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25.05.2014
On the 14th of February 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini sent Salman Rushdie a not so funny Valentine: a fatwa. Though a lot might say this book is stating the obvious, we do however believe that our desire for instruction manuals for living remains essential. In one of his rules, Templar argues that being regretful after making a mistake is normal; but only rules players use regrets to make a difference, a positive one.
The Iranian supreme leader found Rushdie’s portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad in his book The Satanic Verses offensive and thought it fair to declare the author an outlaw, inviting all Muslims to kill him in the honour of Islam. As much as many people resort to them for answers, many others continue to believe that self-help books generalise issues and provide generic answers and solutions that rarely resolve the challenges at hand.
The Rules of Life book widens the way we look at ourselves and others, as it introduces a new approach to overcome our daily hassles and a new perspective to deal with our challenges altogether. Everyone makes mistakes; but what comes after the mistake is what separates Rules Players from the rest. Joseph Anton was Rushdie’s pseudonym when he went into hiding, so it makes for a good title for a memoir detailing that particular part of his life.
So one would assume the book details mostly that: the fatwa, its consequences and the efforts undertaken to void it.


Unfortunately, there is a lot of toffee-nosed non-information one has to wade through to get to the interesting stuff.
The prologue to the book is written in the first-person, while the rest of the book is in third-person . It comes across as very pretentious to write about himself in the third person; like using the majestic plural. It also creates an unnecessary distance; nothing is more personal then writing one’s memoir. He was raised to believe that the holy book “was to be regarded as a human artefact, prey to human fallibility and imperfection.” He recalls how his father was fascinated by Islam and often discussed the subject with friends. The second chapter revolves around the conception, writing and publishing of The Satanic Verses, and how the controversy surrounding the novel initially came about. This partial memoir would have been an excellent opportunity for Rushdie to showcase his thoughts on freedom of speech, to write a solid piece defending the arts from religious fanatics and narrow minds that lack imagination.
But instead, Rushdie has written a 656-page tome detailing how great of a guy ‘Joseph Anton’ is (despite cheating on his wife – whoops!), how fantastic his life has been, notwithstanding the debilitating consequences of the fatwa,  and how he constantly mingles with the rich and famous. The book is littered with numerous unnecessary references to several of his ‘beloved’, ‘amazing’ and ‘great’ friends such as Harold Pinter, Susan Sontag and Martin Amis.


A good two pages are wasted detailing a dinner party at the home of then British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. It would be more interesting to know how the fatwa was annulled (spoiler alert: it never actually officially was), not how Rushdie’s son Milan spent at least half an hour sitting on Tony Blair’s lap and how jolly a time was had by all.
When reflecting om a memoir of an author that has survived a ten year fatwa by one of the most influential Ayatollahs, we want to know the ins and outs of that particular story.
It doesn’t need window-dressing with uninteresting details of the author’s private life, such as the questionable mental state of his former wife and his problems conceiving a child with his third wife. Anyone who thinks highly of Rushdie better leave this book on the shelves of the bookshop, for fear of instant nausea and general disliking of its author.



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