Archive for April, 2003

greatest adventure books?

Tuesday, April 29th, 2003

Book Magazine is running one of those lists that intrigues and delights and annoys all at once. They picked the “50 greatest adventure books of all time.” They only list the top 10 on their page, though. You’ll have to buy the magazine to see the rest.

Share

“good in bed” author awaits…

Tuesday, April 29th, 2003

Jen Weiner still hasn’t had her baby. Know of any tricks?

Share

he feels their pain

Tuesday, April 29th, 2003

His Attorney-General has conducted a veritable witchhunt against their people and co-religionists, but George W. Bush still wants Arab-Americans votes: Bush courting Michigan Arab community. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he did get their votes, just as he did in 2000.

Share

panic time

Tuesday, April 29th, 2003

How to freak me out:
Stop working and drive me mad because I’ve spilled a tiny bit of water on your up-and-down arrow key area.

How to calm me down:
Email me or post sage advice on how I can handle the problem.

On a more serious note, yes, the laptop is back online, though not before it gave me an anxiety attack. It’s brand new, for crying out loud! Didn’t know half a teaspoon worth of water could do so much damage. Let’s hope it continues working now.

Share

LA Times Festival of Books

Saturday, April 26th, 2003

starts today! Don’t miss it.

Share

orange prize shortlist

Friday, April 25th, 2003

has been announced. No surprises: Donna Tartt, Zadie Smith, Carol Shields, Anne Donovan, Shena MacKay, and Valerie Martin.

Share

clash of gender attitudes

Friday, April 25th, 2003

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you may know that I don’t hold Samuel Huntington’s theory of the “clash of civilizations” in very high regard. A Google search will yield plenty of critiques of the theory, both in support and in rejection of its contentions.
But in this Foreign Policy article, Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris propose a new take on the theory. They correctly point out that there has been little empirical evidence to support Huntington’s thesis. Citing the cumulative results of the two most recent waves of the World Values Survey (WVS), conducted in 1995-96 and 2000-2002, they show that democracy has a quasi-universal appeal:

“With the exception of Pakistan, most of the Muslim countries surveyed think highly of democracy: In Albania, Egypt, Bangladesh, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Morocco, and Turkey, 92 to 99 percent of the public endorsed democratic institutions a higher proportion than in the United States (89 percent)…The WVS reveals that, even after taking into account differences in economic and political development, support for democratic institutions is just as strong among those living in Muslim societies as in Western (or other) societies.”

So where does the problem lie? Inglehart and Norris suggest that there is a profound gap in gender attitudes:

“On the matter of equal rights and opportunities for women measured by such questions as whether men make better political leaders than women or whether university education is more important for boys than for girls Western and Muslim countries score 82 percent and 55 percent, respectively. Muslim societies are also distinctively less permissive toward homosexuality, abortion, and divorce.”

I’m fascinated by the schizophrenia that these numbers show. Even though the Muslim world has elected women leaders (Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, Tansu Ciller in Turkey, and Hasina Wajed in Bangladesh) only 55% support gender equality in leadership. (Side note: For a history of Muslim women leaders, see Moroccan sociologist Fatima Mernissi’s excellent book: The Forgotten Queens of Islam). Nor are these attitudes restricted to Muslims. In India, which was governed by Indira Gandhi for 15 years, 50% of the population thinks only men should be leaders.

So where does this leave us? Essentially to what the United Nations has been saying about sustainable development for years. Giving women access to education has profound effects on fertility, which in turn leads to a lighter economic burden, greater access to the workplace, and greater visibility and political representation. In other words, free women and the rest will follow.

Thanks to Neils for the link to the Foreign Policy article.

Share

monkey hunting

Thursday, April 24th, 2003

“In 1857 a young Chinese man named Chen Pan decides to leave his country and immigrate to Cuba. He’d been promised that the drinking water there “was so rich with minerals that a man had twice his ordinary strength (and could stay erect for days) … that the Cuban women were eager and plentiful … that even the river fish jumped, unbidden, into frying pans.” He was also promised plenty of work. So he boards a ship, and after a three-month voyage that he barely survives, finally arrives at his new home, halfway around the world.”
The Atlantic‘s Jessica Murphy interviews Cristina Garcia, the author of Monkey Hunting which, like her previous novels, explores issues of Cuban identity.

Share

librarians and the patriot act

Thursday, April 24th, 2003

ABC News finally caught on to what the literary world has been talking about for weeks: that librarians are almost single-handedly challenging restrictions on the right to read stemming from the PATRIOT act.

Share

media stars

Thursday, April 24th, 2003

Out of the rubble of the Iraq War a major media star emerged: Mohamed Saeed El Sahaf, the Iraqi Information Minister, whose “fans” have created a website, even an action figure.
But that was so five minutes ago…

The newest star is Omar Al-Issawi:


omar.jpg

A Lebanese citizen, born in Kuwait, educated in Virginia and Iowa, he worked for the BBC before joining Al-Jazeera. The New Yorker‘s Hampton Sides profiles him in this week’s Talk of the Town.

Share

missing Iraqi cash

Thursday, April 24th, 2003

and the U.S. soldiers questioned about it. Oh and the missing art found in the Fox News employee’s luggage is also mentioned.
Sounds straight out of David O. Russell’s Three Kings.

Share

“I am only a man who writes”

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2003

But Castro’s regime has a problem with that. Since the Cuban government went on a dissident hunt in the last few weeks, several journalists and writers have been incarcerated, among them Raul Rivera. This is a letter he wrote a while back, which the New York Times is reprinting.
Link via Bookslut.

Share

new issue of Boston Review

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2003

The April/May issue of the Boston Review came in the mail yesterday. Check it out online. The cover article is “Islam and the Challenge of Democracy” by UCLA Professor Khaled Abou El Fadl, with responses from John Esposito, Nader Hashemi, Noah Feldman, William Quandt and many others. The issue also contains a short story titled “A Wrong Thing” by the amazing A.L. Kennedy.

Share

that’s not what Rummy had in mind

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2003

For Shi’a Muslims, the commemoration of the death of Hussein (grandson of the Prophet) is a major holiday. Salam Pax had given some background on his blog about it. Under Saddam, those (often bloody) celebrations were all but outlawed. Now that he’s no longer in power Shi’a are flocking to the holy city of Kerbala for pilgrimages. Except they also seem to be organizing quickly, and are increasingly rejecting U.S. presence in Iraq. And since they form the majority of Iraq’s population, it’s certainly worrisome for Rumsfeld et al.’s plans for the country. If there were any plans beyond the removal of Saddam, that is.

Share

he’s mad

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2003

Kottke had an idea for the book publishing industry that scares me too much to even repeat here. See for yourself.
Thanks to Moby for the link.

Share

the cleric must have read lysistrata

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2003

“Some looters were surrendering stolen goods after learning that a cleric issued an edict forbidding Iraqi wives from having sex with their looter husbands. ”
More good stuff from Harper‘s weekly review.

Share

quote of the day

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2003

The war in Iraq has been particularly bloody for journalists, whether they are embedded with U.S. troops or simply staying at their hotel in Baghdad. Two weeks ago, when U.S. troops fired on Reuters cameramen right in the Palestine Hotel, I was willing to believe that it was an unfortunate accident, and that the journalists were killed inadvertently. Until I came across this article, in which the tank commander claims that “he was unaware the building was packed with journalists.” How the hell can we, sitting here in our homes in the U.S., know that journalists were staying there, and not the tank commander across the bridge? And that’s the best he could come up with after two weeks of questions? (Earlier reasons for shooting on the journalists included that snipers had attacked from the hotel, a claim which was later dismissed when other reporters at the hotel reported that no snipers were present.)

Share

angry white men

Monday, April 21st, 2003

Faux News’ ratings success notwithstanding, Americans are turning to books to get an alternative point of view on current events: A slew of books “of a heretical flavor” are on bestseller lists.

Share

be thankful your name’s not Muhammad

Monday, April 21st, 2003

“The banking industry has been actively assisting the government in post-9/11 efforts to find and block money directed to terrorists, using the same tools they’ve employed for years in the war on drugs. (…) Companies and banks check names against the 80-page-long list of names maintained by OFAC, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. It includes approximately 5,000 “Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons” people and organizations with whom Americans are not supposed to do business, including terrorists, narcotics traffickers and money-launderers. Banks have used this list for about a decade (…) When new names are added, financial institutions check them against their own customer lists.”

So far so good. Here’s the problem:

“Just after September 11, the FBI drew up a list of names of people it wanted to question, giving the dossier out to private businesses, such as hotels and airlines, here and abroad, as a new experiment in information-sharing called Project Lookout. But the FBI soon lost control of the Project Lookout list, and bootleg copies with added names and even typos were passed around the private sector. As many as 50 different versions may now exist. “This thing took on a life of its own,” says FBI spokesperson Bill Carter, who says that from the very beginning, companies may have misinterpreted it as a list of people not to do business with. “It’s a defunct list that shouldn’t be used for that purpose.” ”

So, if your name is Muhammad or Khan, or whatever other surnames are likely to be on that list, you can say goodbye to your American Express credit card. That’s what happened to a few people in this story. Read it in full here.

Share

festival of books

Monday, April 21st, 2003

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books will be at UCLA this very weekend. You can get free tickets via Ticketmaster (and, believe it or not, they’re not charging “handling fees”.) Act quickly though, as tickets go fast and some panels are already sold out.

Share

right vs. right

Sunday, April 20th, 2003

The New York Times Maureen Dowd reflects on good Fridays that involve Franklin Graham-style proselytizing and bad Fridays that feature mullahs demanding the U.S. get out of Iraq or else.

Share

new lit mag

Sunday, April 20th, 2003

Check out Land-Grant College Review. Their debut issue features the very talented Aimee Bender and Jonathan Tel, among many others.

Share

abdellatif laabi at dawson’s

Sunday, April 20th, 2003

For those of you in the Los Angeles area, here’s a reading you won’t want to miss: Abdellatif Laabi will be at Dawson’s this afternoon at 4 pm. The event is part of a series curated by my friend Andrew. Here’s the event description:

Poet, novelist, playwright, and essayist Abdellatif Laabi is one of the most prolific and critically acclaimed of contemporary North African writers. He was born in 1942 in Fes (Morocco). In 1966 he founded the magazine Souffles which would play an important role in the renewal of Moroccan cultural life. He created the publishing house Atlantes and also the Association de Recherche Culturelle – the activities of which did not please the Moroccan government of the time. Abdellatif Laabi was arrested and spent eight years in jail from 1972 to 1980. He settled in France in 1985. He has published Le Soleil se Meurt in 1992, L’Etreinte du Monde in 1993 and Le Spleen de Casablanca in 1996. His novel, Rue du Retour, has been translated into English and published by Readers International. In 1999 he was awarded the Fonlon Nichols Prize by the African Literature Association and the Wallonie-Bruxelles poetry prize. The World’s Embrace: The Selected Poems of Abdellatif Laabi (City Lights Books, 2003) consists of poems selected by Laabi from three books published in French over the past ten years. A novel, Le Fond de la Jarre, was published by Gallimard in 2002. The World’s Embrace from City Lights, is his latest book in English. For more on Laabi, see his Swarthmore entry. Some of his poetry (in French) is available here.

Doors open at 4. Readings at 4:30. Dawson’s Book Shop is located at 535 N. Larchmont Blvd between Beverly Blvd and Melrose Blvd in the Larchmont district south of Hollywood, CA. Bookstore Tel: 323-469-2186

Share

diana abu-jaber on NPR

Friday, April 18th, 2003

Terry Gross interviews Diana Abu-Jaber on NPR. Abu-Jaber’s new novel, Crescent, came out a few weeks ago. It’s amusing (or sad, depending on your outlook) how little time is devoted to the novel and how much to all things Mid-Eastern, including the political.
Thanks to Neils for the tip.

Share

staging history

Friday, April 18th, 2003

It’s been a little over a week since the toppling of the bronze statue of Saddam. In my post on the subject, I was more concerned about the aftermath than about the photo-op. The whole thing had seemed too neat to me, but I wasn’t sarcastic in the least.
Well, it’s been long enough.
By now, I bet most readers have already seen the aerial shot that shows the square surrounded by tanks, and a few dozen Iraqis on hand for the toppling. Most of you know that the square was conveniently located across from the Palestine Hotel, where journalists are staying; that an American flag was wrapped around the statue’s head, but due to heckling by the crowd, it was replaced by an Iraqi flag, which was also taken off before the statue was brought down. An interesting fact has also surfaced: the American flag that was wrapped around the statue’s head was the same flag that flew over the Pentagon on September 11.
The Administration’s response? Oh, it was all just a big coincidence.

Share

publishing’s dirty secrets

Thursday, April 17th, 2003

The Observer‘s Sara Nelson tries to figure out why publishers won’t reveal their numbers:
“Nobody talks about publishing numbers because they are so unbelievably low. How many authors really make a living wage from their advances? How many books actually earn out, or pay their authors anything beyond the initial advance? And how many copies sold turn any particular book into a best-seller? Those are the questions all people interested in publishing think they want to know and their answers are the ones publishing executives go out of their way not to reveal. A book can be on the best-seller lists for a couple of weeks and have sold 30,000 copies. Within publishing, that’s a reasonably good showing, but compared to, say, the music or movie or magazine business, where sales are measured in millions, it seems like nothing. When told, for example, that last year’s hit novel, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated, sold about 100,000 copies in hardcover, one editor of a huge-circulation monthly gasped and said, “If I only sold 100,000 magazines, I’d get fired.” The fact that very few people in this country read books is publishing’s dirty little secret, and it’s one executives are, understandably, desperate to keep.”
Another link from Moby.

Share

al qaida book

Thursday, April 17th, 2003

Further evidence that anyone can pass himself off as an “expert” on Al-Qaida (or anything Mid-Eastern, for that matter): French journalist Mohammed Sifaoui wrote a book on the terrorist organization that is now a bestseller in France, but fellow journalist Atmane Tazaghart has a bunch of questions for him.
Thanks to MobyLives for the link.

Share

quel culot!

Thursday, April 17th, 2003

It’s French, I know, but I can’t think of another expression to convey my dismay at Rev. Franklin Graham. This is a man who in 2001 went on the record as saying that Islam is “wicked, violent, and not of the same god,” and who has refused to retract those comments–I think his words were “stands by his statement” as though he were a journalist and as though we were talking about quantifiable facts.
Now Graham actually has the nerve to go to Jordan with his charity, Samaritan’s Purse, waiting for Iraq to be safe enough so he can enter it to provide relief. And a little evangelical help to the heathens. Does he honestly think that Iraqis will want to hear from a man who has insulted their religion?
To top it off, the Pentagon, never one to shy away from indelicate moves, invites the man to give an address for Good Friday, much to the dismay of the Pentagon’s Muslim employees.
Quel culot!

Share

after the antiquities, the books

Wednesday, April 16th, 2003

The National Library in Baghdad has been looted, and priceless manuscripts have been burned or lost–this despite the lesson we should have learned from the looting of the Antiquities Museum. Robert Fisk provides a first-hand account of what it was like.
I was reminded of my junior high history teacher, in her tight bun and sensible shoes, telling us how the Mongols swept Baghdad and threw its libraries’ books in the Tigris, making the river’s waters black with ink for a month. Except this time, the invaders weren’t the looters. And yet, it doesn’t mean we’re not responsible.

Share

reading lolita in tehran

Wednesday, April 16th, 2003

Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran gets the Michiko Kakutani treatment in the New York Times.


lolita.jpg

Kakutani liked the book, calling it a “resonant and deeply affecting memoir.”

Share
  • Twitter

  • Category Archives

  • Monthly Archives