Winter 2010: Features

Portrait of Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie

Jon Rou

The Revisionist

An E-Q&A with Salman Rushdie

The Author’s Desktop

How famous writers’ computers—like Salman Rushdie’s Macs in Emory’s Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library—and born-digital content are creating a revolution

By Mary J. Loftus

Can you describe your first computer? Did it change the way you write?

It was some big old cream-coloured beast of an early Mac. The main difference was the ease of revision.

You’ve likened email to the frequent mail deliveries in Paris or other metropolitan areas at the turn of the twentieth century. Do you still write letters or have you gone over completely to the digital realm of written communication?

Very few letters on stationery. Almost all digital now.

Rumor has it that you have an iPhone now: has this changed your correspondence yet again? Do you text, Tweet, or blog? Do you read or reply to your seven thousand-plus fans’ comments on Facebook? Do your sons keep in touch through texting?

I text. I do not Tweet or blog or reply to fans’ comments on Facebook. One son texts, the other emails.

The story is that you spilled a Coke on your computer, which fried it, but Emory’s software engineers managed to recover the content. Was it a Coke? Were you glad the files were able to be recovered?

It was a Diet Coke. Haven’t really seen what has been salvaged yet.

How would you describe your experience at Emory? Are you looking forward to touring the exhibition? Will it be a strange experience for you?

Emory has been a lot of fun, and a great place to write as well. The exhibition promises to be beyond embarrassing.

How do you believe scholars will use your digital archives for research?

No idea. I dread to think.

It’s said that when you handed your computers over, email and all, you made the comment, “I have no idea what I’ve just given you.” What were your conditions about privacy, censoring content, and protecting information about others?

These conditions were and are exhaustive. Privacy was the major issue for me.