How the world turns. All the things, wonderful and ordinary, that we take for granted

Lots of journalists have Salman Rushdie stories. He likes to talk and he is generous with his time. When I interviewed him a few years ago, we had lunch together… What I remember most, though, isn’t what happened there, but the fact that when we were finished, Rushdie insisted he would rather walk with me to Pimlico underground than pile into a taxi.

I think I was surprised. One of my very first jobs as a young journalist involved attending an event where Rushdie, then still in hiding, was rumoured to be going to appear (memory tells me that he did, emerging from behind a curtain like a stage magician). But I was also amused. He didn’t – it was obvious – quite know the best way to the station and in his outsize puffer jacket he rather meekly followed me, looking about happily as he strolled. I’ve thought of those few stuccoed streets, and of him padding along them in the sunshine, seemingly without a care, every day since he was attacked. How the world turns. All the things, wonderful and ordinary, that we take for granted…

Reading is my oldest habit, which is just as well given that I’m one of the judges of this year’s Baillie Gifford prize for nonfiction. If ingesting so many books so quickly is exhilarating, it’s also, at moments, arduous; hopefully, my years of training are about to pay off.

I read as I water the garden and wait for the kettle to boil. I read on the bus and the tube and at every pedestrian crossing.

What thoughts occur as I pick up, and put down, each title? All I can tell you is that the difference between a good book and a great one is both inexplicably small and ineffably vast – and that a cartoon I saw the other day in which a man headed to his book group in full armour and carrying a sword made me shudder more than it made me smile.

Rachel Cooke, from “Walking with Salman Rushdie to a tube station now seems like a distant age” (The Guardian, August 20, 2022)


  • Inspired by Salman Rushdie, The Moor’s Last Sigh: “A sigh isn’t just a sigh. We inhale the world and breathe out meaning. While we can. While we can.”
  • Portrait: Salman Rushdie, Murdo MacLeod, The Guardian


  1. such a sad and scary state of affairs

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Another frightening, awful moment in these days that defy belief

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I, too, was sickened by the senselessness of the attack. I never imagined I would live in a world where authors were attacked onstage and donations of dictionaries were turned away from schools as ‘suspect’ (happened just this week in Florida). WMS…these days defy belief.


  4. For once, it wasn’t a gun, or the day would’ve been even worse.. and with a lot of help from his admirers, Mr. Rushdie has defied his sentencer and executioner by surviving the murderous ardor. I think God has sent a message through his survival. I hope and pray he comes all the way back from this.


  5. That attacker comes from a part of the world where you don’t engage in a civilized dialogue with anyone you disagree with. You instead try to take him/her “down”. Many exchanges/discussions on Lebanese TV and in Parliament end up in fisticuffs and physical altercations. There’s no hope for civility among those folks. Tribalism supersedes logic and the State


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