Bookstore Schedules Reading of 'Satanic Verses'

San Diego County Arts Writer

Parts of the controversial novel "The Satanic Verses" will be read, starting at noon, Sunday at the Blue Door Bookstore in Hillcrest.

The independent Blue Door Bookstore, 3823 5th Ave., is sponsoring the reading to protest how chain bookstores have handled the book, Blue Door manager Robert Plumb said Wednesday.

"There are a lot of issues here, First Amendment issues, censorship issues," Plumb said. "I really, really don't understand why chain bookstores are buckling to demands of someone like the Ayatollah Khomeini.

'That's Deplorable'

"More importantly, an international government has called for the death of a novelist, a writer who is a citizen of another government . . . and then to have the big men in the book industry, who often have the largest voice, buckle under that pressure, is horrible. That's deplorable."

Last week Khomeini, Iran's supreme leader, called for the assassination of Salman Rushdie, a British author, for blaspheming the religion of Islam in his novel. Since then, publishers across Europe have canceled plans to publish the 562-page novel.

Plumb, who will distribute petitions requesting the chain stores to restock the book, said he has a memorandum from Waldenbooks to its branches requesting employees to make no comment about the book.

Available on Request

An employee at Waldenbooks, University Towne Centre, confirmed receipt of the memorandum, which she said does instruct managers to pull "public displays" of "The Satanic Verses" for the safety of the company's 8,000 employees and its customers. The employee, who would not give her name, quoted the memo as stating: "We are still selling the book upon request and where available." She said the store had sold its three copies of the book. It has ordered more and expects to receive them "within two to three weeks."

The B. Dalton Bookseller at Black Mountain Village in Mira Mesa also sold out, according to an employee who said she was under instructions not to comment further.

In New York, the B. Dalton bookstore chain and its subsidiary, Barnes & Noble, said Wednesday afternoon that they will resume selling the book because of "the urging of an overwhelming majority of its store managers and employees."

Initial Copies Sold

Serena Howeth, at Crown Books, 634 Broadway, said the store sold its first five copies the day that Khomeini called for Rushdie's assassination.

"The Satanic Verses" is published by Viking-Penguin and has reached best seller status on several lists. However, the book did not find an initial following in San Diego, several booksellers said.

"We had five copies that sat here the whole month of December," said Charles Wilmoth, a Blue Door employee. "He's (Rushdie) obviously a world-class author. I don't think the book would have sold much at all had there not been this controversy."

Received 200 Orders

Since Khomeini's call for Rushdie's murder, the Blue Door has received 200 orders and "many more" requests, Plumb said. He does not take all requests seriously, especially by callers who have keyed on the word satanic. "Some of the callers say, 'Hey, like you know, have you got that book about the devil that everybody is really raging on?' I hang up on calls like that."

Plumb said he does harbor some fears of reprisals by Muslims, but feels there is less danger in this country.

"A majority of Muslims living in the United States are not followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini," he said. "The threat is very real in the Persian Gulf. I don't think the majority of Muslims in San Diego or the United States will be as zealous as elsewhere or fanatically righteous enough to bomb a bookstore. I think they might actually appreciate the free flow of ideas instead.

Sunday's reading will be unstructured, Plumb said. He plans to ask people to read various sections of the book, rather than all of it. "We may have to Xerox pages and give them out ahead," Plumb said.

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