Dear Mr. Rushdie:
I remember a short story I read where a terrorist held a gun on a plastic surgeon while he gave him a new face, your face, because the terrorist already looked a bit like you and because you were in the news all the time. The fatwa the Ayatollah decreed against you -- is decreed the right word? -- put your name and your face everywhere. You were sentenced to death for writing a book the religious head of Muslim in Iran considered blasphemous. Until that story and those events, I had known nothing of you, and it was not for lack of reading. Suddenly, you were everywhere, and, being a curious person, I had to know more.
There was an article in which you mentioned The Wizard of Oz as a movie that changed your life and the way you viewed the world. Suddenly, a rainbow came to symbolize something more than a phenomenon of ice crystals, water and refracted sunlight, a weather phenomenon given priority in the Hebrew Torah and Christian Bible, a promise that no more floods would destroy mankind and change the face of the earth. L. Frank Baum gave the rainbow a new meaning and Hollywood gave Baum's vision color and life and sent it all over the world, touching you and becoming your symbol.
I read one of your books then, the one about the puppetmaker thrust into prominence by his creations and his wish to enlighten the world, give education and wisdom and knowledge a voice, a face, even if only a little face. The rainbow was there in the story. It featured in every book I have read so far, although I admit there are a couple waiting patiently in the queue for me to find time from work and book reviews and my own writing to sit down and find the rainbow once again.
Will it be there in The Moor's Last Sigh or among the side streets and creative mecca in Italy over the head of The Sorceress of Florence? I know it was in The Satanic Verses for which you were condemned to die. Is the rainbow, that symbol of hope and the promise of better times and other lands of imagination, the blasphemy the Ayatollah saw?
There was a moment in Bridget Jones's Diary when one of the characters asks you if your work is autobiograhical? How could she ask that having read anything you've written when it is as plain as the rainbow shining its colored bow over the pages? Whenever I read your words I look for the rainbow; I look for you.
Knowing that we share a love of the movie, The Wizard of Oz, and writing offers a sense of being kindred souls. Although our choices of subjects and styles are different, we proceed from the same elements that make up the rainbow, refracting experience and fantasies and dreams through the medium of words.
I see now there is another book for me to add to those waiting to be read and I am anxious that time will get away from me and I shall not be able to find you among the pages, but I do not worry for long. Your work will still be there and there will be more as long as there is a rainbow that divides the black and white Kansas of death sentences and blasphemies from the Technicolor Oz of possibility and creativity where wizardly words are dreamed and set down in print. I still have time and a vacation coming and your books are already packed. Thank you for sharing the rainbow.
J M Cornwell