where the writers are
Ping Pong with Rushdie

I don’t attend many author interviews or readings. I don’t have anything against such events, but I just can’t seem to find the time. Yesterday, however, I found the time to see and hear Salman Rushdie at Herbst Theater in San Francisco.  

I won’t go into detail about what he said. Suffice it to say that I found it to be an inspirational evening on many levels. But I don’t really want to write about that. Instead, I want to write about a revelation. Actually, it’s been a recurring revelation (does that make it a re-revelation?). Now that I think about it, is it even possible to have the same revelation more than once? Never mind. It doesn’t matter. The point I’m trying to make is … seeing Salman Rushdie on stage and hearing him speak with such eloquence, wit, and intelligence made me think, of all things, about the Red Room. He is a fellow inhabitant after all. 

To tell you the truth, since coming to the Red Room I’ve had many thoughts about this place—and many questions. Who lives here really? And who just comes to visit? Who applies for residency? And who, if anyone, is invited in like an honored guest? Who cooks and does the laundry? Who takes out the trash and pays the bills? Who comes just to stir up shit? And who stops by just to blog? Do people see the Red Room as a home, or simply as a place to visit now and then like an online time share?  

These questions—and hundreds of others—churn in my head until my pea brain aches. Maybe it all boils down to an I-am-the-Red Room-and-the-Red-Room-is-me kind of thing. Or maybe it falls more along the lines of the Red Room is what you make of it, grasshopper. In any event, after hearing Salman Rushdie speak about a range of subjects (from his books to terrorism to politics to playing ping pong with Scarlett Johansson and so much more), I was struck by another Red Room rumination.  

Salman Rushdie—what kind of Red Room resident is he? I doubt I’ll ever discover the answer, but if he ever wants to play ping pong I’ll be waiting.    

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I was privileged...

to have once played ping pong (and gotten my clock thouroughly cleaned) by Frank Chen, noted UCLA physisicst, who was a colleage of Irving Langmuir, who was the guy who coined the term "plasma" as used in the non-blood sense.

It seems many great physicists were/are great ping pong players, as well as jugglers.   Anyway....Frank Chen pretty much wrote the book defining what one would have to do to make nuclear fusion happen.  Next year, the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore is going to attempt to make nuclear fusion happen, pretty much based on Frank's concepts.  We shall see!


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Nuclear Powered Ping Pong

I'm sure if I played ping pong against Frank Chen, Salman Rushdie, you, or anyone else I'd wind up with a thoroughly cleaned clock as well.  

Thanks for your note, Eric.

Take care,


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Let The Games Begin


I'd like to play ping pong with Scarlett Johansson.


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A virtual ping-pong table for the Red Room?

Hi Gregory,

Thank you for bringing this up. I will tell you that Salman is the sort of Red Room Author who signs books to the entire Red Room staff, appreciates our efforts to partner with PEN, and who emailed me yesterday to say he was willing to make time to help me think of projects Red Room should do to encourage and support all writers.

As for who pays the bills and takes out the trash at Red Room, I’m pretty sure that’s me.

It sounds like you get exactly what Red Room is—as you say, it is what you make it and the Red Room is you. The reason it exists and the only reason it has value is the people.

Red Room is people! It’s people! (I hate to diagram my own humor, but since we do get thousands of visitors from around the world who might not get the reference, I must explain that I’m satirizing Charlton Heston in Soylent Green.)

As far as the larger issue of when a platform becomes a community and what the impact of the community is on itself and the world…this makes me think of my grandmother, an atheist Unitarian, who said when she heard people use the word “god” she would define it for herself as “the collective power of the best intentions of all people currently living.” Since the URL “myatheistgrandmothersdefinitionofgod.com” was taken, we called what we’re trying to do here redroom.com.

I have many more thoughts on the subject, as you can imagine, and I’m sorry I didn’t run into you at the Salman Rushdie event to discuss. We did run into Alan Black at the event, and if you’re not already planning to, you should come see Alan read from his new book tomorrow night. Abe and I are going with Michele and Po Bronson. As a local, I know you personally know them all too, but for someone reading this in Pakistan or Denmark, I hope to make the point that their favorite authors are just people, that writing and writers are for the most part accessible and supportive, and that we’re all connected.

Small world, but we’re all in the Red Room.

Ivory Madison
Founder and CEO, redroom.com

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Yes, It's the People!

Hi Ivory Madison. Thanks for the note, for invoking the immortal words of Chuck Heston ... and for paying the bills!!!

I am a big fan of the Red Room. It's been fun and fascinating to "connect" in this new way with different authors. Thanks again for paying the bills and doing the heavy lifting to make it all work.