Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Book news of note...

Random House has pulled a forthcoming novel about a famous bride of the prophet Mohammad. Crazy. Foreshadowed Muslim reaction is a force, huh? I wonder if someone else will pick it up.

And this new book on fiction by James Wood, who I am a big fan of. If anyone wants to buy me a present, this is it!

Not a book, but wanted to end with a laugh from Denver, courtesy of Fox News:

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Whole New World

Unfortunately the other day when my parents came to visit me in Richmond and we went out and about I forgot to put my battery in my camera, but here are a few photos I took on a long walk I went on last Friday, just as the sun was sinking...

This first one is of my house, or more the tree in front of my house. The house itself is incredible, with high ceilings, wood floors, two sets of stairs, very cool roommates, and a small community park and garden out back:

Many monuments dot this city, many of them having to do with the Civil War. There is a famous one of Arthur Ashe. Here is one that goes a little farther back:

Here is an artsy one. Me on one of those highway overpass things, with all the cars going past below, it sounded like the ocean:

One more, some houses with a Baptist church bus and some chairs set up for a gathering:

Yeah, so strange days, new world...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

This is the kind of stuff that is contributing to my culture shock...

I am ashamedly sitting in the Starbucks (I swear, I swear, it will be the only time!) that is just left of the entrance to the main library at my new school, Virginia Commonwealth University. And just now four tanned, perfect-looking under-aged girls sat down at the table next to me. The one who took the head seat of the rectangle table is evidently interviewing the other three in regards to rushing her sorority. Topics of their discussion include desperation to see the Spice Girls reunion tour, hanging out at frat houses, whether or not it's ok to shop at a thrift shop just for eighties night, and faraway boyfriends.

Monday, August 18, 2008

From Cholula to Richmond

Last week, I was in taking this photo, overlooking Cholula, a lovely city in Mexico. We were outside a church that, in 1594, was built by the conquering Spanish on top of an ancient Aztec pyramid, which just so happens to be the "largest monument ever constructed anywhere in the world." Crazy. Seriously. We also spent time in Cuernavaca and in Mexico City. The former reminded me of Lebanon and the latter of Cairo. But of course it was all completely different, too.

And now, I am in Richmond, Virginia. I haven't taken any pictures yet. It is certainly a pretty place but nothing like Mexico, or Lebanon, or Cairo. I have just moved into a room in an incredible big, old house, in a quiet, pretty neighborhood a five-minute bike ride to school. Yesterday I went to a pretty neat flea market in another neighborhood with a few galleries and cafes and warehouses and a paint ball range and a gentlemen's club and other things, I'm sure. Everyone at the market was exceedingly nice, and I bought some produce and useful junk for ridiculously cheap. Then I found a natural foods market that isn't as amazing as Rainbow but reasonably cool. Classes start next week for me, and right now I'm dealing with administrative and orientation-type stuff. Wish I was in Mexico but I'm also happy to be in Richmond since it's what is happening now.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Good Bye

Mahmoud Darwish, brilliant artist of verse, memory, and forgetting passed away Saturday in Houston. He wasn't from there, just went there because his European doctor recommended the hospital for his specific condition. Something about an enlarged artery in his heart. Darwish was a poet, well-known, perhaps, for the fact he was a Palestinian poet. He will be buried in Ramallah today or Wednesday. A one-time member of the PLO and, eventually, part of the party's executive committee, he wrote words Yasser Arafat declaring Palestinian statehood in 1988. And, famously, he penned this verse:

Identity Card

Record !
I am an Arab
And my identity card is number fifty thousand
I have eight children
And the ninth is coming after a summer
Will you be angry?

Record !
I am an Arab
Employed with fellow workers at a quarry
I have eight children
I get them bread
Garments and books
from the rocks…
I do not supplicate charity at your doors
Nor do I belittle myself
at the footsteps of your chamber
So will you be angry?

Record !
I am an Arab
I have a name without a title
Patient in a country
Where people are enraged
My roots
Were entrenched before the birth of time
And before the opening of the eras
Before the pines, and the olive trees
And before the grass grew...

But, to quote Ursula Lindsey from her awesome blog, The Arabist Review, he was not a "propogandist." Or maybe he was not merely a propagandist. Or maybe he simply got to the heart/truth/meaning of things. Because every man and woman is tied to the place they were born and the place they live and the place they have lived most. And many tie their work to those places, but maybe Darwish was the kind of artist who transcends place to reach those in all places. He also wrote lines like this, from his 1982 book, Memory for Forgetfulness:

"The dawn made of lead is still advancing from the direction of the sea, riding on sounds I haven’t heard before. The sea has been entirely packed into stray shells. It is changing its marine nature and turning into metal. Does death have all these names? We said we’d leave. Why then does this red-black-gray rain keep pouring over those leaving or staying, be they people, trees, or stones?"

Reading that really makes me want to find it in Arabic. Hmmm. Ending here for now. A post on the trip I just got back from to come...