EMORY GETS RUSHDIE, BUT WHAT ABOUT LAKSHMI?
For most universities, it would be considered a literary coup: getting Salman Rushdie to donate his archive and serve as distinguished writer-in-residence for five years. But at Emory University, the landmark deal with the famous author has been plagued with controversy and disappointment. "It's a marriage that's doomed to fail," said a senior officer in the administration. "Rushdie is no stranger to them."
A source close to the negotiation has revealed that Rushdie played "hardball" with the university and agreed to the deal only after certain conditions were removed. "He was really difficult," the source said. "He said something like, ‘If you don't want me or my archive, I'll go to Gwinnett College. They've offered to name a building after me."
According to the source, Rushdie objected to two conditions. The first required Rushdie, 59, to bring his fourth wife, the model and actress Padma Lakshmi, to Emory and introduce her to members of the administration. "We're all big fans of her," the source said. "We were hoping she would hang around campus. Imagine what that would have done for enrollment."
Lakshmi's presence on campus would have also kept Rushdie's eyes from roaming, the source said. "Padma is 27 years his junior," the source said. "But being around college students, he might suddenly think that she isn't young enough. The last thing we need is the distinguished writer-in-residence hanging out at the girls' dorm."
The second condition required Rushdie to expand his archive by including all the love letters and poems he has ever written. "We didn't expect to get the originals," the source said. "But we know he keeps copies of everything he writes, in case he's able to publish them later. It would be interesting to scholars to see how a great writer professes his love."
Rushdie's archive, which includes his published and unpublished manuscripts, will be stored in a special cabinet in the library, the senior officer said. But considering the number of women who have received romantic letters from the Booker Prize-winning author, the university had been planning to construct a separate building. "It's a major disappointment," the officer said. "We could have charged admission. So many college males are desperate to know how to write love letters. Or at least love emails."
University officials tried to persuade Rushdie to include, at a minimum, the letters he had written to Lakshmi, but he wouldn't budge. "We were particularly interested in the Lakshmi letters," the officer said. "For an old bald guy to succeed in wooing a young model, those letters must have been fabulous. We were actually hoping to learn from them."
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