Tuesday, May 10, 2016

This week: science, the middle east, and a duel


Dear readers, I'm beginning to suspect books are a racket.  Today I began reading one and within fifty pages, I'd already written down four  more titles that I wanted to investigate.  No wonder people read fiction -- it's far less addictive.  Anyhoo, May is off to a promisingly interesting start, with more science and middle-eastern politics coming up.  Speaking of --



 A few weeks ago,  I read Reading Lolita in Tehran, and apparently didn't mention it.  It's a curious mixture of literary discussion and revolutionary memoir, as the author, Azar Nafisi, discusses great books of the western canon (and Lolita) with her classes in Iran as the country heaves with revolution.  Ms. Nafisi was a leftist revolutionary in her youth, at least during her time in America: imagine her surprise when she returned to Iran and got one, just not the one she expected. While opposition to the Shah's regime drew from both the secular-Marxist left and the reactionary-Islamic right, it was the latter which prevailed.  Feeling irrelevant by the new regime, and appalled by its puritanical culture,  Nafesi would seek sanctuary first in her classroom, and then in a private class taught from her home, teaching to a select group of girls.   Throughout their discussions they sought to apply the themes engaged by Nabokov,  James, Fitzgerald, and Austen: for instance, as Humbert from Lolita turns a young girl into an object of his own interests, to be molded by his own proclivities, so the government of Iran has turned them into objects to be molded by its desires.  While I haven't read most of the books discussed by Nafisi's class or her reading group,  I found it very interesting as a memoir of the revolution. I'm particularly interested in following up with The Republic of the Imagination,  as Nafisi -- having fled Iran  -- seeks her true city via the literary world, engaging with minds across the ages.

 I'll also be having a little fun with titles later. You may remember when I read Into Thin Air, followed shortly by Into Thick Air,  or my reading two books entitled Kobayashi Maru back to back.  Well,  another dueling duo arrived in the mail today, and the only thing preventing me from diving right in is...all the other books I'm intent on reading. We'll have to see what  I cram in where...


6 comments:

  1. I have a triple Arab read (inevitably involving Lawrence of Arabia) in one of the piles and a triple reporting from Afghanistan. I'll get around to them - one day! Although I do have other plans to 'move out of Europe' for a bit - to Russia for one thing and also to explore our sometimes less than 'special' relationship with America.... not having always been friends of course.

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  2. Is your Lawrence of Arabia book subtitled "The Making of the Modern Middle East"? My library has that, but I'm a a while away from reading it. My intention was to sample a little Arab history, a little Persian history, and a little Turkish history, but I'm finding Persia/Iran of particular interest at the moment.

    Are the Afghani books mostly about the Eternal War?

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    1. The Lawrence book is subtitled: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East and it's by Scott Anderson.

      Not sure what you mean by 'the Eternal War' but I think all 3 books cover the post-9/11 invasion and occupation. They're from the view points of 2 English journalists and one American. Also 2 of them are women reporters so I should get some nicely different perspectives.

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    2. I was mostly referring to the American sojourn in Afghanistan. I think we're both thinking of the same Lawrence book, though. If my interest in the middle east holds I may look at it, too.

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  3. I have heard so much about this book. I want to read it.

    I have been lately interested in the Iran. I also tend to like books about books. I also read them and often want to read all the titles that they mention.

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    1. There are an amazing amount of Iranian memoirs -- "The Ayatollah Begs to Differ", "Lipstick Jihad", etc. I'm about to finish a more serious work on American-Iranian foreign policy. I think Iran is especially worth studying because it is an outsider in the 'world of Islam': it had its own distinct culture before the Arab flowering, and it preserved it despite being conquered by the Arab armies.

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