New LRB

In latest issue of the London Review of Books, Daniel Soar suggests a wholly novel way of looking at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s letter to George W. Bush: arrange it alphabetically.

[The letter] addresses various specific issues – Iraq, Guantanamo, American double standards over human rights abuses – but more generally tries to appeal to a shared religious sense. That attempt was bound to fail, but what Ahmadinejad does share with Bush is a way with grand concepts. To avoid being confused by the letter’s unfamiliar catechistic structure, it helps to arrange its four thousand translated words in alphabetical order, which makes the whole thing read more straightforwardly. There’s a certain amount of fiery grandiloquence (‘abandon abduction abide ablaze’), but there are also moments of telegraphic irony (‘administration’s advised advocated affairs affected Afghanistan’) and moments of pathos (‘forcing foreign forgiveness’). An alphabeticised Bush also comes across much more poetically than the one we’re used to: in January’s State of the Union address his mention of ‘faithful faithful fallen fallen falling Fallujah’ was remarkably to the point. It isn’t so clear what he meant when he said ‘eliminate elite embryos’. Was this evidence of new thinking on Roe v. Wade?

Also check out Nicholas Spice’s review of Philip Roth’s new novel.

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