Prose

Reading Afghanistan

In 2001, when it became apparent that my country was going to invade Afghanistan, a country my knowledge of which was limited to the fact that I knew how to spell it, some people took to the streets. I took to the books. Here's a list:

This set of CD's can be every bit as frustrating to use as some of the critics say, but for me worth it for articles like Maynard Owen Williams' 1931 piece on the Citroen Trans-Asiatic Expedition. Read more about Reading Afghanistan

Tags: 

The Glory of Old Timey War

For a rollicking good time roll in the blood of the flower of French chivalry, there's nothing quite like Bernard Cornwell's . I found the "grail quest" story line here a little silly, entirely unnecessary, since there is only one reason to read this book and that is to place yourself in the front lines at Crecy, circa 1346. Read more about The Glory of Old Timey War

Tags: 

Living on the Wind

Somewhere in the beginning of this marvelous book, Scott Weidensaul tells us the story of the black-polled warbler, ("you could mail two of them for a single first-class stamp") and its migration across Canada and out over the Atlantic to its wintering grounds in Brazil. Ever see a kettle of hawks? A fall-out on the Texas coast? Neither have I, except here. Read more about Living on the Wind

Tags: 

Sometimes It's Not About Us

by Alaa Al Aswany is a peek at the lives of one building's inhabitants in modern Cairo, Egyptian politics, and a bit of insight into the making of one jihadist.

In the light of Sunday's 9/11 remembrances, I remember the question some of us felt impelled to ask. "Why do they hate us?" Alaa Al Aswany tells us that it's not always about us. At the level of a young man from a Cairo rooftop, we don't even come into the picture. Read more about Sometimes It's Not About Us

Tags: 

Stockholm Syndrome

This novel (John Cowper Powys' [amazon 1585673668 inline]) is, page by page, a veritable feast of words and images. Nevermind that sometimes I wanted to throw it against the wall. When I finished it I felt as if I had wandered long in a magical wood on acid, in which the play of light on lichen held as much meaning as any pesky action or dialog. It's a Stockholm Syndrome of a book. If you let it, it kidnaps you and even when someone offers to pay the ransom for your escape, you tell them "No, no. It's okay. I don't want to come home." Read more about Stockholm Syndrome

Tags: 

Salman Chanted Evening

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa!

[amazon 0375504338 inline] , Salman Rushdie.

My first venture into Rushdie, but it won't be my last. Marvelous writing evoking one of my favorite periods of European history and one of my least-studied but quite intriguing periods of Indian history, weaving a magical tale with familiar figures at an intersection of east and west. Read more about Salman Chanted Evening

Tags: 

Sometimes A Great Notion

[amazon 0140045295 inline] , Ken Kesey

The first pages of this book made me want to put it down and flee. POV changes in the middle of paragraphs - I swear one was in the middle of a sentence, but I could exaggerate. I was thinking Ken, Ken, what are you doing? I don't know who's talking and I don't like anybody and nobody's having a good time. At All. Read more about Sometimes A Great Notion

Tags: 

Places to go, Things to do

Well, here's a place to go: Frank Delaney

And here's a thing to do: Read Ulysses

And if you do them both at the same time, starting of course with Delaney's first and following it in the text and through the archive, you will, a little at a time, finally read and maybe even understand - at least you might really, really enjoy, Ulysses.

Frank estimates it will take him about 22 years to complete the project. I will be 90. It's worth a shot. Read more about Places to go, Things to do

Tags: