Posts Tagged ‘Salman Rushdie’

First Amendment Symposium, Part V: Why The First Amendment is STILL Overrated

Exhibit A for why there should be abridgements on some speech: To prevent people like Josh from quoting himself in his own epigraph.

As for the substance of Josh’s arguments, there seem to be three core premises that form the basis of his attack: 1) Government suppression of speech is uniquely coercive and widespread; 2) as a result of its unique ability to coerce, government suppression of speech is categorically bad; 3) certain words in the text of the First Amendment, like “speech” and “abridging,” have no consensus definition, granting certain leeway when it comes to dealing with many issues surrounding the First Amendment.

Let’s start with #1: The effects of government suppression of speech are uniquely coercive and widespread. Josh defends this premise by contrasting government suppression with much more benign forms of “suppression”: “Social norms and reputation matter a lot in affecting what people say and don’t say; the government is just one factor that affects speech, but the difference with the government is that its restrictions’ effects are more widespread.” The other factors that Josh names—social norms and reputations—are hardly elements of “suppression” at all; they basically amount to peer pressure. Of course government regulation is going to appear more coercive and significant than these opponents—it usually is more coercive and significant. Continue reading

Salman Rushdie and Creative Invention

Here are some things I like: rock music, stories about rock music, Greek mythology, modern re-tellings of ancient myths, alternate histories, esoterically allusive novels, trendy novelists. Given these preferences, Salman Rushdie’s The Ground Beneath Her Feet seems like a book written not so much for me as at me: Rushdie’s novel is a re-imagining of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice set against the backdrop of the musical culture of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. I seem ideally suited to like this book.

And yet there is something very much off about it.

For one, Rusdie begins at the end: The novel opens with, “On St. Valentine’s Day, 1989, the last day of her life, the legendary popular singer Vina Apsara woke sobbing from a dream of human sacrifice in which she had been the intended victim.”

Beginning with the death of one of the two central characters (the “Eurydice” figure), Rushdie then goes backwards to tell us where she came from, how she met her soul mate, Ormus Cama (“Orpheus”), as well as our narrator Umeed “Rai” Merchant (also in love with Vina), and how she became a “legendary popular singer.”

Now, beginning at the end is not inherently bad— many great novels have done it successfully (Infinite Jest, American Pastoral, The Invisible Man). In this instance, though, it is indicative of the way Rushdie jumps around chronologically, never letting the story settle down and simply unfold. Continue reading