Teaming up for a two-part reading and question-and-answer session, longtime British literary pals Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, and Salman Rushdie gave tribute to the late Christopher Hitchens and apparently told sex jokes at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan last night.
Brit-turned-Brooklynite Amis was there to read from Lionel Asbo, his 2012 dystopian novel, while McEwan read a passage from Sweet Tooth, his recent spy fiction. Utter coincidence: Both have just been released on paperback. Rushdie, who's been friends with both novelists for decades, introduced the two and moderated the question-and-answer period. According to an Associated Press report, the Midnight's Children author and serial dater of younger women took things in a raunchier direction:
They dressed for style and for leisure—jackets, no ties—and exchanged compliments, curse words and winks to the past. Rushdie mentioned an old game they liked to play, taking titles with the word "love" in them and substituting "hysterical sex," as in "Hysterical Sex Is a Many-Splendored Thing" or "Stop! In the Name of Hysterical Sex." Rushdie also made jokes about the Booker Prize (Rushdie and McEwan have won it; Amis has not) and about Amis' legacy as one of Britain's great angry young men, "ruining and disturbing" his country's fiction, as the old guard used to complain.
Meanwhile, McEwan, the only one of the writers not to have relocated to New York, fielded questions about his amorous exploits:
The audience questions, submitted on index cards, ranged from writerly matters such as the role of unreliable narrators in fiction (the distinguished gentlemen were all for unreliable narrators) to an incident back in the day when McEwan supposedly met a woman and immediately, crudely propositioned her.
His encounter was "not successful," McEwan assured the audience, and he "never tried that again."
Together, the three literary figures compromise a bad-boy triumvirate of English lit—and it seems they lived up to their reputation. But they mentioned a "missing fourth person": their friend Christopher Hitchens, who passed away from cancer in 2011. Describing Hitchens as a "fantastic speaker" and "amazing in the art of conversation," McEwan emphasized the author's uniqueness. He would have surely been good for several laughs last night.
Update, July 26: Video is now available of the full event, via the 92nd Street Y: