Dunham, Rushdie among big names at New Yorker fest

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“Women don’t want to be talked to from the waist down,” said Kellyanne Conway, a Republican strategist and pollster, arguing that co-panelist Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, and other Democrats focused too much on those issues. “They want to be talked to from the waist up, where their eyes and ears and brains are.”

A young woman rose from the audience to say she was trying to listen from the waist up, but that it was hard, given what she was hearing about issues involving the other half of her body.

Another high-profile guest at the festival was author Salman Rushdie, discussing “Joseph Anton,” his new memoir about the fatwa declared on him in 1989 by Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Interviewed by New Yorker editor David Remnick, Rushdie recounted the difficult days just after the fatwa was declared, when he slowly realized that he would have to go into hiding for what turned out to be a decade.

He also talked about the cathartic experience of finally writing his story.

“I wanted to slam the door on those years, but I always knew I would write it one day,” Rushdie said. “I thought if anyone was going to write it, I wanted to write it first.”

The Rushdie session was not without humor. In a conversation about freedom of expression, the author of “The Satanic Verses” and “Midnight’s Children” allowed that one of his least favorite books is the racy trilogy “Fifty Shades of Grey,” a page or two of which he read on Amazon.

“I’ve never read anything so badly written that got published,” he quipped. “It made `Twilight’ look like `War and Peace.’”

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