrecting his Cat Stevens side on new CD - eTaiwan News
In 1989, he says, British media misinterpreted his remarks in a lecture as supporting the Iranian fatwa condemning author Salman Rushdie. In 2005, he won libel damages from two British papers after they falsely claimed he supported terrorism....
No better weather - Philippine Star
I could've told him what my mother did when she heard that I was coming to New York to read something of mine along with a much more famous writer named Salman Rushdie — she ran to the Centreville Public Library and loaned out an armful of Rushdie...
Comely brunette calls Rushdie 'lecherous old guy' - Oneindia
New York (ANI): Salman Rushdie has reportedly been tagged as 'a lecherous old guy' by a comely brunette. The lady allegedly warned a friend to keep her guard against the Booker prize-winning author, who has had four failed marriages, at the opening of...
Slide Show - New Yorker
The May 18, 2009, issue of the magazine features Salman Rushdie's short story “In the South,” with drawings by the artist Francesco Clemente. Here is the series of drawings inspired by “In the South”; they will be exhibited at the Museo d'Arte...

Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie presenting his book Shalimar the Clown

Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie (born 19 June 1947) is a British Indian novelist and essayist. He first achieved fame with his second novel, Midnight's Children (1981), which won the Booker Prize in 1981. Much of his early fiction is set on the Indian subcontinent. His style is often classified as magical realism mixed with historical fiction, and a dominant theme of his work is the story of the many connections, disruptions and migrations between the Eastern and Western world.

His fourth novel, The Satanic Verses (1988), was at the center of The Satanic Verses controversy, with protests from Muslims in several countries. Some of the protests were violent, with Rushdie facing death threats and a fatwā (religious edict) issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Supreme Leader of Iran, in February, 1989. In response to the call for him to be killed, Rushdie spent nearly a decade largely underground, appearing in public only sporadically, but was outspoken on the fatwā's censoring effect on him as an author and the threat to freedom of expression it embodied.

He was appointed a Knight Bachelor for "services to literature" in June 2007, which "thrilled and humbled" him. He also holds the highest rank — Commandeur — in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France. He began a five-year term as Distinguished Writer in Residence at Emory University in 2007. In May 2008 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His latest novel is The Enchantress of Florence, published in June 2008. In July 2008 Midnight's Children won a public vote to be named the Best of the Booker, the best novel to win the Booker Prize in the award's 40-year history.

The only son of Anis Ahmed Rushdie, a University of Cambridge-educated lawyer turned businessman, and Negin Butt, a teacher, Rushdie was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India. He was educated at Cathedral and John Connon School in Mumbai, Rugby School, and King's College, Cambridge, where he studied history. He worked for two advertising agencies (Ogilvy & Mather and Ayer Barker) before becoming a full-time writer.

In 1999, Rushdie had an operation to correct a "tendon condition" that, according to him, was making it increasingly difficult for him to open his eyes. "If I hadn't had an operation, in a couple of years from now I wouldn't have been able to open my eyes at all," he said.

His first novel, Grimus (1975), a part-science fiction tale, was generally ignored by the public and literary critics. His next novel, Midnight's Children (1981), however, catapulted him to literary fame. It also significantly shaped the course that Indian writing in English would follow over the next decade, and is regarded by many as one of the great books of the last 100 years. This work won the 1981 Booker Prize and, in 1993 and 2008, was awarded the Best of the Bookers as the best novel to have received the prize during its first 25 and 40 years respectively. Midnight's Children has received numerous awards and been cited as Rushdie's best, most flowing and inspiring work. The story follows the life of a child born at the stroke of midnight as India gained its independence, who is endowed with special powers and a connection to other children born at the dawn of a new and tumultuous age the history of the Indian sub-continent and the birth of the modern nation of India. The character of Saleem Sinai has been compared to Rushdie himself.

After Midnight's Children, Rushdie wrote Shame (1983), in which he depicts the political turmoil in Pakistan, basing his characters on Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. Shame won France's Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger (Best Foreign Book) and was a close runner-up for the Booker Prize. Both these works of postcolonial literature are characterised by a style of magic realism and the immigrant outlook of which Rushdie is very conscious, as a member of the Indian diaspora.

Rushdie wrote a non-fiction book about Nicaragua in the 1980s, The Jaguar Smile (1987). The book has a political focus and is based on his first hand experiences and research at the scene of Sandinista political experiments. In an interview at San Francisco University promoting The Jaguar Smile, he advocated that students not write what they wanted to write, but what they couldn't help but writing. He referenced a work in progress, that came out the following year, a project that would impact his life in ways he could never have expected.

His most controversial work, The Satanic Verses, was published in 1988 (see section below). Rushdie has published many short stories, including those collected in East, West (1994). The Moor's Last Sigh, a family epic ranging over some 100 years of India's history was published in 1995. The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999) presents an alternative history of modern rock music. The song of the same name by U2 is one of many song lyrics included in the book, hence Rushdie is credited as the lyricist.

Rushdie has had a string of commercially successful and critically acclaimed novels. His 2005 novel Shalimar the Clown received, in India, the prestigious Crossword Fiction Award, and was, in Britain, a finalist for the Whitbread Book Awards. It was shortlisted for the 2007 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

Rushdie has quietly mentored younger Indian (and ethnic-Indian) writers, influenced an entire generation of Indo-Anglian writers, and is an influential writer in postcolonial literature in general. He has received many plaudits for his writings, including the European Union's Aristeion Prize for Literature, the Premio Grinzane Cavour (Italy), and the Writer of the Year Award in Germany and many of literature's highest honors. He is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres. Rushdie was the President of PEN American Center from 2004 to 2006.

He opposes the British government's introduction of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act, something he writes about in his contribution to Free Expression Is No Offence, a collection of essays by several writers, published by Penguin in November 2005. Rushdie is a self-described atheist, and a distinguished supporter of the British Humanist Association.

In 2006, Rushdie joined the Emory University faculty as Distinguished Writer in Residence for one month a year for the next five years. Though he enjoys writing, Salman Rushdie says that he would have become an actor if his writing career had not been successful. Even from early childhood, he dreamed of appearing in Hollywood movies (which he would later realize in his frequent cameo appearances).

Rushdie is a fan of pop culture and includes fictional television and movie characters in some of his writings. He had a cameo appearance in the film Bridget Jones's Diary based on the book of the same name, which is itself full of literary in-jokes. On 12 May 2006, Rushdie was a guest host on The Charlie Rose Show, where he interviewed Indo-Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta, whose work has also faced violent protests, about her 2005 film, Water. He also appears in the role of Helen Hunt's obstetrician-gynecologist in the film adaptation (Hunt's directorial debut) of Elinor Lipman's novel Then She Found Me. In September 2008, and again in March 2009, he appeared as a panelist on the HBO program "Real Time With Bill Maher".

The publication of The Satanic Verses in September 1988 caused immediate controversy in the Islamic world because of what was perceived as an irreverent depiction of the prophet Muhammad. The title refers to a disputed Muslim tradition that is related in the book. According to this tradition, Muhammad (Mahound in the book) added verses (sura) to the Qur'an accepting three goddesses who used to be worshipped in Mecca as divine beings. According to the legend, Muhammad later revoked the verses, saying the devil tempted him to utter these lines to appease the Meccans (hence the "Satanic" verses). However, the narrator reveals to the reader that these disputed verses were actually from the mouth of the Archangel Gibreel. The book was banned in many countries with large Muslim communities.

On 14 February 1989, a fatwā requiring Rushdie's execution was proclaimed on Radio Tehran by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the spiritual leader of Iran at the time, calling the book "blasphemous against Islam" (chapter IV of the book depicts the character of an Imam in exile who returns to incite revolt from the people of his country with no regard for their safety). A bounty was offered for Rushdie's death, and he was thus forced to live under police protection for years afterward. On 7 March 1989, the United Kingdom and Iran broke diplomatic relations over the Rushdie controversy.

The publication of the book and the fatwā sparked violence around the world, with bookstores being firebombed. Muslim communities in several nations in the West held public rallies in which copies of the book were burned. Several people associated with translating or publishing the book were attacked, seriously injured, and even killed. Many more people died in riots in Third World countries.

Hardliners in Iran have, however, continued to reaffirm the death sentence. In early 2005, Khomeini's fatwā was reaffirmed by Iran's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a message to Muslim pilgrims making the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Additionally, the Revolutionary Guards have declared that the death sentence on him is still valid. Iran has rejected requests to withdraw the fatwā on the basis that only the person who issued it may withdraw it, and the person who issued it is dead.

Salman Rushdie has reported that he still receives a "sort of Valentine's card" from Iran each year on 14 February letting him know the country has not forgotten the vow to kill him. He was also quoted as saying, "It's reached the point where it's a piece of rhetoric rather than a real threat." Despite the threats on Rushdie, he has publicly said that his family has never been threatened and that his mother (who lived in Pakistan during the later years of her life) even received outpourings of support.

A former bodyguard to Rushdie, Ron Evans, planned to publish a book recounting the behaviour of the author during the time he was in hiding. Evans claimed that Rushdie tried to profit financially from the fatwa and was suicidal, but Rushdie dismissed the book as a "bunch of lies" and took legal action against Ron Evans, his co-author and their publisher. On 26 August 2008 Rushdie received an apology at the High Court in London from all three parties.

On 3 August 1989, while Mustafa Mahmoud Mazeh was priming a book bomb loaded with RDX explosives in a hotel in Paddington, Central London, the bomb exploded prematurely, taking out two floors of the hotel and killing Mazeh. A previously unknown Lebanese group, the Organization of the Mujahidin of Islam, said he died preparing an attack "on the apostate Rushdie". There is a shrine in Tehran's Behesht-e Zahra cemetery for Mustafa Mahmoud Mazeh that says he was "Martyred in London, 3 August 1989. The first martyr to die on a mission to kill Salman Rushdie." Mazeh's mother was invited to relocate to Iran, and the Islamic World Movement of Martyrs' Commemoration built his shrine in the cemetery that holds thousands of Iranian soldiers slain in the Iran–Iraq War. During the 2006 Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah declared that "If there had been a Muslim to carry out Imam Khomeini's fatwā against the renegade Salman Rushdie, this rabble who insult our Prophet Mohammed in Denmark, Norway and France would not have dared to do so. I am sure there are millions of Muslims who are ready to give their lives to defend our prophet's honour and we have to be ready to do anything for that." James Phillips of the Heritage Foundation testified before the United States Congress that a "March 1989" (sic) explosion in Britain was a Hezbollah attempt to assassinate Rushdie which failed when a bomb exploded prematurely, killing a Hezbollah activist in London.

In 1990, soon after the publication of The Satanic Verses, a Pakistani film was released in which Rushdie was depicted plotting to cause the downfall of Pakistan by opening a chain of casinos and discos in the country. The film was popular with Pakistani audiences, and it "presents Rushdie as a Rambo-like figure pursued by four Pakistani guerrillas". The British Board of Film Classification refused to allow it a certificate, as "it was felt that the portrayal of Rushdie might qualify as criminal libel, causing a breach of the peace as opposed to merely tarnishing his reputation." This move effectively banned the film in Britain outright. However, two months later, Rushdie himself wrote to the board, saying that while he thought the film "a distorted, incompetent piece of trash", he would not sue if it were released. He later said, "If that film had been banned, it would have become the hottest video in town: everyone would have seen it". While the film was a massive hit in Pakistan, it went virtually unnoticed in the West. He has said that there was one legitimately funny part of the movie, his character torturing a Pakistani fighter by reading from his book The Satanic Verses.

Rushdie was awarded a knighthood for services to literature in the Queen's Birthday Honours on 16 June 2007. He remarked, "I am thrilled and humbled to receive this great honour, and am very grateful that my work has been recognised in this way." In response to his knighthood, many nations with Muslim majorities protested. Parliamentarians of several of these countries condemned the action, and Iran and Pakistan called in their British envoys to protest formally. Mass demonstrations against Rushdie's knighthood took place in Pakistan and Malaysia. Several called publicly for his death. Many non-Muslims were also angered by Rushdie's knighthood, believing that the writer did not merit such an honour.

Rushdie came from a Shi'ite Muslim family but says that he was never really religious. In 1990, in the "hope that it would reduce the threat of Muslims acting on the fatwa to kill him," he issued a statement in which he claimed "he had renewed his Muslim faith, had repudiated the attacks on Islam in his novel and was committed to working for better understanding of the religion across the world." But later said that he was only "pretending".

His books often focus on the role of religion in society and conflicts between faiths and between the religious and those of no faith.

Rushdie supported the 1999 NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, leading the leftist Tariq Ali to label Rushdie and other "warrior writers" as "the belligerati'". He was supportive of the US-led campaign to remove the Taliban in Afghanistan which began in 2001, but was a vocal critic of the 2003 war in Iraq. He has stated that while there was a "case to be made for the removal of Saddam Hussein", US unilateral military intervention was unjustifiable.

In the wake of the 'Danish Cartoons Affair' in March 2006 - which many considered to be an echo of the death threats and fatwā which had followed the publication of Rushdie's Satanic Verses in 1989 - Rushdie signed the manifesto 'Together Facing the New Totalitarianism', a statement warning of the dangers of religious extremism. The Manifesto was published in the left-leaning French weekly Charlie Hebdo in March 2006.

Rushdie continues to come under fire from much of the British academic establishment for his political views. The Marxist critic Terry Eagleton, a former admirer of Rushdie's work, attacked him for his positions, saying he "cheered on the Pentagon's criminal ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan". However, he subsequently apologized for having misrepresented Rushdie's views.

At an appearance at 92nd Street Y, Rushdie expressed his view on copyright when answering a question whether he had considered copyright law a barrier (or impediment) to free speech.

No. But that's because I write for a living, and I have no other source of income, and I Naïvely believe that stuff that I create belongs to me, and that if you want it you might have to give me some cash. My view is I do this for a living. The thing wouldn't exist if I didn't make it and so it belongs to me and don't steal it. You know. It's my stuff.

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Knighthood of Salman Rushdie

Rushdie was awarded a knighthood for services to literature in the Queen's Birthday Honours on 16 June 2007. He remarked, "I am thrilled and humbled to receive this great honour, and am very grateful that my work has been recognised in this way." His knighthood was part of the UK’s twice a year honours ritual “designed to recognise outstanding achievement -- is part of an ancient and complex honours system.” Rushdie’s award was concurrent with 946 honours which included 21 knighthoods. The knighthood list was determined by independent committees that vet nominations from the government and the public. The Queen and the Prime Minister only had a ceremonial role in approving them.

The arts and media committee (one of eight similar committees) proposed Rushdie’s honour to the main committee who then forwarded it with others to the prime minister. The arts and media committee was chaired by investment banker and former chairman of the trustees of the National Gallery, Lord Rothschild. Its other members were "Jenny Abramsky, the BBC's director of radio and music; novelist and poet Ben Okri, who is vice-president of the English chapter of PEN International, which campaigns on behalf of writers who face persecution; Andreas Whittam Smith, former editor of the Independent; John Gross, the author and former theatre critic of the Sunday Telegraph; and two permanent secretaries, one from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and one from the Scottish Government." Smith told reporters that the question of political outrage was not one they were authorized to examine, "Very properly, we were concerned only with merit in relation to the level of the award." All other aspects were to for the main committee to examine. The British Foreign Office which has a permanent secretary on the main committee announced that there had been no requests to gauge possible Muslim reaction to the knighthood. It was noted that Rushdie's 13 books have won numerous awards, including the Booker Prize for Midnight's Children in 1981, the Booker of Bookers prize, the Whitbread novel award (twice), and the James Tait Black memorial prize.

No date has been announced for the investiture ceremony that will formalize Rushdie becoming a Knight Bachelor. It is likely that his ceremony will either be in 2007 between October and December or be scheduled for early 2008.

After the news of the knighthood was released "Hundreds of people participated in protests in Islamabad and other cities" with some of the protestors calling on their government "to expel the British high commissioner".

On 18 June 2007 Pakistan's parliament passed a resolution condemning the knighthood and demanding the British revoke it. The resolution was passed unanimously.

After Pakistan's legislature passed its resolution against the honour, the road outside the parliament building was soon blocked by 300 burqa wearing female Islamists waving flags and placards against the knighthood.

Later Pakistani Foreign Office spokeswoman Tasneem Aslam announced that her government formally asked the Organization of the Islamic Conference (a permanent delegation at the United Nations) to take a clear stance on Rushdie’s knighthood. She said “We have formally approached the OIC to take a position on it,” but she also noted that as there was no procedure to move the world body itself, her nation had no plans to approach the UN.

Also on the 21st, the General Secretary of the Islamabad Traders Association, Ajmal Baloch announced during a protest against the knighthood that "We will give 10 million rupees (USD 165,000) to anyone who beheads Rushdie." He also called on all Islamic countries to boycott British products.

In Karachi over a thousand demonstrators chanted in support of Ejaz-ul-Haq’s initial comments that they held to be an endorsement of Rushdie’s assassination by suicide bombing. In the city of Multan, the British flag, and effigies of Rushdie and Queen Elizabeth II have been set aflame during protests in the country throughout the week of the news of the announcement with protestors chanting "Kill him! Kill him!" There were also mass protests in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Quetta, and Peshawar.

Afghanistan's Taliban released a statement on the Internet in response to the knighthood, saying "We hope that Muslims and Islamic societies show a strong and serious response ... and to force the British government to apologise to Muslims and retract this title." Reading a statement by the group's leadership over the phone to reporters a Taliban spokesman called Rushdie an "apostate" and said "We consider this another major affront to Islam by the infidels." The elected Afghan government made no comment on the award and there have been no protests in the country.

On 27 June 2007 the National Assembly of Kuwait stated its "disappointment and discontent" on the knighthood describing the step as "hurting Muslim feelings." The Assembly's statement said that "such measures as knighting those who combat the Islamic faith and challenge its principles do not create a positive climate or contribute to the success of any dialogue between civilizations, or help to create a common ground of understanding between the West and the Islamic world. ... "provocative and unbecoming conduct that is likely to worsen the fundamentalist behavior that marks several cultures." They stated that "mutual respect among religious faiths and sects" was the best way "to ensure a peaceful and safe international social climate, which is free of discrimination, tension and worries." The Kuwaiti government also summoned their British ambassador to formally protest the award.

Ilqar Ibrahimoglu the coordinator of the Centre for the Protection of Freedom of Conscience and Religion in Azerbaijan, stated that "such measures can be the cause of the strengthening aggression of the West against Islam. They provoke Muslims. Muslims should be very careful, watchful and cold-blooded." The Azerbaijani government has not issued any statements on the matter and there have been no organized protests.

There were protests in different parts of India over the knighthood, including one in Kanpur lead by the AJ Fareedi Association. Denouncing Britaina and chanting slogans against Rushdie. The Islamic Centre of India began a petition campaign with the end result to be handing over a banner to the British High Commissioner in New Delhi covered with thousands of signatures. The centre's general secretary, Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangimahli, announced in his Friday sermon that by honouring Rushdie the UK "has acted against the whole Muslim community around the world." He demanded the Indian government alert Britain of their outrage. The leaders of the Sunni Board of India also condemned the move in a Friday meeting, likewise they demanded the Indian government express their anger to the British.

The Ulema Council of India said "the decision to honor Indian-born Rushdie reflects the anti-Islamic attitude of the British government." Its spokesmen, Maulana Abul Hasan, stated "Salman Rushdie is a detested figure among Muslims. The British government has hurt Muslim feelings by honoring a person who is facing a fatwa for blasphemous writings." On Sunday 24 June 2007 the Ulema Council joined with the Islamic Center of India, and the All India Sunni Board in sending a joint statement to the British High Commission in New Delhi condemning the knighthood.

Besides the reactions of Home Secretary John Reid and Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett (see above), other UK politicians have expressed their view on the honour.

Fiona Mactaggart the MP for Slough upset some British Muslims by declaring the protest over the knighthood a "press stunt". Members of Slough's Muslim community claim she ignored them when they tried to present a petition to her at the surgery with constituents. She claims in turn that they neither contacted her nor tried to approach her at the surgery.

The Muslim Council of Europe has called for a mass demonstration outside Blackburn Town Hall on 21 July 2007.

On 12 July 2007 The Times of India claimed "It was knighthood to writer Salman Rushdie, which has angered many radical Islamic groups, that forced alleged bomber Kafeel Ahmed to execute the Glasgow airport attack. Investigators have stumbled upon this while gathering details about his transformation from a devout student to a radical." The report did not provide any further details or name the investigators.

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Cat Stevens' comments about Salman Rushdie

Following Ayatollah Khomeini's February 14, 1989 death threat fatwa against author Salman Rushdie, convert to Islam and former recording artist Yusuf Islam, aka Cat Stevens, made statements widely interpreted as endorsing the fatwa. This generated a furor among a number of celebrities, and free speech activists who spoke out about his comments on radio stations, and newspaper editorials in the West. In response, Yusuf Islam denied that his statements were in support of the fatwa, and claimed he was merely giving his interpretation of Islamic law. Critics claim several independent reports, including statements on video, belie his denials.

Newspapers quickly denounced what was seen as Yusuf Islam's support for the assassination of Rushdie and the next day Yusuf released a statement saying that he was not personally encouraging anybody to be a vigilante, and that he was only stating that blasphemy is a capital offense according to the Qur'an.

In Islam there is a line between let's say freedom and the line which is then transgressed into immorality and irresponsibility and I think as far as this writer is concerned, unfortunately, he has been irresponsible with his freedom of speech. Salman Rushdie or indeed any writer who abuses the prophet, or indeed any prophet, under Islamic law, the sentence for that is actually death. It's got to be seen as a deterrent, so that other people should not commit the same mistake again.

The New York Times also reports this statement from the program: I might ring somebody who might do more damage to him than he would like. I'd try to phone the Ayatollah Khomeini and tell him exactly where this man is.

The content of the broadcast was reported in the New York Times on May 23, 1989, a week before the show's planned airing. Also reported was that several Muslim participants complained about the way the show was edited, leaving out the interpretations of Islamic law on which they were basing their responses to the hypothetical question posed.

Providentially, they kept in one important response to a final question posed directly to me by Geoffrey Robertson QC. At the end of the debate he asked me to imagine if Salman Rushdie was taken to court in Britain and the Jury found him ‘not guilty’ of any crime – Blasphemy or otherwise – and dismissed the case, what I would do. I clearly stated that I would have to accept the decision and fully abide by the law! And that was no joke.

I'm very sad that this seems to be the No. 1 question people want to discuss. I had nothing to do with the issue other than what the media created. I was innocently drawn into the whole controversy. So, after many years, I'm glad at least now that I have been given the opportunity to explain to the public and fans my side of the story in my own words. At a lecture, back in 1989, I was asked a question about blasphemy according to Islamic Law, I simply repeated the legal view according to my limited knowledge of the Scriptural texts, based directly on historical commentaries of the Qur'an. The next day the newspaper headlines read, "Cat Says, Kill Rushdie." I was abhorred, but what could I do? I was a new Muslim. If you ask a Bible student to quote the legal punishment of a person who commits blasphemy in the Bible, he would be dishonest if he didn't mention Leviticus 24:16.

I never called for the death of Salman Rushdie; nor backed the Fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini--and still don’t. The book itself destroyed the harmony between peoples and created an unnecessary international crisis.

When asked about my opinion regarding blasphemy, I could not tell a lie and confirmed that--like both the Torah and the Gospel--the Qur’an considers it, without repentance, as a capital offense. The Bible is full of similar harsh laws if you’re looking for them. However, the application of such Biblical and Qur’anic injunctions is not to be outside of due process of law, in a place or land where such law is accepted and applied by the society as a whole...

Stevens/Islam's comments caused a backlash at the time. The pop group 10,000 Maniacs deleted the Cat Stevens song "Peace Train," which they had recorded for their 1987 In My Tribe album, from subsequent pressings of their album as a protest against Stevens/Islam's remarks. Several US stations stopped playing Cat Stevens records. Radio talk show host Tom Leykis of KFI-AM in Los Angeles called for a mass burning of Cat Steven's records, later changed to a mass steamrolling. Around the Western world, "outraged liberals and Christians dug out their Cat Stevens albums from the 1970s and smashed them in the streets." Islam claimed that he had earlier unsuccessfully asked his record company to stop the release of his Cat Stevens records but they refused on economic grounds.

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Thomas Pynchon

Pynchon.jpg

Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Jr. (born May 8, 1937) is an American novelist based in New York City, noted for his dense and complex works of fiction. Hailing from Long Island, Pynchon spent two years in the United States Navy and earned an English degree from Cornell University. After publishing several short stories in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he began composing the novels for which he is best known: V. (1963), The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), Gravity's Rainbow (1973), Vineland (1990), Mason & Dixon (1997), Against the Day (2006) and Inherent Vice (2009).

Pynchon (pronounced /ˈpinch-än/) is a MacArthur Fellow and a recipient of the National Book Award, and is regularly cited as a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Both his fiction and non-fiction writings encompass a vast array of subject matter, styles and themes, including (but not limited to) the fields of history, science and mathematics. Pynchon is also known for his avoidance of personal publicity: very few photographs of him have ever been published, and rumours about his location and identity have been circulated since the 1960s.

Thomas Pynchon was born in 1937 in Glen Cove, Long Island, New York, one of three children of Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Sr. (1907–1995) and Katherine Frances Bennett (1909–1996). His earliest American ancestor, William Pynchon, emigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony with the Winthrop Fleet in 1630, and thereafter a long line of Pynchon descendants found wealth and repute on American soil. Pynchon's family background and aspects of his ancestry have provided source material for his fictions, particularly in the Slothrop family histories related in the short story "The Secret Integration" (1964) and Gravity's Rainbow (1973).

Pynchon attended Oyster Bay High School, where he was awarded 'student of the year' and contributed short fictional pieces to his school newspaper (Pynchon 1952-3). These juvenilia incorporated some of the literary motifs and recurring subject matter he would use throughout his career: oddball names, sophomoric humour, illicit drug use and paranoia.

After graduating from high school in 1953 at the age of 16, Pynchon studied engineering physics at Cornell University, but left at the end of his second year to serve in the U.S. Navy. In 1957, he returned to Cornell to pursue a degree in English. His first published story, "The Small Rain", appeared in the Cornell Writer in May 1959, and narrates an actual experience of a friend who had served in the army; subsequently, however, episodes and characters throughout Pynchon's fiction draw freely upon his own experiences in the navy.

While at Cornell, Pynchon started his life-long friendship with Richard Fariña; Pynchon would go on to dedicate Gravity's Rainbow to Fariña, as well as serve as his best man and as his pallbearer. Together the two briefly led what Pynchon has called a 'micro-cult' around Oakley Hall's 1958 novel Warlock. (Pynchon later reminisced about his college days in the introduction he wrote in 1983 for Fariña's novel Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, first published in 1966.) Reportedly he attended lectures given by Vladimir Nabokov, who then taught literature at Cornell. While Nabokov later said that he had no memory of Pynchon (although Nabokov's wife, Véra, who graded her husband's class papers, commented that she remembered his distinctive handwriting - a mixture of printed and cursive letters), other teachers at Cornell, such as the novelist James McConkey, recall him as being a gifted and exceptional student. In 1958, Pynchon and Cornell classmate Kirkpatrick Sale wrote part or all of a science-fiction musical, Minstral Island, which portrayed a dystopian future in which IBM rules the world (Gibbs 1994). Pynchon received his BA in June 1959.

After leaving Cornell, Pynchon began to work on his first novel. From February 1960 to September 1962, he was employed as a technical writer at Boeing in Seattle, where he compiled safety articles for the Bomarc Service News (see Wisnicki 2000-1), a support newsletter for the BOMARC surface-to-air missile deployed by the U.S. Air Force. Pynchon's experiences at Boeing inspired his depictions of the 'Yoyodyne' corporation in V. and The Crying of Lot 49, and both his background in physics and the technical journalism he undertook at Boeing provided much raw material for Gravity's Rainbow. When published in 1963, V. won a William Faulkner Foundation Award for the best first novel of the year.

After resigning from Boeing, Pynchon spent some time in New York and Mexico before moving to California, where he was reportedly based for much of the 1960s and early 1970s, most notably in an apartment in Manhattan Beach (see Frost 2003), as he was composing his most highly regarded work, Gravity's Rainbow. Pynchon during this time flirted with the lifestyle and some of the habits of the hippie counterculture (see, for example, Gordon 1994); however, his retrospective assessment of the motives, values and achievements of the student and youth milieux of the period, in his 1984 "Introduction" to the Slow Learner collection of early stories and the novel Vineland (1990) in particular, is equivocal at best.

In 1964, an application to study mathematics as a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, was turned down (Royster 2005). In 1966, Pynchon wrote a first-hand report on the aftermath and legacy of the Watts riots in Los Angeles. Entitled "A Journey Into the Mind of Watts," the article was published in the New York Times Magazine (Pynchon 1966).

From the mid-1960s Pynchon has also regularly provided blurbs and introductions for a wide range of novels and non-fiction works. One of the first of these pieces was a brief review of Hall's Warlock which appeared, along with comments by seven other writers on "neglected books", as part of a feature entitled "A Gift of Books" in the December 1965 issue of Holiday.

The Crying of Lot 49 won the Richard and Hilda Rosenthal Foundation Award shortly after publication. Although more concise and linear in its structure than Pynchon's other novels, its labyrinthine plot features an ancient, underground mail service known as 'The Tristero' or 'Trystero', a parody of a Jacobean revenge drama called The Courier's Tragedy, and a corporate conspiracy involving the bones of World War II American GIs being used as charcoal cigarette filters. It proposes a series of seemingly incredible interconnections between these events and other similarly bizarre revelations that confront the novel's protagonist, Oedipa Maas. Like V., the novel contains a wealth of references to science and technology and to obscure historical events, with both books dwelling on the detritus of American society and culture. The Crying of Lot 49 also continues Pynchon's strategy of composing parodic song lyrics and punning names, and referencing aspects of popular culture within his prose narratives. In particular, it incorporates a very direct allusion to the protagonist of Nabokov's Lolita within the lyric of a love lament sung by a member of 'The Paranoids', a teenage band who deliberately sing their songs with British accents.

Pynchon's most celebrated novel is his third, Gravity's Rainbow, published in 1973. An intricate and allusive fiction that combines and elaborates on many of the themes of his earlier work, including preterition, paranoia, racism, colonialism, conspiracy, synchronicity, and entropy, the novel has spawned a wealth of commentary and critical material, including two reader's guides (Fowler 1980; Weisenburger 1988), books and scholarly articles, online concordances and discussions, and art works, and is regarded as one of the archetypal texts of American literary postmodernism. The major portion of Gravity's Rainbow takes place in London and Europe in the final months of the Second World War and the weeks immediately following VE Day, and is narrated for the most part from within the historical moment in which it is set. In this way, Pynchon's text enacts a type of dramatic irony whereby neither the characters nor the various narrative voices are aware of specific historical circumstances, such as the Holocaust, and, except as hints, premonitions and mythography, the complicity between Western corporate interests and the Nazi war machine, which are, however, very much to the forefront of the reader's understanding of this time in history. Such an approach generates dynamic tension and moments of acute self-consciousness, as both reader and author seem drawn ever deeper into the "plot", in various senses of that term.

Encyclopedic in scope and often playfully self-conscious in style, the novel displays impressive erudition in its treatment of an array of material drawn from the fields of psychology, chemistry, mathematics, history, religion, music, literature and film. Perhaps appropriately for a book so suffused with engineering knowledge, Pynchon wrote the first draft of Gravity's Rainbow in "neat, tiny script on engineer's quadrille paper". (Weisenburger 1988) Pynchon worked on the novel throughout the 1960s and early 1970s while he was living in California and Mexico City.

A collection of Pynchon's early short stories, Slow Learner, was published in 1984, with a lengthy autobiographical introduction. In October of the same year, an article entitled "Is It O.K. to Be a Luddite?" was published in the New York Times Book Review. In April 1988, Pynchon contributed an extensive review of Gabriel García Márquez's novel, Love in the Time of Cholera, to the New York Times, under the title "The Heart's Eternal Vow". Another article, entitled "Nearer, My Couch, to Thee", was published in June 1993 in the New York Times Book Review, as one in a series of articles in which various writers reflected on each of the Seven Deadly Sins. Pynchon's subject was "Sloth".

Pynchon's fourth novel, Vineland, was published in 1990, but disappointed a majority of fans and critics. It did, however, stand the test of time, and received some positive reviews, notably from Salman Rushdie. (1990) The novel is set in California in the 1980s and 1960s, and describes the relationship between an FBI COINTELPRO agent and a female radical filmmaker. Its strong socio-political undercurrents detail the constant battle between authoritarianism and communalism, and the nexus between resistance and complicity, but with a typically Pynchonian sense of humor.

In 1988, he received a MacArthur Fellowship and, since the early 1990s at least, many observers have mentioned Pynchon as a Nobel Prize contender. (see, for example, Grimes 1993; CNN Book News 1999; Ervin 2000) Renowned American literary critic Harold Bloom named him as one of the four major American novelists of his time, along with Don DeLillo, Philip Roth, and Cormac McCarthy.

Pynchon's fifth novel, Mason & Dixon, was published in 1997, though it had been a work in progress since at least January 1975. (Ulin 1997; see also Gussow 1998) The meticulously-researched novel is a sprawling postmodernist saga recounting the lives and careers of the English astronomer, Charles Mason, and his partner, the surveyor Jeremiah Dixon, the surveyors of the Mason-Dixon line, during the birth of the American Republic. While it received some negative reviews, the great majority of commentators acknowledged it as a welcome return to form, and some, including Harold Bloom, have hailed it as Pynchon's greatest work.

A variety of rumors pertaining to the subject matter of Pynchon's most recent novel, Against the Day, circulated for a number of years. Most specific of these were comments made by the former German minister of culture, Michael Naumann, who stated that he assisted Pynchon in his research about "a Russian mathematician studied for David Hilbert in Göttingen", and that the new novel would trace the life and loves of Sofia Kovalevskaya.

Against the Day was released on November 21, 2006 and is 1,085 pages long in the first edition hardcover. The book was given almost no promotion by Penguin and professional book reviewers were given little time in advance to review the book, presumably in accord with Pynchon's wishes. An edited version of Pynchon's synopsis was used as the jacket flap copy and Kovalevskaya does appear, although as only one of over a hundred characters.

Composed predominantly of a series of interwoven pastiches of popular fiction genres from the era in which it is set, the novel inspired a mixed reaction from critics and reviewers, though many acknowledge that it is by turns brilliant and exhausting. (Complete Review 2006) Some made the point that this was ostensibly the culmination of Pynchon's career and a summation of his personal philosophy, while others noted that it was a "loose baggy monster" which had been pieced together from several long-time Pynchonian works-in-progress and offcuts from other of his novels. An Against the Day wiki was launched on the same day the novel was published to help readers keep track of the numerous characters, events and themes.

Information regarding a new Pynchon novel scheduled for publication in August 2009 was leaked in October 2008 (Kellogg 2008) and subsequently confirmed by a spokesperson for Penguin Press.

Along with its emphasis on loftier themes such as racism, imperialism and religion, and its cognizance and appropriation of many elements of traditional high culture and literary form, Pynchon's work also demonstrates a strong affinity with the practitioners and artifacts of low culture, including comic books and cartoons, pulp fiction, popular films, television programs, cookery, urban myths, conspiracy theories, and folk art. This blurring of the conventional boundary between "High" and "low" culture, sometimes interpreted as a "deconstruction", is seen as one of the defining characteristics of postmodernism.

In particular, Pynchon has revealed himself in his fiction and non-fiction as an aficionado of popular music. Song lyrics and mock musical numbers appear in each of his novels, and, in his autobiographical introduction to the Slow Learner collection of early stories, he reveals a fondness for both jazz and rock and roll. The character McClintic Sphere in V. is a fictional composite of jazz musicians such as Ornette Coleman, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk. In The Crying of Lot 49, the lead singer of "The Paranoids" sports "a Beatle haircut" and sings with an English accent. In the closing pages of Gravity's Rainbow, there is an apocryphal report that Tyrone Slothrop, the novel's protagonist, played kazoo and harmonica as a guest musician on a record released by The Fool in the 1960s (having magically recovered the latter instrument, his "harp", in a German stream in 1945, after losing it down the toilet in 1939 at the Roseland Ballroom in Roxbury, Boston, to the strains of the jazz standard 'Cherokee', upon which tune Charlie Parker was simultaneously inventing bebop in New York, as Pynchon describes). In Vineland, both Zoyd Wheeler and Isaiah Two Four are also musicians: Zoyd played keyboards in a '60s surf band called "The Corvairs", while Isaiah played in a punk band called "Billy Barf and the Vomitones". In Mason & Dixon, one of the characters plays on the "Clavier" the varsity drinking song which will later become "The Star-Spangled Banner"; whilst in another episode a character remarks tangentially "Sometimes, it's hard to be a woman".

In his Slow Learner introduction, Pynchon acknowledges a debt to the anarchic bandleader Spike Jones, and in 1994, he penned a 3000-word set of liner notes for the album Spiked!, a collection of Jones's recordings released on the short-lived BMG Catalyst label. Pynchon also wrote the liner notes for Nobody's Cool, the second album of indie rock band Lotion, in which he states that "rock and roll remains one of the last honorable callings, and a working band is a miracle of everyday life. Which is basically what these guys do." He is also known to be a fan of Roky Erickson.

Investigations and digressions into the realms of human sexuality, psychology, sociology, mathematics, science, and technology recur throughout Pynchon's works. One of his earliest short stories, "Low-lands" (1960), features a meditation on Heisenberg's uncertainty principle as a metaphor for telling stories about one's own experiences. His next published work, "Entropy" (1960), introduced the concept which was to become synonymous with Pynchon's name (though Pynchon later admitted the "shallowness of understanding" of the subject, and noted that choosing an abstract concept first and trying to construct a narrative around it was "a lousy way to go about writing a story"). Another early story, "Under the Rose" (1961), includes amongst its cast of characters a cyborg set anachronistically in Victorian-era Egypt (a type of writing now called steampunk). This story, significantly reworked by Pynchon, appears as Chapter 3 of V. "The Secret Integration" (1964), Pynchon's last published short story, is a sensitively-handled coming-of-age tale in which a group of young boys face the consequences of the American policy of racial integration. At one point in the story, the boys attempt to understand the new policy by way of the mathematical operation, the only sense of the word with which they are familiar.

The Crying of Lot 49 also alludes to entropy and communication theory, and contains scenes and descriptions which parody or appropriate calculus, Zeno's paradoxes, and the thought experiment known as Maxwell's demon. At the same time, the novel also investigates homosexuality, celibacy and both medically-sanctioned and illicit psychedelic drug use. Gravity's Rainbow describes many varieties of sexual fetishism (including sado-masochism, coprophilia and a borderline case of tentacle rape), and features numerous episodes of drug use, most notably marijuana but also cocaine, naturally occurring hallucinogens, and the mushroom Amanita muscaria. Gravity's Rainbow also derives much from Pynchon's background in mathematics: at one point, the geometry of garter belts is compared with that of cathedral spires, both described as mathematical singularities. Mason & Dixon explores the scientific, theological, and socio-cultural foundations of the Age of Reason whilst also depicting the relationships between actual historical figures and fictional characters in intricate detail and, like Gravity's Rainbow, is an archetypal example of the genre of historiographic metafiction.

An eclectic catalogue of Pynchonian precursors has been proposed by readers and critics. Beside overt references in the novels to writers as disparate as Henry Adams, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Giorgio de Chirico, Emily Dickinson, William March, Rainer Maria Rilke, Jorge Luis Borges, Ishmael Reed, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Patrick O'Brian, and Umberto Eco and to an eclectic mix of iconic religious and philosophical sources, credible comparisons with works by Rabelais, Cervantes, Laurence Sterne, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Charles Dickens, Joseph Conrad, Thomas Mann, William Burroughs, Ralph Ellison, Patrick White, and Toni Morrison have been made. Some commentators have detected similarities with those writers in the Modernist tradition who wrote extremely long novels dealing with large metaphysical or political issues. Examples of such works might include Ulysses by James Joyce, A Passage to India by E.M. Forster, The Castle by Franz Kafka, The Apes of God by Wyndham Lewis, The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil, and U.S.A. by John Dos Passos. In his 'Introduction' to Slow Learner, Pynchon explicitly acknowledges his debt to Beat Generation writers, and expresses his admiration for Jack Kerouac's On the Road in particular; he also reveals his familiarity with literary works by T. S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller, Saul Bellow, Herbert Gold, Philip Roth and Norman Mailer, and non-fiction works by Helen Waddell, Norbert Wiener and Isaac Asimov. Other contemporary American authors whose fiction is often categorized alongside Pynchon's include John Hawkes, Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Anton Wilson, Joseph Heller, Donald Barthelme, Steve Erickson, John Barth, William Gaddis, Don DeLillo, and Joseph McElroy.

The wildly eccentric characters, frenzied action, frequent digressions, and imposing lengths of Pynchon's novels have led critic James Wood to classify Pynchon's work as hysterical realism. Other writers whose work has been labeled as hysterical realism include Salman Rushdie, Steve Erickson, Neal Stephenson, and Zadie Smith. Younger contemporary writers who have been touted as heirs apparent to Pynchon include David Foster Wallace, William Vollmann, Richard Powers, Steve Erickson, David Mitchell, Neal Stephenson, Dave Eggers, and Tommaso Pincio whose pseudonym is an Italian rendering of Pynchon's name.

Pynchon's work has been cited as an influence and inspiration by many writers and artists, including T. Coraghessan Boyle, David Foster Wallace, Don DeLillo, Ian Rankin, William Gibson, Elfriede Jelinek, Rick Moody, Alan Moore, Arturo Pérez-Reverte, Richard Powers, Salman Rushdie, Neal Stephenson, Bruce Sterling, Jan Wildt, Laurie Anderson, Zak Smith, David Cronenberg, and Adam Rapp. Thanks to his influence on Gibson and Stephenson in particular, Pynchon became one of the progenitors of cyberpunk fiction. Though the term "cyberpunk" did not become prevalent until the early 1980s, many readers retroactively include Gravity's Rainbow in the genre, along with other works — e.g., Samuel R. Delany's Dhalgren and many works of Philip K. Dick — which seem, after the fact, to anticipate cyberpunk styles and themes. The encyclopedic nature of Pynchon's novels also led to some attempts to link his work with the short-lived hypertext fiction movement of the 1990s (Page 2002; Krämer 2005).

Relatively little is known about Thomas Pynchon's private life; he has carefully avoided contact with journalists for more than forty years. Only a few photos of him are known to exist, nearly all from his high school and college days, and his whereabouts have often remained undisclosed.

A review of V. in the New York Times Book Review described Pynchon as "a recluse" living in Mexico, thereby introducing the media label which has pursued Pynchon throughout his career (Plimpton 1963: 5). Nonetheless, Pynchon's absence from the public spotlight is one of the notable features of his life, and it has generated many rumors and apocryphal anecdotes.

After the publication and success of Gravity's Rainbow, interest mounted in finding out more about the identity of the author. At the 1974 National Book Award ceremony, the president of Viking Press, Tom Guinzberg, arranged for double-talking comedian "Professor" Irwin Corey to accept the prize on Pynchon's behalf (Royster 2005). Many of the assembled guests had no idea who Corey was, and, having never seen the author, they assumed that it was Pynchon himself on the stage delivering Corey's trademark torrent of rambling, pseudo-scholarly verbiage (Corey 1974). Towards the end of Corey's address a streaker ran through the hall, adding further to the confusion.

In the late 1980s, author Robert Clark Young prevailed upon his father, an employee of the California Department of Motor Vehicles, to look up Pynchon's driving record, using Pynchon's full name and known birth date. The results showed that Pynchon was living at the time in Aptos, California, and was driving a 1974 Datsun (Young 1992). The improperly-obtained cancelled license subsequently found its way into the hands of at least two academics publishing scholarly work on Pynchon.

Belying this reputation somewhat, Pynchon has published a number of articles and reviews in the mainstream American media, including words of support for Salman Rushdie and his then-wife, Marianne Wiggins, after the fatwa was pronounced against Rushdie by the Iranian leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (Pynchon 1989). In the following year, Rushdie's enthusiastic review of Pynchon's Vineland prompted Pynchon to send him another message hinting that if Rushdie were ever in New York, the two should arrange a meeting. Eventually, the two did meet, and Rushdie found himself surprised by how much Pynchon resembled the mental image Rushdie had formed beforehand (Hitchens 1997).

In the early 1990s, Pynchon married his literary agent, Melanie Jackson — a great-granddaughter of Theodore Roosevelt — and fathered a son, Jackson, in 1991. The disclosure of Pynchon's location in New York, after many years in which he was believed to be dividing his time between Mexico and northern California, led some journalists and photographers to try to track him down. Shortly before the publication of Mason & Dixon in 1997, a CNN camera crew filmed him in Manhattan. Angered by this invasion of his privacy, he rang CNN asking that he not be identified in the footage of the street scenes near his home. When asked about his reclusive nature, he remarked, "My belief is that 'recluse' is a code word generated by journalists ... meaning, 'doesn't like to talk to reporters'." CNN also quoted him as saying, "Let me be unambiguous. I prefer not to be photographed." (CNN 1997) The next year, a reporter for the Sunday Times managed to snap a photo of him as he was walking with his son (Bone 1998).

After several references to Pynchon's work and reputation were made on NBC's The John Larroquette Show, Pynchon (through his agent) reportedly contacted the show's producers to offer suggestions and corrections. When a local Pynchon sighting became a major plot point in a 1994 episode of the show, Pynchon was sent the script for his approval; as well as providing the title of a fictitious work to be used in one episode ("Pandemonium of the Sun"), the novelist apparently vetoed a final scene that called for an extra playing him to be filmed from behind, walking away from shot (CNN 1997; Glenn 2003). Also during the 1990s, Pynchon apparently befriended members of the band Lotion and attended a number of their shows, culminating in the liner notes he contributed for the band's 1995 album Nobody's Cool. The novelist then conducted an interview with the band ("Lunch With Lotion") for Esquire in June 1996 in the lead-up to the publication of Mason & Dixon. More recently, Pynchon provided faxed answers to questions submitted by author David Hajdu and permitted excerpts from his personal correspondence to be quoted in Hajdu's 2001 book, Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña and Richard Fariña (Warner 2001).

Pynchon's attempt to maintain his personal privacy and have his work speak for itself has resulted in a number of outlandish rumors and hoaxes over the years. Indeed, claims that Pynchon was the Unabomber or a sympathizer with the Waco Branch Davidians after the 1993 siege were upstaged in the mid-1990s by the invention of an elaborate rumor insinuating that Pynchon and one "Wanda Tinasky" were the same person. A spate of letters authored under that name had appeared in the late 1980s in the Anderson Valley Advertiser in Anderson Valley, California. The style and content of those letters were said to resemble Pynchon's, and Pynchon's Vineland, published in 1990, also takes place in northern California, so it was suggested that Pynchon may have been in the area at that time, conducting research. A collection of the Tinasky letters was eventually published as a paperback book in 1996; however, Pynchon himself denied having written the letters, and no direct attribution of the letters to Pynchon was ever made. "Literary detective" Donald Foster subsequently showed that the Letters were in fact written by an obscure Beat writer called Tom Hawkins, who had murdered his wife and then committed suicide in 1988. Foster's evidence was conclusive, including finding the typewriter on which the "Tinasky" letters had been written (Foster 2000).

In 1998, over 120 letters that Pynchon had written to his longtime agent, Candida Donadio, were donated by the family of private collector, Carter Burden, to the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City. The letters ranged from 1963 to 1982, thus covering some of the author's most creative and prolific years. Although the Morgan Library originally intended to allow scholars to view the letters, at Pynchon’s request the Burden family and Morgan Library agreed to seal these letters until after Pynchon's death (see Gussow 1998).

After the September 11 terrorist attacks, a supposed "interview" with Pynchon appeared in an issue of Playboy Japan. Published under the heading "Most News is Propaganda. Bin Laden May Not Exist", it purported to be a talk with Pynchon on the events of 9/11 and Osama Bin Laden. Its authenticity has been questioned by experts and it has never been republished in the American media.

Responding ironically to the image which has been manufactured in the media over the years, during 2004, Pynchon made two cameo appearances on the animated television series The Simpsons. The first occurs in the episode "Diatribe of a Mad Housewife", in which Marge Simpson becomes a novelist. He plays himself, with a paper bag over his head, and provides a blurb for the back cover of Marge's book, speaking in a broad Long Island accent: "Here's your quote: Thomas Pynchon loved this book, almost as much as he loves cameras!" He then starts yelling at passing cars: "Hey, over here, have your picture taken with a reclusive author! Today only, we'll throw in a free autograph! But, wait! There's more!" The second appearance occurs in "All's Fair in Oven War," which was the second episode of the sixteenth season. In this appearance, Pynchon's dialogue consists entirely of puns on his novel titles ("These wings are 'V'-licious! I'll put this recipe in 'The Gravity's Rainbow Cookbook', right next to 'The Frying of Latke 49'."). The cartoon representation of Pynchon reappears in a third, non-speaking cameo, as a guest at the fictional WordLoaf convention depicted in the 18th season (2006) episode, "Moe'N'a Lisa." The episode first aired on November 19, 2006, the Sunday before Pynchon's sixth novel, Against the Day, was released, perhaps as part of an increasingly unusual publicity campaign.

In July 2006, Amazon.com created a page showing an upcoming 992-page, untitled, Thomas Pynchon novel. A description of the soon-to-be published novel appeared on Amazon purporting to be written by Pynchon himself. The description was taken down, prompting speculation over its authenticity, but the blurb was soon back up along with the title of Pynchon's new novel, Against the Day.

Shortly before Against the Day was published, Pynchon's prose appeared in the program for "The Daily Show: Ten Fu@#ing Years (The Concert)", a retrospective on Jon Stewart's comedy-news broadcast The Daily Show.

On December 6, 2006, Pynchon joined a campaign by many other major authors to clear Ian McEwan of plagiarism charges by sending a typed letter to his British publisher, which was published in the Daily Telegraph newspaper (Pynchon 2006b).

As well as fictional works, Pynchon has written essays, introductions, and reviews addressing subjects as diverse as missile security, the Watts Riots, Luddism and the work of Donald Barthelme. Some of his non-fiction pieces have appeared in the New York Times Book Review and The New York Review of Books, and he has contributed blurbs for books and records. His 1984 Introduction to the Slow Learner collection of early stories is significant for its autobiographical candour. He has written introductions to at least three books, including the 1992 collection of Donald Barthelme's stories, The Teachings of Don B. and, more recently, the Penguin Centenary Edition of George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, which was published in 2003, and the Penguin Classics edition of Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me written by Pynchon's close friend, Richard Fariña, and first published in 1966.

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