The "Retrenchments and Narrowings" of Salman Rushdie

Some of his most egregiously uncharitable moments occur when writing about his four marriages….In a close-run contest between Marianne Wiggins (number two) and Padma Lakshmi (number four), it is the latter who emerges as the worst of the spousal bunch. Rushdie presents her as the Marion Davies to his William Randolph Hearst — an erotically beguiling but fundamentally vapid gold digger, whose selfish ambitions as a model, actress, and TV host have, in the end, “nothing to do with the fulfillment of his deepest needs.” The final revelation of her shallowness comes in the wake of September 11 when Rushdie, grieving and shaken and feeling the need to connect with loved ones, calls her in Los Angeles and finds her “doing a lingerie shoot.”

Rushdie’s shuddering hauteur at this moment may strike the reader as a bit rich, coming from a man who spends much of his memoir recalling encounters with pop stars, Playboy bunnies, and “hot” pop-star girlfriends in the breathless style of a young Austen character writing up her first visit to the pump rooms at Bath.

— Well, Zoe Heller sure reviewed Salman Rushdie’s memoir!