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“I am arriving by degrees at my point: which is that the great issue facing writers both of journalism and of novels is that of determining, and then publishing, the truth,” writes Salman Rushdie in Step Across This Line, a new collection of his nonfiction writing from 1992 to 2002. “For the ultimate goal of both factual and fictional writing is the truth, however paradoxical that may sound.” For Rushdie, the goal of his novels and his editorials may be the same, but that is where the similarities end. In his works of fiction, Rushdie’s imagination baffles, overwhelms, and astounds his readers. He creates parallel universes with all of the emotional resonance of our own and none of the prosaic limitations of probability. Unfortunately, as displayed throughout this collection, Rushdie’s particular brand of genius seems ill-fitted for chronicling such pop-culture obsessions as reality television and Princess Diana. In Rushdie’s hands, the minutiae of everyday society remain grounded in killjoy fact, only rarely taking off in flights of wonder. Stooping down to take a look at lowbrow culture, Rushdie accomplishes little more than doling out clumsy condemnations of the obvious. “Such is the glamour of these banal but brilliantly spotlit events that anything resembling a real value…is rendered redundant,” writes Rushdie. “In this inverted ethical universe, worse is better.” All the more reason for Rushdie to return to the realm of his imagination and take us with him. Rushdie is here at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 9, at the National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW. Free. For reservations call (202) 662-7129. (Felix Gillette)