Friday, October 28, 2005

Oh, The Life and Opinions

of Tristam Shandy. The internet can be so good.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Speaking of the Odyssey...

The London Times has a review of Margaret Atwood's newest, The Penelopiad, which tells the Odyssey from Penelope's point of view.

Culture and gov't

Mona Anis, who once translated Pinter's No Man's Land into Arabic, writes about Pinter, the theater fire incident last month during Albee's The Zoo Story, and Mohamed Abdel-Wahid's Mothaqafoun taht al-talab (Intellectuals for Sale). It's a beautiful article. Check it out here.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Arabic Simpsons

An Arabised version of The Simpsons is showing on Arabic TV this Ramadan.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Amuzing Side Effects of Studying for the GRE Literature Subject Test

I spent last night looking over the Odyssey to re-familiarize myself with it. I read until midnight, at which point I turned out the lights and got under the covers and passed out. That's when the side effects began.

I dreamt all night that I was in the ocean-- easily my favorite place to be-- being courted by Poseidon. Eventually, I gave in, even though he's grudgy and doesn't heal well, and has tendencies to be violent, all qualities that don't match with my list of non-negotiables for a partner.

But I was too horny to fight, and we ended up having all sorts of, um, intercourse, even though he was at least 20 feet tall. The funniest part was when he put me on a leash while I swam around.

Eventually, I convinced him to come over for dinner, on land, but as soon as he showed up, we had sex on the stoop in front of my apartment. I became convinced that our relationship was too sex-centered, and dumped him by waking up.

I'm brushing up on the Iliad next. I predict/ hope for dreams about orgies with the Myrmidons.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

What I've Been Reading

With the internet off at home and the kiddo at school, I've been-gasp!- doing a bit of reading. Books, not blogs. It's been nice. Here's a little list of stuff I've read (the strarred ones I am still in the process of inhaling):

SISTER, by Jim Lewis.

This book is extraordinary. I read it in one sitting.


I guess this book doesn't really need an introduction. I went to Sarah Lawrence, and rebelled against reading books that everyone was reading, but I'm glad, because when I finally did read it, I loved it.


All about how Arab-Americans came, peddled, and almost assimilated their culture away.

WATERLOO, by Karen Olsson.

I have no idea what the NYTBR was talking about. Every character in this book is vivid and well-crafted. I enjoyed it quite a bit.


A gorgeous little book that bridges the stories of several Mexican/American women on both sides of the border.

*THE END OF THE AFFAIR, by Graham Greene.

I can't believe it's taken me this long to read this. Better late than never?

Call for stories and poems from Sudan

WWB is looking for suggestions for stories and poems from Sudan for a forthcoming anthology. If you're a literary translator, or know anyone who is, and have ideas, please email me at randajarrar at yahoo dot com. Thanks.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Technical Difficulties

Sorry for the silence around these parts this week. Translations+child's week off from school+no internet access at home+last minute weekend trip+grad school apps= zero blogging.

I'll be back next Tuesday!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

NBAs announced

Here is the list:


E.L. Doctorow, The March (Random House)

Mary Gaitskill, Veronica (Pantheon)

Christopher Sorrentino, Trance
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Renè Steinke, Holy Skirts (William Morrow)

William T. Vollmann, Europe Central (Viking)


Alan Burdick, Out of Eden: An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Leo Damrosch, Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius (Houghton Mifflin)

Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking (Alfred A. Knopf)

Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn, 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers (Times Books)

Adam Hochschild, Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves (Houghton Mifflin)


John Ashbery, Where Shall I Wander (Ecco)

Frank Bidart, Star Dust: Poems (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Brendan Galvin, Habitat: New and Selected Poems, 1965-2005
(Louisiana State University Press)

W.S. Merwin, Migration: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press)

Vern Rutsala, The Moment’s Equation (Ashland Poetry Press)


Jeanne Birdsall, The Penderwicks (Alfred A. Knopf)

Adele Griffin, Where I Want to Be (Putnam)

Chris Lynch, Inexcusable (Atheneum)

Walter Dean Myers, Autobiography of My Dead Brother (HarperTempest)

Deborah Wiles, Each Little Bird That Sings (Harcourt)

I read, and liked, Veronica. I hope it wins.

Vote Against Amendment #2

If you're in TX and still haven't heard about the nonsense coming our way in November, go here.

Friday, October 07, 2005

In Search of Palestine

Ghada Karmi - author of In Search of Fatima and Married to Another Man (as in the cable two Austrian rabbis sent to Herzl saying, "The bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man")- is profiled over at the Daily Star. You must check it out.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Single Mamas Rejoice

We knew this all along, but reading about it makes us feel so good. From Raising Boys Without Men:
Rebutting confidently spouted opinions to the contrary, Dr. Drexler's research shows that boys raised without fathers are socially savvy, generous, caring communicators, while still remaining extremely “boyish” -- passionate about sports and adept at rough-housing with friends.

These boys’ maverick moms are pioneering a new form of parenting that rejects social judgments about family structure and gender stereotype, and which stresses the importance of communication, community, and love. These brave women have much to teach us about a better way to raise tomorrow's men.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Book Review: Slow Man

imageDBI should start this review with an admission: I've only read one book by J.M Coetzee, and that book is Slow Man. I didn't know anything about its metafictional surprise when I first got it in the mail a few weeks ago; I'd never heard of Elizabeth Costello until this month. So, when I first began reading the book, I thought, wow, realism. I yawned a couple of times, but I also relished the narrative voice: I could hear a booming English-ish accent accompanying my eye as it followed word after word of the text.

But then, at the point when Paul Rayment, our one-legged hero, falls in love with Marijana, his once-upon-a-time-in-Croatia restoration-queen-turned-nurse, my boredom crept in quickly, and sunk roots. I was done with Paul. So he'd lost a leg, from the knee down, so what? "Move on, Paul," I thought. "Move on and please do something worth reading about."

This is around when Elizabeth waltzes in, out of breath and wanting Paul to do what I want him to do: get it together and "make a case" for himself. She's about to give up on him. We have a lot in common, already, this reader and the Costello woman, so I take a liking to her.

After Elizabeth moves in- to Paul's flat and to the book's narrative- things pick up: Paul has a blindfolded rendezvous with a blind woman; Marijana and her husband get into a fistfight; Drago, Marijana's son, moves in. Coetzee's characters are so engaging that I find I have the hots for Drago.

The book is very much concerned with the source and motive of human generosity. In one scene, Elizabeth confronts Paul:
"Do, you remember, Paul, the story of Sinbad and the old man?"
In the story, an old man asks Sinbad to carry him across the bank of a stream, and climbs onto Sinbad's shoulders. Once Sinbad carries him across, the old man says Sinbad is now his slave. Paul tells Elizabeth that he won't be her slave, but she replies, "Perhaps I am already there."

Many of Paul's problems, it seems, stem from his need to give. His generosity towards Marijana and her family is suspect both by Marijana's husband and by the reader. And, while Paul feels the need to help, primarily monetarily, those around him, Elizabeth feels the need to help by forging ties between the characters, regardless of whether or not those ties may cause problems. In this way, the book makes distinctions between male and female giving. At some point, it seems that Drago has been helping Paul solely for monetary gain, while his mother, Marijana, has been helping Paul in a way that is almost saint-like. In the end, it is Marijana who benefits from Paul, because he pays her for her services, and Elizabeth who benefits as well, because she gets a book out of it.

I love the way the novel addresses writing. Just as human beings can get too complex to be made into "real" characters, characters can sometimes get sick of being pushed around. Paul suggests to Elizabeth, at one point,
"You should open a puppet theater, or a zoo. ... Buy one, put us in cages with our names on them. ... Rows and rows of cages holding people who have, as you put it,come to you in the course of your career as a liar and fabulator."
One of the most interesting themes of the book is that of human complexity. Like any other writer, Elizabeth struggles with the complex nature of her "characters" vs. that of her fellow humans; with the difficulty of translating that complexity to fiction. But she addresses a very profound point: Humans wrestle with their own complexities, they struggle to become fuller, more complete beings, constantly. One afternoon, on the bank of a river- an interesting setting for a scene considering the earlier discussion about Sinbad and the old man- Elizabeth tells Paul:
"We would all like to be simpler... but we are complicated creatures, we human beings. ... You have it in you to be a fuller person, Paul, larger and more expansive, but you won't allow it."
And Paul replies, both to Elizabeth and to the impatient reader:
"I am not dithering, at least not in my own eyes. I am acting at a pace that comes naturally to me. I am not an exceptional person, Mrs Costello, and I cannot make myself exceptional just for your sake. I am sorry."
The book’s title alludes to Paul's slowness in all things. It takes him too long, for example, to realize that his leg's been cut off. It takes him too long- he is well over 60- to realize that he wants to be married and have a child- preferably, he admits, a boy. It takes him too long to join the modern world and get a real computer, and a modem, much to Drago's chagrin:
"We went to Croatia last summer.... That's where my mum's parents live. They're pretty old now. They also got, like you said, overtaken by time. My mum bought them a computer and we showed them how to use it. So now they can shop on the internet, they can send emails, we can send them pictures. They like it. And they're pretty old."
"So you can choose," says Drago. "That's all I'm saying."
And when Paul does choose to make up for lost time, he's missed out on so much, misjudged Marijana and her family as a pack of "Croatian Gypsies," and been, generally, an annoying ditherer.

A subtle meditation on loss and creation, Slow Man is a book about what we lose when we don't engage ourselves to become the fullest human beings we are capable of being. "See what you can come up with," Elizabeth tells Paul, tells herself, tells us, "So that someone, somewhere might put you in a book."

Slow Man, by J.M. Coetzee, Viking, 263 pp, $24.95

Found: My Soul Sistas!!!

A year after our public wedding project, we, Gil & Moti duo artists born and raised in Israel, have decided to fall in love with an Arab guy as a contemporary form of political marriage. The idea originates in the common belief that love can overcome all obstacles and bridges between the hostile people. This video is an open invitation calling for Arab men to join our life.
Check the video out here.

I love this.

Found on Kabobfest.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Nasser, 35 years later

According to the BBC, on this day, 35 years ago, as many as 50 people were trampled during Nasser's public funeral.

When I was a child, I didn't know what saints were. I grew up in a pseudo-agnostic home. But the following certainties, I knew:
1. Soccer is sacred.
2. Food is sacred.
3. My mother is a strange person (according to my father).
4. My father is an insane person (according to my mother).
5. My parents are weird and scary (according to anyone under the age of 90 who entered our home).
3. Nasser was a saint.

I knew that Nasser had opened Egyptian universities to Palestinian students after '67 when they had nowhere else to study or go, and that that was how my father got his education, and his hooks into my mother, but it wasn't until grad school that I really got a good look at the Nasserite regime and what it did and didn't accomplish.