I wanted to suggest a slight difference between the person writing the book and the person being written about. When there were so many versions of me that other people were making up, the whole question of my identity got a bit fractured. I'm using the [journals] I kept at the time as a basis for trying to analyze and interpret those events. So in that sense it's a literary work as well as a journal.
In your journals, did you meet a version of yourself you didn't remember or may not even have liked at some moments?
Yes, all the time. Sometimes I was very heartened by what I found, and sometimes I thought the person writing the journal was clearly in a very bad state of mind, very depressed or very angry or just kind of unbalanced in some way. I tried to show in "Joseph Anton" all those moments I thought I disappointed myself.
You write about recapturing your freedom when you visited the U.S. from Britain during the fatwa. What was the difference between here and there?
Maybe it ties into American ideas of individualism. People were more willing to let me make my own decisions; instead of telling me that I had to be inside a particular security bubble or else, I was allowed to make those choices and it felt somehow a little more dignified. It was like being given air to breathe after being in an airless chamber for a long time. I think it's very much the reason why I ended up making a life for myself in New York.
What are the differences between American and British Muslims?
I don't see the kind of ghettos that develop in England and Europe, where the community gets sequestered from the country as a whole. That's not a healthy situation. Here people are by and large much more integrated, and I think the Muslim population in this country is better educated, they're more middle class, whereas some migrants to England came from very rural areas, places where ideas were anything but modern.
How is the Internet affecting the so-called clash of cultures?
In some ways it's optimistic. For instance, it's very difficult to ban books because they can be found on the Internet. Information is harder to restrict. In restricted societies, the Internet's shown young people a better life, and it's made them want it. You could say the Arab Spring was fired by that kind of communication. If "The Satanic Verses" [fatwa] had happened after Google, it would have been more dangerous because of the speed of transmission. The attack would have been easier to organize. The Internet is a tool. It can be put to valuable uses or misused.
David Remnick in the New Yorker used the phrase ''flamboyant normalcy'' about your life now, signifying that you are both a writer and a famous writer, even to people who may never have read one of your books.
Well, you never criticize David Remnick! I just don't feel like somebody who spends most of his time at home writing books. I occasionally go out, and every time I go out, somebody takes my picture.
You resisted anyone telling your story until you told it yourself. So what about a film version now?
I'm not thinking very hard about that. My two sons have dramatically opposite views on this. My younger son is determined that it should not be a film because he thinks it will in some way debase the book. He is rather high-minded. My older son thinks it absolutely has to be a film. I told them to fight it out and let me know.
This interview was edited and excerpted from a taped transcript. An archive of Morrison's interviews can be found at latimes.com/pattasks.