Rushdie is brilliant, insightful, and witty. His reading was thoroughly engaging, eliciting spontaneous applause and laughter from those of us in the audience. Some applauded more often and laughed more loudly than the rest: a response, I suspect, to hearing deeply-held affections and convictions lauded from the lectern (it happens in churches across the nation).
Speaking of which, I found myself least appreciative of Rushdie's dismissal of Genesis as "superstition." This was, of course, in the context of creation vs. evolution, from a 1999 essay on Kansas and Darwin. I'm not aware enough of Rushdie to know how much his (often well-informed) concern about religious fundamentalism of all stripes bleeds over into a contempt for God, in concept or in person, and if so, which is the cause and which is the effect.
While he spoke about the folly of creation, I noticed the holes.
The back of the bench in front of ours had four holes in it. As I thought about them and looked around, I realized why: it was a pew. They were all pews— Town Hall must have originally been a church. And now, years later, there was standing room only as a widely read and respected author casually derided Genesis and those who might advocate its account of creation— comments met with great applause and support. Things have changed in Town Hall.
But things haven't changed in the world. Rushdie was largely enjoyable and always thought-provoking; I think I'd like to read some of his work and would definitely see him read again given the chance. Yet if I'm going to choose an author to listen to with my life, I think I'll stick with the Author of Genesis. For all his humor, thoughtfulness, and friendly manner, Rushdie doesn't love me. The other Author, the original, does.