Speaking tonight at Town Hall -- the fourth of nine writers responding to the question, "Does Writing Change Anything?" -- Salman Rushdie used words of war and destruction to speak of something we usually conceive of as generative, not degenerative.
Our reactions to books often come in the form of love or of hate, he said. Books we hate are tossed aside; they do not change us, or change our views. But books we love, he said, are like "radioactive fallout in an arable field." After we have read them, and fallen in love with them, things that once grew in that field might no longer appear, whereas stranger and more unusual fruit is likely to become part of the crop.
Rushdie also spoke of how authors cannot fully know what varied effects their writing will have, that part of the creation process continues each time a new reader picks up the work and lets him/herself be affected or not be affected by it. "Literature is a loose cannon," he said. "And that is a very good thing."