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Salman Rushdie is a most singular figure. He’s authored 19 books, accrued countless awards and spent about a decade in hiding after the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called for his death. Needless to say, Chris Hayes jumped at the chance to have a conversation with Salman Rushdie about his life and the ways his particular experiences shape his worldview.
In one hour, they manage to cover the political climate in India and the U.S., the opioid epidemic, belonging, reality television, immigration, his newest novel “Quichotte,” and more. Did we mention he’s a knight?
SALMAN RUSHDIE: If we live in a world in which we are constantly confused about right and wrong, about truth and fiction, about lies and things that are really importantly not lies, it messes with our heads and it makes possible certain kinds of exploitation.
Chris Hayes: Hello and welcome to "Why Is This Happening?" with me, your host, Chris Hayes.
Hey there WITHpod listeners, we're going to talk at the end of this show about the live show we're doing in Los Angeles. You can get tickets at ticketmaster.com, search Chris Hayes, October 21st. Tiffany's smiling because I'm selling. Selling. But for those of you in Los Angeles who do not have the coin to purchase the tickets, I've heard from some of you. We're going to do a ticket giveaway, and I'm going to give some details on the ticket giveaway at the end of the interview. We're also disabling the 15-second forward button on your iPod app. You've got to listen to the whole thing. Actually, just download it. If you listen or not listen, just the downloads is all I care about. I kid, of course.
So today is cool and something new. I sit here in the studio, and I love when we do something new. I was really psyched to do this interview this week because the person that we talk to is someone that I have read and who's writing I have admired for a long time. I have a crystal clear memory, two memories. One memory is being, I don't know, probably 10 or 11 years old, and the biggest news story in the country for a while was that there was an author who'd written a novel called "The Satanic Verses." And that the Ayatollah in Iran had issued a fatwa, I remember that term. It had such kind of like foreign menace to it when it appeared in newscasts. A fatwa, which is just a word for a religious ruling. You can have a fatwa on what kind of halal meat you can and can't eat. It doesn't have anything nefarious, but my introduction to it was so nefarious that to this day it echoes in my ears nefariously.
But that the Ayatollah in Iran had issued a death sentence to the author of the book for blasphemy. The author of that book, Salman Rushdie, who is born in India, grew up in Bombay from a Muslim family there, lived in the U.K. and lived in the U.S. And back when he published that book, he was about 40 years old. It was an enormous sensation, and huge deal political news story. And it sent him into hiding. He wrote a memoir about it, which you can read. He had to live under a false name and hide his address and move and have bodyguards. It was incredibly harrowing. In fact, oddly enough we don't talk about that in this conversation, partly I think because it's something that he's talked about a ton and he's written about a ton.
So my introduction to him was this kind of... You know when you're a kid, there's certain news stories that you're not quite old enough to grasp but you're old enough to be consuming the news and hearing it on the radio in the morning while you're getting ready to school and knowing something's a big deal. And not really having like nuance or texture around it. So I always thought of the book as this kind of like both totemic and scary this. "The Satanic Verses." It was the center of this controversy and this death sentence. And then I remember the summer after my sophomore year in college, I started reading it. I started reading it because my then partner, now wife Kate was getting really interested in India, the subcontinent. She was taking Hindi. She was about to go to India for a year. She lived in India for a year, and told me that I should read it, that it was amazing. And it is totally amazing.
I mean, it's one of those things it reminds me if you've been to Venice or Paris and you have seen postcards and images, and then you're there. You're like, "Oh, man. This is really amazing. I get why people write about it and send postcards and it's iconic." And this novel to me, "Satanic Verses," was that way. It was so incredible and moving and powerful and profound. And I've read other books by him as well and followed his writing and career for a long time. So when one of the booking producers on our show said that he has a new novel out, would you like to do him for the podcast? I was like, that would be amazing. We've never had a novelist on this show. We've never talked about a novel on the show.
The new novel that he has out is called "Quichotte." It is the 19th book he's written and the 14th novel if I'm not mistaken. Quichotte is the French name for Quixote, Don Quixote. The novel is loosely based or sort of uses some of the tropes of "Don Quixote," and it's sort of two stories in one. So it's a story of a man who is from India in the U.S. who becomes a pharmaceutical salesperson and falls into a kind of deranged revere that he is Quixote. Travels around the country in a kind of travel log, somewhat based on Quixote. He's pursuing his undying love and affection for a TV star named Salma, who herself is also originally from India, now an American daytime TV talk show host. That's the kind of book within the book, and then outside of that there's a chronicle of the guy who writes the book about Quichotte. He's a kind of mid-list genre fiction writer in his world as well. And as is the case with a lot of Rushdie's fiction, it's sort of there's meta-narrative and meta-fiction. It's fantastical realism, crazy things happen, but it's set in the real current day. It spans continents. It approaches the work from multiple voices, and it crescendos in this really kind of I think powerful and amazing way.
That's the book. It's out now. You should definitely pick it up. But I sat down. I had this rule for this podcast, a no notes rule, which is that I just come in. I don't have any notes in front of me. Tiffany prints out one sheet that's like the title of the guest and in this case how many books he's written. And I was like, "What am I going to talk to him about?" And then we just honestly had a conversation for an hour about his life and his work and about India and the U.S. and immigration and the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment and right-wing bigoted populism across multiple continents in which he's lived. It's just a fascinating conversation. He was wonderful to talk to. And so Tiffany and I both came away being like, "We should do that more. We should talk to novelists. Maybe we'll get artists and filmmakers and others in here," because it was just really different from what we usually do but totally fascinating.
So please enjoy this conversation with Salman Rushdie.
CHRIS HAYES: I'm struggling with what to call you. Sir?
SALMAN RUSHDIE: No.
CHRIS HAYES: Your lordship?
SALMAN RUSHDIE: No. Just call me Salman.
CHRIS HAYES: Salman. Okay. Just me and Salman. Just me and my homie Salman just hanging here.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: That's right.
CHRIS HAYES: I don't mean to gush too much, but I am enormous fan of your work.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Oh, that's very nice. Thank you. So you're the enormous fan. I always thought I might meet him one day.
CHRIS HAYES: So I thought maybe I would start with your the first fiction writer we've ever had on the show, and you're a legendary fiction writer at that. Hardly needs to be said. You've done many interviews about your process and your work over the years but the first time we're talking. And I am actually just curious to start with your work day is like.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Well, once I know what I'm writing, it's quite like an office job. Once I have the book in my head, I get up in the morning and I do a day's work.
CHRIS HAYES: Do you go to an office?
SALMAN RUSHDIE: No. I mean, I have my office in my home, so that's one advantage. But I'm not a great very early in the morning guy. I can be quite good late at night. I mean, I can work long hours into the night.
CHRIS HAYES: I wonder this. All of our attention spans, in some ways, I think it's one of the subtexts of your latest novel: the way that our attention span is constantly being tugged at and disrupted by all of the stimuli there are. As someone who has been practicing this craft for decades, do you feel that?
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Well, strangely, having been practiced the craft for decades, as you say, in my case, it gets better. The attention span gets longer. I'm better at concentrating for long periods of time than I used to be when I started out when I would get much more easily distracted. But I think in general, yeah, it's an age of distraction.
CHRIS HAYES: Do you acquire your sort of habits of work overtime or have you basically in the time that you've written the 24 novels or whatever that you have done that, this has been sort of the way you've approached writing a book?
SALMAN RUSHDIE: I just got much better at it. I was much messier when I was younger and much less disciplined. I mean, I would actually write much more in a day when I was younger. But it was in much less good shape. It needed a lot of work.
CHRIS HAYES: And now it's much more efficient.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: And now there's much lesser in a day but it's closer to something that I might not be ashamed of letting you read.
CHRIS HAYES: The title of the book, I guess it's a spelling from the opera of "Don Quixote."
SALMAN RUSHDIE: It's the French version. Quichotte, which is the French pronunciation. I mean, strangely, even the Spanish has changed because in the time of Cervantes, the X in Quixote would've been pronounced as a ch-. So he probably said Quichotte. But anyway, yes, it's just the character in the novel who adopts this as a pseudonym under which to write love letters to this woman he's crazily in love with and has no chance with, he likes the opera, the French opera, 19th-century French opera. Which was based on, very loosely based on "Don Quixote," which is called "Don Quichotte." So he uses the French spelling, and I just thought well, the book is a little bit loosely based on "Don Quixote" rather than precisely based because messes around with the storyline a lot. So I thought the French would do.
CHRIS HAYES: Did you go back to the Cervantes novel as you were undertaking this?
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yeah. In fact, that's in a way what started it off. I'd had this idea of wanting to write a road novel, a way of getting out of... I mean, the last two novels before it were almost entirely in New York City, set in New York City. And while I was writing the one before, "The Golden House," I had thought that next time I have to get out of town. I have to allow the book to include more of the country, more different kinds of places, different kinds of people. And then for accidental reasons, I was asked to write something about Cervantes. And I hadn't read "Don Quixote" since I had been at university. So I thought I better check it out. And what had happened in the meanwhile in the very long period since I'd been at university is that there's now a much better translation than there used to be. That now standard translation, which is the Edith Grossman translation, is really a brilliant translation.
CHRIS HAYES: It's funny because as I was reading this book, it recalled my vague memory of when I read it, whenever I read it in school. And remembering it being just sort of-
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Really hard going.
CHRIS HAYES: Yeah. Ponderous and ornate in a way that did not draw me in.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: No, exactly. That's because the then standard translation was really quite stogy and turgid. And it was hard going. I mean, I remember reading it thinking, "I kind of don't understand why people say all this about this book."
CHRIS HAYES: Yes, that it is the beginning of the novelists form. It's a great. It's in the canon for all time.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yeah. I mean, since I was not able to read it in Spanish, I kind of didn't get that. But now rereading it, it was very exciting because the book springs to life in the English translation now. And almost immediately that I'd read it, I understood that kind of versions of the characters of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza would give me my way into a road novel about America.
CHRIS HAYES: So in the road novel, one of the protagonist, there's sort of two protagonists. There's a protagonist in the writer who's writing about the protagonist. But the protagonist is Ismail Smile who turns himself into Quichotte.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yes.
CHRIS HAYES: He's on a road trip with a conjured son born of his imagination that becomes real, Sancho.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yes. A kind of ornery teenager.
CHRIS HAYES: Yes. And there are these very intense scenes as they are two South Asian men, a father and son, traveling through what you call "the Red States" in the book. Encountering extremely violent, aggressive bigotry from the folks around them.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yeah. I just thought that it would be kind of chickening out to not be aware of the fact that two brown men driving across Middle America might encounter some hostility. And so I had to include that. I didn't want the book to be just a kind of diatribe about American racism, but I also thought I don't want to sort of bolide myself to that. And so there are I think four moments along their journey when they come across some level of hostility. Sometimes it's just verbal, and sometimes it's actually physically dangerous. And some of it's based on things that actually happened. I mean, for instance, there's a moment in the novel when they visit a fictional town in Kansas called Beautiful.
CHRIS HAYES: Beautiful, Kansas.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yup. There isn't a town in Kansas called Beautiful, but there is a town in Kansas I think I may mispronounce it. But it's I think pronounce Olathe.
CHRIS HAYES: Mm-hmm.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: And when I was digging around before writing the book, I read about this violent act that had happened in a bar there where some — the kind of crazy thing that happens every day in America now — that some crazy guy with a gun came into a bar and shot absolutely at random two Indian American men who were software engineers. And one of them died and one of them survived. So I thought, well, maybe I'm going to find a way of including something like that story in my book. And because I didn't want to be limited in a way to the news story, I wanted to be able to change it and make it up in a way that worked in the novel. I thought I can't use the real name of the town. So I'll fictionalize it, and then I discovered that the real name of the town is a Native American word meaning beautiful. And so I thought, okay, well then I'll call it Beautiful in English, and then it'll be very close to the real place but not necessarily exactly the real place.
CHRIS HAYES: This is a question for you and not about the book, but we've had a variety of folks over the last year here talking, many people who are very much consider themselves Americans but were born in other places, have immigrated, and have talked about over the course of their life, this moment feeling more fraught. There's a quote there were Sancho talks about discovering himself as the other, actually after that incident in Beautiful, Kansas. Now obviously your Salman Rushdie, so I'm not sure this applies to you because I feel like you're walking around in sort of rarefied way.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: I'm in some bubble of beauty.
CHRIS HAYES: Yes, exactly. You're knighted. So I guess I don't know if it applies to the knighted. But, no, I do wonder how you feel about where the country is with respect to that having lived here for a while now.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: I've lived here for 20 years. I'm a citizen now. This is also my place. Actually there's a line after that shooting in Beautiful, Kansas which I actually took from a real interview I saw with the wife of the murdered man where she rather movingly says on television, "Is there a place for us here in America?" These were people who had been model citizens, lived here for a long time, worked hard, made a good life for themselves, and then randomly violence arrived. Is there a place for us here I thought was a question that I wanted the book to look at. And the place of Indian Americans of course is somewhat different than the main subject of race in America, which takes place between the white and African American communities.
And I remember when I first came here 20 years ago, that a lot of Indian-American friends of mine would say that they actually found themselves less targeted here than they had been in the U.K. They felt a sharper thrust of racism over there than over here. Some of them said they were kind of embarrassed be sort of excused racism because the target of American racism was another community. And I thought that was interesting, and then 9/11 happened. And I think after 9/11, that began to change. And that anybody with a brown skin became possible target for that kind of bigotry. And that happened in the Indian community too.
CHRIS HAYES: Your work in many ways, I mean, going back to "Midnight's Children" and certainly through "Satanic Verses" and other works really wrestles with the sort of questions of identity and also the sort of dark-core nationalism and fundamentalism as these kind of out chemical forces in people.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yeah. I've been an immigrant most of my life. I started off being an immigrant from India into England, then from England into New York. So that condition is my normal condition, and that is actually for a writer not a bad position to be in because you feel simultaneously inside and outside of society. You feel that you can feel like an insider so you can describe what the society feels like from the inside, but you also have a bit of you that steps out of it and looks at it from outside the frame, if you like. So yeah, those subjects of belonging and un-belonging and who you are when you and your family move halfway across the world and find yourself in a different culture, different language surrounded by people you don't know. How do you deal with that?
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Although I've written this is actually the 14th novel. It's the 19th book. But I've never managed to write a book that did not have an Indian character at the center of it. I never managed to do it because those are the eyes through which I see the world.
CHRIS HAYES: The book set in contemporary times, and it's interesting to me the sort of three locations in the books, which is the U.S., the U.K., and India. They each have their own kind of collective political madness, which is poking into the book.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yes.
CHRIS HAYES: And in some ways, arguably, as sort of kind of access across those three countries in their polities embrace of a certain kind of reactionary national exclusive... Exclusionary nationalism.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yeah. I thought that. I think that. It's an unhappy thought really that these three countries that are in particular these three cities of Bombay, London and New York that I've spent my life in and thinking about and writing about should all be going through a kind of trauma that echoes each other. I mean, they're not exactly the same. But that was I deliberately wanted that to be a part of the background of the book to say that the world as we knew it is changing into something else. All the worlds that I have known are changing into something, what seems to be something worse. And in each case, the kind of method by which people are trying to bring this change about is to make up a fantasy about the past in order to justify actions in the present.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: So in India, Mr. Modi and his administration hark back constantly to some imagined golden age of Hinduism. I mean, thousands of years ago. Before inconvenient Muslims showed up and ruined everything. And they say if only we can return to what they call the rule of Ram. Ramachandra. Rule of the God Ram. That everything would be fine, and that just means you have to erase millions of people who now live in the country.
CHRIS HAYES: Not to mention a thousand years of history.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Not to mention, yeah. A millennium at least. And the Brexit thing is again based on a fantasy of England as it was before all these horrible foreigners arrived, and nobody ever says that whatever wealth and ease they may have been in England in that golden age was partly the result of that country exploiting the resources of a quarter of the planet. You mustn't mention colonialism when we talk about this. But yes, if we could only go back to this golden age of wearing butas and sipping champagne by the tons, then everything would be fine. And here, we have the message of the Red Hat, and again it's very important for the golden age fantasy that you never specify exactly when it was because if you try and specify when it was, you have to say, "Well, was it before the evolution of slavery? Was it before women had the vote? Was it before the Civil Rights movement? When exactly is the golden age to which we are supposed to aspire?" And that's because the golden age is always a fairytale. That it's a fairytale that's used to justify actions in the present day.
CHRIS HAYES: I've been thinking about this recently. There's two moments I've had recently. I was reading David Blight, who won the Pulitzer for his Frederick Douglass book... There's an amazing moment part of that where Frederick Douglass goes to live with, he's a slave, and he's a boy. And he's in the house of his master's relatives who live in Baltimore. And he will sneak out of the house as a boy, and he'll find these sort of Irish street ruffians, these Irish American immigrant kids. And they'd play in the alley. And here's this little multicultural moment. I mean, this is in antebellum South. This multicultural moment, he's got these little street gangs. And then I recently went to see "Oklahoma" on Broadway, which is set in 1905 or whatever, and there's this Persian vendor who's a big character. He's going around the great West. And what made me realize that sites of cultural friction or multicultural exchange are in every era, everywhere. It's the imagined past of some purity in which that's not happening simply doesn't exist.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yes. I've always had a lot of trouble with people who are in favor of some kind of pure culture because when people start talking about purity, very often other people start dying. Ethnic cleansing was an attempt at purity. Nazism was an attempt at racial purity. The advocates of purity seem to be quite willing to rub out large numbers of people. So I've always been in favor of impurity. A little dirt, better than cleanliness.
CHRIS HAYES: In the case of India though, I wonder Modi... I mean, people think about Brexit and Trump in the same way, particularly if you look at the sort of rise of a certain populist, ethno-nationalist right in Europe and the West, Modi obviously is coming from a different tradition, from a different place. What do you account for his rise? What is the thing that is happening that is pushing this kind of politics?
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Well, what's happened is that he's done something which is an attempt to unmake the founding idea of the nation. That's to say when the founders of independent India, Gandhi et cetera. Formed the country, they wanted it to be a secularized state in which religion would have no part in the constitution. And the reason they did that was to protect minorities because the Hindu majority is very large. I mean, 85 percent of the country is Hindu. And the largest minority of course is the Muslim community, which is about 12 percent or 13 percent. And then the remaining 1 percent or 2 percent is everyone else. But everyone else of 1.3 billion people is a lot of people.
CHRIS HAYES: A lot of people, yeah.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: And that's been especially in the aftermath of the Partition Massacres, that was seen as the way of safeguarding the country from a repetition of that and keeping the peace.
CHRIS HAYES: Tolerance or barbarism basically.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yeah, and what Modi has done is to reverse that appeal and to speak openly to the Hindu majority about how they are the huge majority, and it should be a country based on a certain kind of radical Hinduism. And he's managed to sell that majoritarian idea to a very large number of people. So unlike Trump and Boris Johnson, both of whose popularity is on a kind of knife edge, Modi is colossally popular, and it very, very improbable that that will change anytime soon.
CHRIS HAYES: So people will raise these arguments about Trump and Boris Johnson's appeal where they talk about the sort of hollowed out middle, forgotten, sort of white working class in these places, old factory towns, and in Wales, for instance, in the UK or in the Midwest, Industrial Midwest. And that globalization has hollowed these people out. They feel desperate, and they're looking for some answer to why their material conditions aren't getting better. Here comes someone selling demigodary and bigotry. But that does striking the story in Modi's India.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: No, it's not exactly. I mean, I think the thing it has in common with what's happening here is bigotry, straight forward bigotry. I mean, in this case, Hindu against Muslim bigotry rather than white against black. But the same thing, a kind of unleashing of a village of prejudice, which had been kept very tightly on a leash for a very long time. I mean, there's a moment in the novel where young Sancho in Central Park actually comes across a group of very well dressed guys. But he seems to see around their neck a dog collar with a broken leash, which in fact they can't see because he's having a kind of vision. And when he asks them why they're wearing a dog collar with a broken leash, they beat him up. But I think that phenomenon of a thing being unleashed. People are giving permission to indulge in a kind of hostility and prejudice.
CHRIS HAYES: And that thing is, in your sort of understanding of us as humans, is there sitting in us, and it is given license or it's restrained by the-
SALMAN RUSHDIE: What we call civilization.
CHRIS HAYES: Right. That's the point.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: That's the point. And this is what we're going through right now is a crisis of civilization I think.
CHRIS HAYES: I want to talk about how a particular aspect of that crisis of civilization is dealt with in the book. Let's do that after this break.
CHRIS HAYES: So there's two kind of intoxicants floating through this book that I think relate to where we are as a country right now. There's the actual pain killers Oxy and Fentanyl and this spray Fentanyl, this extremely potent form of delivering the drug.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Which actually exists.
CHRIS HAYES: Right. It does exist. Talk maybe a little bit about that as something and drugs and how you worked your way into writing about addiction.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Well, in a culture in crisis, often people reach out for some kind of easy palliative.
CHRIS HAYES: In a literal sense.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: In a literal sense. And I think part of the opioid crisis is born out of people's sense of panic, despair, isolation, loneliness — all those things — and part of it of course is fueled by the actions of unscrupulous people and not just large pharmaceutical industrialists because frankly the idea that large scale capitalists might be corrupt is not exactly a surprise to anybody.
CHRIS HAYES: Right.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: But what surprised me more was how many doctors were willing to join in the project. For sums of money, which while they were substantial in the way of bribes. I mean, they were substantial, $30,000, $40,000. But they weren't life changing. It turns out that for some people, for some doctors at least, the cost of their principles is not very high.
CHRIS HAYES: I will always remember when I was a young political reporter in Chicago covering a corruption trial where someone basically was going to go do like 15 years and lose their job for a $1600 bribe. And I said to myself... I mean, $1,600 is a lot of money. But not really worth what you've done.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: No. It's not going to buy you a house on the South of France.
CHRIS HAYES: Yeah. You don't retire early on that.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: No. You don't even get a Ferrari. Not very close to a Ferrari anyway. But it was shocking to me that for these relatively modest sums of money, doctors were willing to do this thing called prescribing off label, which means prescribing these very dangerous things to people who didn't need them. And I first came across this, of course, in Hollywood where there's a certain number of people who indulge in recreational use of Vicodin, Percocet, Oxycontin, all that. And there's always a doctor who's willing to prescribe to a movie star whatever they want. So I thought, okay, well, that's Hollywood. But then I discovered that it's actually most prevalent in the middle of the country, in small towns in the middle of nowhere. More prevalent there than in the big cities, and that was interesting.
Anyway, the other thing is a kind of personal thing, which is a family tragedy. I have three sisters. My youngest sister died of opioid overdose 12 years ago at the age of only 45. And I, like her other sisters and myself, had no idea of the degree of her dependency on these things. So that was a colossal shock and kind of almost made one feel ashamed that... I mean, I'm her elder brother. I should've known, et cetera. And it made a subject that was personal to me.
CHRIS HAYES: Was she here in the states?
SALMAN RUSHDIE: No, she was in Pakistan at the time.
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CHRIS HAYES: That must have been so awful.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yeah, horrible. I mean, you get a phone call in the middle of the night, and your sister's dead.
CHRIS HAYES: And you didn't... I mean, many people go through the experience of loved ones, whether close kin or family members and addiction, and they are constantly in the rollercoaster of the addiction. Late night phone calls, borrowing money, all these things. But for you this was just-
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Out of the blue. I mean, this is one of the things I think about a lot is about the way in which diaspora families, which are separated often by oceans and continents, can lose touch with each other in that way. And that's what it seemed to me had happened that I wasn't as closely involved in her day to day life as I would've been if we'd lived in the same place.
CHRIS HAYES: There's a very fraught sibling relationship in this book.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yeah. Well, I want you to know I've had good and bad sibling relationships, and I've had good and bad relationships as a father and as a son. And I wanted all of that, to look at all of that.
CHRIS HAYES: Sibling relationships always strike me as a fascinating element of artistic representation because to me they're so profound and so important in our lives, but often they're sort of in the kind of hierarchy of artistic representations. There's parents, there's children, there's romantic love as this sort of three most represented. And the sibling relationships a harder one to conjure in some ways because it's more fraught, it's more intimate, it's a harder thing to even call into words.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yes, it is. There are of course famous sibling relationships in literature, like the Bennet sisters in "Pride and Prejudice" or "The Brothers Karamazov" or et cetera. But it's true that I feel, as you say, that they're relatively underrepresented in literature by comparison with great love stories or parent/child relationship, mother and son, father and daughter, father and son, mother and daughter relationships. And I wanted to say, okay, this is a book which is in a way you can say one of its central subjects is love. But it's not only romantic love. In fact, the romantic love in the novel is kind of a caricature. It's this old fool falling in love with this television personality who he doesn't know and who is totally out of his league. And yet he calls it love and decides he will pursue her across the country.
CHRIS HAYES: That's Quichotte.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: That's Quichotte. He falls in love with a woman who's name is probably is Salma R., one initial away, one consonant away from mine. Some accident. So that's treated more or less comically, although it doesn't end up-
CHRIS HAYES: No, it doesn't.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: ... as comically as you might think. But I wanted to look at these other kinds of love. The love inside families and to look at variations of it. So in the book, there's actually two brother-sister relationships and two father and son relationships, which are equally important. And they don't all turn out the same way. Some of them turn out better than others. But I just wanted to have an opportunity to seriously look at that.
CHRIS HAYES: I have three children, one who's about to be eight, a five-year-old, and a 21-month-old. The two older kids, the brother and sister, the older girl and the middle boy, I watch them interact sometimes. And you can just see you're watching form in real time. Essentially these bonds that have nuclear power within them.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yes.
CHRIS HAYES: I mean, just little ways in which my son will look up to her or feel reproached by something or puffed up when she compliments him. And you're watching this. This is going to constitute a huge part of their personalities forever.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: This will be the rest of their lives. And very often you have a situation where if you have two children born relatively close together and then another one later, then that can be a real difficulty for the younger one because they will feel excluded and rejected and conspired against and all sorts of things like that.
CHRIS HAYES: You have good relationships with your other siblings?
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yeah. I do. And I actually have very good relationships with my two sons, but I had a very bad relationship with my father. So I've had an example of a very bad father-son relationship, which I mean it was okay by the end of his life. But for a lot of time, we were quite estranged from one another. And then I've had a much closer relationship as a parent than I had as a son.
CHRIS HAYES: What was the source of your estrangement with your father?
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Well, he was a very good parent of young children. Great fun, young children. He was a person who told me an array of goodnight stories for the first time and things like that. And a lot of his cast of mind, it actually is also mine. I got a lot of my ideas about the world from him. So we had a lot in common. But he was a disappointed man in some ways. He became a very angry man, and he developed a very serious drinking problem. Put that together with anger, and that's no fun to be around.
CHRIS HAYES: What did he think of your pursuit of being a novelist?
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Oh. When I told him I wanted to be a writer, he said, "What will I tell my friends?" That was his response. And, I mean, fortunately, he lived long enough to see that it was not-
CHRIS HAYES: It worked out okay.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: ... not a completely dumb idea. What happened after "Midnight's Children" came out was that his friends started calling him to congratulate him, and then of course he took the credit. But at least at that point he relented in his feeling that I was just wasting my life.
CHRIS HAYES: "Midnight's Children," which was your first big hit, what was the reception of that on the subcontinent?
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Huge. I mean, that's one of the most important things for me ever. Won all these prizes and things, but for me almost the biggest thing was that the people it was written about received it with great passion actually. Even now, I mean, even now in India, a lesser degree in Pakistan but in India certainly it's a book that's very well liked. You could say even loved. For me that was I would've felt awful if that was not true because one of the reasons for writing it is that I felt a lot of the literature that existed in English anyway at that time was about Western experiences of India. It was about Julie Christie arriving in India and finding Maharishi Shashi Kapoor waiting for her.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: And the Maharishi. Endless supply of Maharishi for young white women, and then also another thing that is present in at least two of the most celebrated English books about India, "The Jewel in the Crown," and "Passage to India," is the theme of rape, the theme of a white woman in India being raped by a brown person. And I always thought that surely this metaphor is the wrong way around. If we were to use rape as a metaphor, the people being raped are not the white people. So I tried to write a book that felt like that it was about the other 99.9 percent of India, which wasn't the colonialists. And so it was very gratifying that that very large group of people took the book to themselves and felt that it was a truthful book about their world. And I had some of the nicest things anybody ever said to me was Indian readers telling me that I had described their world, described their lives, told their story.
CHRIS HAYES: The other intoxication in the book is just the constant attentional pull of television, more television than sort of the internet, but this kind of moving through a world in which fantasy and make believe are always sort of tugging at the edges of reality.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yeah. Well, I thought to myself that when Cervantes wrote "Don Quixote," he was agitated about the kind of literature that was very popular in Spain at the time, which was even then a sort of nostalgic literature about knights in shining armor and damsels in distress and things like that, which he despised. I mean, Cervantes had been a soldier. He'd been at war. He'd been a slave. He'd been captured by his enemies and made to work in a slave ship. He had lost the service of one of his arms by being wounded in battle. I mean, he knew a lot about soldiering, and he thought these knights in shining armor were just comically, crazily damaging to people's perception of what war is actually like. He was very anti-war guy. So he set out to demolish that kind of idea of literature by creating the most foolish knight in shining armor there's ever been.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: And I thought if he was here now, if I was somehow inhabiting his body, what would his target be? And I thought, well, the junk of our time is not... I use television in the book as a kind of figure of everything, which includes the internet. But this world we live in in which truth and fiction are so messed up. Sometimes deliberately, sometimes accidentally people conflict the two. So if you're looking at reality television, for example, which Quichotte does an enormous amount.
CHRIS HAYES: He can cite chapter and verse.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: He can.
CHRIS HAYES: Each season of "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette." How everyone ended up, who stayed together, who broke up.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Exactly. And even historical shows like "The Dating Game." So he has a kind of archival interest as well. But it confuses him about reality because of course these shows, which tell you that they're truthful, are in fact highly manipulated and massaged versions of reality. And I just think the book has fun with it because the book is in a way deliberately framed as a comedy. But underneath that, there's the idea that if we live in a world in which we're constantly confused about right and wrong, about truth and fiction, about lies and things that are really importantly not lies, it messes with our heads. And it makes possible certain kinds of exploitation. I mean, which is the world we live in.
CHRIS HAYES: I couldn't help but, as I was reading this, thinking that do you consume a lot of pop culture?
SALMAN RUSHDIE: I don't.
CHRIS HAYES: Is it research purposes?
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Well, the kind of pop culture that Quichotte consumes, no. That's not my-
CHRIS HAYES: Yeah. You do not watch every "Bachelor" and "Bachelorette."
SALMAN RUSHDIE: That's not my poison.
CHRIS HAYES: What is your poison, Salman?
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Oh well, apart from baseball games, which I'm addicted to.
CHRIS HAYES: I am too.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: I would say probably "Law and Order SVU," which I consume gigantic amounts of because there are gigantic amounts of it out there. You can sit down for the evening at the end of a day's work...
CHRIS HAYES: Oh yes, it's like Fentanyl.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: There'd be six hours of it.
CHRIS HAYES: Yes.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: It's very difficult to stop watching. So that's my drug of choice. But I did have to in order to write this book, in order to create the character of somebody who's deranged by reality television, I thought I can't do it without watching it. So I did. I did my due diligence. I watched all these things, "Bachelors," "Bachelorettes," "Kardashians," "Housewives" of various cities. I mean, there's almost all reality television out there now. And I must say I felt as I watched all this stuff, I felt my brain beginning to decay. So I thought actually I'm not wrong. I'm not wrong in creating a character who if he's watched this stuff for the last 30 or 40 years, it would seriously derange him because it almost deranged me.
CHRIS HAYES: How much do you sort of feel immersed in or active in sort of political debates, cultural debates of the moment?
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Well, I mean, less than I used to be. There was a time when I used to do a lot of it, and I used to have a monthly oped thing for The New York Times syndicates. I used to write a lot about it. There was a point in which I thought this is getting in my way. This is making people think of me as a cultural commentator and not as a writer of literature. And I'm colluding in the process by which people have a misapprehension about me. And so I thought I've got to stop. I backed away from that quite consciously. I mean, the books have the deal with the world as it is. In the context of the books, I'm happy to talk about that. But I'm a novelist. And I'm a novelist on purpose. One of my great friends was Christopher Hitchens. And Christopher never attempted fiction.
CHRIS HAYES: I just thought of that because his name has been surfacing recently for a variety of reasons, and I've always thought to myself I think about... I've written two books. They're both nonfiction. I've never written a novel. I always sort of stand in awe of people that write novels, and it's a little like when you know a person whose ran a marathon. They're like, "Yeah, it's not that hard. I mean, you train and then you do it." It seems to me a magical feat. What human could possibly run 26 miles? Which is how I feel about novels.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Well, I do think a novel is in the world of books, the novel is the marathon. I mean, it's the long distance race. No, but Christopher who was so knowledgeable about literature. He had read everything. He knew everything.
CHRIS HAYES: He made sure he knew it too.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yeah. You could challenge him. You could say to Christopher, you could say, "Do Byron," and he'd do 20 minutes. He had the most retentive memory and wide ranging knowledge of literature of anybody I had knew really. But he knew that that wasn't his gift. He never went there. He stuck with nonfiction. I increasingly think that I want to do the day job. This is the thing that I think I can do, and I'd just as soon stick with it.
CHRIS HAYES: You just mentioned Christopher Hitchens, and I remember him writing a lot about you and your friendship and particularly in the wake of "Satanic Verses," the fatwa, you going into hiding. And then the sort of post 9/11 conversation about Islamo-fascism and Hitchens terms about the kind of menace of a certain kind of liberalism, which he located in I think unfairly specifically in a certain kind of religious tradition. I wonder what your perspective, and now I'm asking you to be a little bit of a cultural critic. But if you'll indulge me. Your perspective on the sort of there's a very fraught conversation on speech right now.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yes.
CHRIS HAYES: And I thought you might have an interesting and unique perspective on that.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: I am an old-fashioned extremist perspective on it, which is I think that it's very important that speech be as free as possible. And actually something I've changed my mind about because Britain and America have different laws about this. In Britain, there's a thing called the Race Relations Act. So if you make an openly racist remark, you could be prosecuted and jailed. And I remember when I was living there for a very long time, I thought that's completely fine. That sounds completely okay by me that there should be that kind of law. And I came to this country where the First Amendment defines free speech much more broadly. In fact, allows the expression of many kinds of speech which are very reprehensible and even bordering on dangerous.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: For a while I was very conflicted about that. And then I gradually have come to feel that that is all laws are imperfect and all societies are imperfect. So I'm not saying it's a perfect law, but I think it's closer to what I would like the world to be like because I think that terrible ideas, reprehensible ideas do not disappear if you ban them. And sometimes they acquire greater power by being driven underground. They acquire the power of taboo, and I'm a great believer in sooner having it out than in. Sooner knowing where they are, the people who think that than not knowing. Now you can argue the opposite. You can argue... We were talking about it earlier that when we have a situation in this country where certain kinds of hateful thought have been legitimized, that allows them to be expressed publicly in a way that is, I mean, very problematic. I can see that-
CHRIS HAYES: Skips the leash.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yeah. So the First Amendment, I think this is kind of a destruction test for the First Amendment where we are right now. And I worry about it because that was one of the things that most attracted me to this country, that definition of liberty.
CHRIS HAYES: Yeah. I mean, I'm with you. I'm an American exceptionalist on the First Amendment and on America's approach to the legal regimes around speech, as compared to the UK or a continent where there's certain legal prohibitions.
CHRIS HAYES: But then there's sort of interesting... To me, there's this much more complex conversation about the social sanction that comes with the speech and what you can and cannot get away with and what jokes you can and can't make. And the various vectors of pressure.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yes. There is a lot of that right now, but I suspect there's less of it than one thinks. I mean, I have been teaching on and off in the American academy for 20 years now in different universities. I mean, for a long time at Emory University in Atlanta and the last five years at NYU. And I have literally never, not on even one occasion, has a student come up to me to express a desire for a trigger warning or to say that some kind of text that I've asked them to read was improper or hurtful or et cetera. It's not happened a single time.
CHRIS HAYES: That's very much an opposition to a certain kind of narrative about the coddled snowflakes that inhabit the Kansas's of America.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Well, I think there is a bit of it around, and you talked to people running universities and they would all say to you that it's something they have to be very conscious of. But I'm just not sure how much of it there is and how big a problem it is. And also I think, here's a broad generalization but let me say it.
CHRIS HAYES: Always a good way to start a sentence.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: It's an undergraduate problem, not a graduate problem. That as kids grow up through the academy and arrive at the more adult level of graduate school studies, it's not an issue for them at all. These issues of censorship and defending people against certain kinds of thought, de-platforming speakers that you don't approve of, et cetera. I think when you find that, you find that amongst really quite young students in universities and not amongst the more grown up ones.
CHRIS HAYES: Does your conception of speech or the sort of culture of speech... How has that changed say in the last 10 or 15 years being immersed in this sort of American culture?
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Just that you have to be aware of this discussion. You can't pretend that it isn't there. I mean, for example, in the last novel, not in this one, in "The Golden House," there's a character who is deeply confused, perplexed about gender, and is trying to decide whether to transition or not and who are they in fact. And I thought, okay, I'm aware of the fact that this is a minefield and that if I put a foot in the wrong place, it's going to blow my foot off. But that's not a reason for not doing it.
CHRIS HAYES: Right. I mean, I saw a quote the other day from the community of Mark Mariner that just said, "Look..." He was talking about this sort of idea of "cancel culture". He said, "Look, the thing you can't do is just mean spiritedly punch down at people for the shear taboo thrill of it," which was a thing that was a common part of comedic culture and other parts of culture. You can still take risks and do things, you just have to know that you're doing them, proceed with like care, precision, empathy, all of those things.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yeah, and you have to find things out. I mean, I thought if I'm going to write about transgender society, communities, and politics, I can't do that sitting in my little heterosexual life.
CHRIS HAYES: A great title for your memoir.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: My little-
CHRIS HAYES: "My Little Heterosexual Life," by Salman Rushdie.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: No, I thought I have to get out of that and go into rooms in which I don't normally go into and talk to people and learn, listen. And on the basis of that knowledge, write. And then, okay, if people don't like it, that's my fault. But make your best effort to get it right, and I've always felt, and I say to students that fiction writing has a relationship to journalism. You can't just rely on the little world that you grow up with. You have to go and find things out.
CHRIS HAYES: Yeah, I think about that because you could probably do that for a book or maybe two. I mean, it seems to me that to have a career as a novelist-
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yeah, you need to go-
CHRIS HAYES: Have a few shelves I think you once were quoted as saying. A few shelves in a bookstore.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yeah.
CHRIS HAYES: That's just a necessary part of the craft is a kind of curiosity and acquisition of knowledge about the world.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yes, otherwise you run out of stuff.
CHRIS HAYES: Right. Yeah, what are you going to write about?
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Exactly. I mean, I think a lot of people become writers because there's something eating at them.
CHRIS HAYES: Inside that they want to get out.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yes. And then they get that out, and then what?
CHRIS HAYES: Right. That's right. This sort of idea that everybody has one novel in them. The idea that there's some story that you have to tell.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Some writers. William Faulkner could mine the same tiny little patch of the world for a whole lifetime. In a way like Garcia Marquez in his tiny patch of nowhere in Colombia. Most writers I think if they're going to have a long career, have to begin the business of going beyond their own natural experience in order to learn about other people's experiences. And one of the things I really admire about the writers that I do admire is how broad their knowledge of their society is. So if you're reading Charles Dickens or in a very different way, Henry James, it seems that they can write about almost any part of the society. Dickens can write about a pickpocket as well as he can write about an archbishop, and I think that's a very good guidance for a writer to learn as much about the world you're in as you possibly can because it gives you more to write about. It gives you things to think about and write about.
CHRIS HAYES: Is there something that you can imagine that you would've ended up doing that wouldn't be this?
SALMAN RUSHDIE: You mean not writing?
CHRIS HAYES: Yeah.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yeah. I mean, the other thing I wanted to do was be an actor. When I was at university, I'd spent a lot more of my time involved in student theater.
CHRIS HAYES: That's what I did too.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yeah. And then I had the brains to realize that that might not be the right boat. I mean, this was always also the thing I wanted to do, but I did for a long time think that I might act. In a way, still kind of an unscratched itch. Every so often somebody offers me a little cameo in something, and I always grab it because it's just a way of doing that thing that I never did. It's the road not taken. So sometimes, I mean, I've had these little things, like in "Bridget Jones's Diary."
CHRIS HAYES: That's right, yeah.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
CHRIS HAYES: The "Curb" episode by the way, which I posted today, is just-
SALMAN RUSHDIE: It's very funny.
CHRIS HAYES: It's just unbelievably funny. It's so funny.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: I felt really pleased with the way it came out because when I got there... I mean, I was only there for two days on the show, but I thought these people are geniuses at improv. And I don't want to be the only person on "Curb" who's not good. And so the fact that they left my scenes in and didn't cut them out, I thought was very flattered by it.
CHRIS HAYES: Mission accomplished.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Mission accomplished.
CHRIS HAYES: Well, you're very good at it. It's a very, very funny episode. I also think that Lin Manuel Miranda's self-satirization in that is unbelievably funny as well.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: I said it never occurred to me that I would end up being played on television by Lin Manual Miranda. That was a little extra because he didn't tell me that was going to happen. Larry David. He didn't tell me that that's who was going to play me. So I just had to find it out like everybody else.
CHRIS HAYES: Are there things that you have not done, projects that you want to do?
SALMAN RUSHDIE: I hope so. I mean, this particular one, which I'm not exactly sure what's next, but-
CHRIS HAYES: Is there a postpartum period after you publish a novel?
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Well, sometimes there is and sometimes there isn't. The last few books have come very fast one after the other. I mean, I was already working on this book while I was writing The Golden House. So sometimes no, there's no gap at all. Right now there is a bit of gap. I think this book took a lot out of me. I think I put a lot into it, and I think-
CHRIS HAYES: There's a lot in it.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: And I think I just need to let the tank refill. I mean, I have sort of a feeling that I've always been a big movie person, love movies all my life. Came from Bombay, a big movie city. I mean, I've written one screenplay, which was for the adaptation for "Midnight's Children." But I always have felt maybe I should have another go at doing something else in the way of film. I mean, television drama is now at a really exciting moment. I did have one attempt to try and develop something for TV. I mean, one of those things where they flatter you for a year.
CHRIS HAYES: Yes. Oh, we love it. We love it.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: But there's nothing like it. The best thing ever.
CHRIS HAYES: We never-
SALMAN RUSHDIE: In a million years, never in the history of, et cetera. And then after a year, you get a text message which says, "We've decided not to go in this direction.
CHRIS HAYES: I'm working on a fictional TV project with a friend, a co-writer of mine. And I haven't had these development meetings, but every time that I do have a meeting with folks in show business, which is not that often when I do. It's always like so positive, and then you walk out, you're like, "Did we decide anything?"
SALMAN RUSHDIE: No.
CHRIS HAYES: "Did anything happen in that meeting?"
SALMAN RUSHDIE: No, no. I have to say the level of bullshit-
CHRIS HAYES: It's truly amazing.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: ... is so high that it's impressive.
CHRIS HAYES: Yeah. It's just the tone at which everything is conducted as the basic dialect of the tribe is complete puffery and bullshit.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yes, every sentence ends with an exclamation mark.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Anyways, so there's a part of me that would like to have a go at kind of TV drama thing. But I have this worry about having to work in this world and how would that work out.
CHRIS HAYES: Well, I mean, obviously I'm not a novelist and I'm not... The things that I make are not literature. But the thing that I make every day, which is the television show, is necessarily, it's a group enterprise. It's a collaboration, which can be both enjoyable and frustrating. But I feel like, and I don't know what your relationship with your editor is like, but it's a fairly solitary undertaking in which you're kind of calling the shots fairly exclusively.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: But in a way I think that's in the end why I did it rather than working in the movies is that when you've finished it, it's done. Whereas when you write a screenplay, you're several steps away from it being done. So I like it that I simply make a work of art and then there it is made. I mean, of course there's work with editors and so on. But essentially the book is the book, and it doesn't require a set or a cast or a crew.
CHRIS HAYES: A lot of people outside your control.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yeah. And all the people who may not in fact see the world the way you do. So who knows how it'll come out. But I do have because of my lifetime love of the movies, and I think I maybe the last movie generation.
CHRIS HAYES: Yes, I think that's right.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: For me it's movies more than... Even though I admire so much of what's happening in television drama, I grew up with Fellini and Godard, Truffaut, and Kurosawa and Luis Buñuel and for me that's the art of the cinema. I'm interested in that.
CHRIS HAYES: There's a great "Amarcord" reference in-
SALMAN RUSHDIE: There is a "Amarcord" reference in there, yeah.
CHRIS HAYES: Which is an amazing Fellini movie about his youth growing up in a sort of seaside Italian town.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Has the unforgettable scene of the peacocks spreading its wings in the middle of a snowy, snowy town. Anyway, yeah, I think it's all about collaboration as you say, and when we were making the film of "Midnight's Children," I was working with the Indian-Canadian director Deepa Mehta, who was a good friend, and we actually had a very happy relationship. It was made as a little indie movie, and the problem of doing things as little indie movies is then you have a problem with distribution. And if you want the distribution, you lose the independence, and if you want the independence, you lose the distribution.
CHRIS HAYES: There's no way out of the conundrum.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: No way out of it. So I don't know. In an ideal world, I would like to write more movies, but I don't know if I will.
CHRIS HAYES: If you're listening to this and you're in Hollywood, just take note. All right. Last question for you, how often do you go back to Bombay, and what is your experience of the city like?
SALMAN RUSHDIE: I mean, it used to be that I would go back every year. I did. In fact, Indian folks make jokes about the diaspora that everybody comes back like a homing pigeon around Christmas and the New Year, around the holidays. It's actually quite difficult to get a seat on a plane if you're going to India in December/January because the entire diaspora of India is going home. And I used to do that, and lately it's been less so actually. It's partly because I don't like what's happening there, and I don't think I can just go there and stay in a hotel that used to be a Maharaja palace and visit the Taj Mahal. I mean, I can't. Done that. I feel that it would be quite upsetting to be there. I mean, I have friends, good friends in New York who are Indian American, and some of them just meet there and come back. And they're full of... Well, disappointment is a mild word. They're in their alarm at what's happening there. So I'm not sure... I'm not in a rush to go back right now.
CHRIS HAYES: Salman Rushdie is the author of 19 books, 14 novels. His latest novel is "Quichotte." It is out, available now. It's fantastic read. Obviously also the author of "Midnight's Children," "Satanic Verses," among others. He's won just about every literary prize that you can imagine. He's a knight too. I think you're our first knight on the program. That's a big first for you to be the first knight on the WITH podcast I'm sure.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: It's a privilege.
CHRIS HAYES: Thank you, Salman.
All right, once again my great thanks to Salman Rushdie, who's welcome to come and hang out here in the podcast studio anytime he's got a book out.
So the Live WITHpod Tour is coming to Los Angeles October 21st at 7:30 at the Ace Hotel Theater, which I've heard is an amazing venue. It's a big venue. It's a big venue, which is why we're trying to get as many of you to come as possible. I like a full crowd. Those tickets are on sale. They're still some left. I mean, they are going quite rapidly, but there are still some left. You can go to ticketmaster.com, search Chris Hayes. But some of you have expressed inability to purchase those tickets, which I totally get. So we're going to do a giveaway, 10 lucky WITHpod listeners. To get those tickets, to qualify we're just going to do a drawing.
The email WITHpod@gmail.com, subject line "Los Angeles Tickets." You have until Friday, October 18th at 9:00 p.m. Eastern to email. At 9:05, we will do the drawing. Winners will be notified in a reply to that email that you sent to the inbox, and you'll have 24 hours to claim your tickets. If you don't claim them, we will draw another winner. So even if you don't see an email from us right away, you might still be in the running.
So again WITHpod@gmail.com. Email by Friday, October 18th at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Put "Los Angeles Tickets" in the subject line, and we will give away 10 tickets. 10 pairs of tickets. Sorry. 10 pairs of tickets. Yeah, who wants to go solo. You want to bring someone. This is a dope date. Just be like, "Oh, check it out. Monday night date." Classic Monday night date. It's like, "Oh, what should we do?" "Well, just so happen to have some WITHpod tickets, go see Adam McKay and Omar El Akkad." So yes, we will be giving away pairs of tickets. So you do not have to come alone. Also, Chicago's coming up right soon. It's going to be in that second week of November we think. We're going to announce that soon, and information about how you can buy those tickets. Chicago WITHpod-heads, we're psyched to see you. It's going to be a great event that we got planned.
As always, you can send us feedback. To the WITHpod email or tweet us #WITHpod.
"Why Is This Happening?" is presented by MSNBC and MSNBC News, produced by the "All In" team and features music by Eddie Cooper. You can see more of our work, including links to things we mentioned here by going to NBCNews.com/whyisthishappening.