This is a very disappointing book. There are numerous structural and stylistic weaknesses. A fair number of the characters are two-dimensional figures,...moreThis is a very disappointing book. There are numerous structural and stylistic weaknesses. A fair number of the characters are two-dimensional figures, symbols or mouthpieces rather than agents of the action. Only the love affair between Jacky and Neri has a life of its own, but that is narrated in too corny a style for such a politically charged topic. It often read like Harlequin/Mills&Boon romance. On the other hand, the political discussions between the rest of the cast of characters will bore the pants off most readers. The barrage of factual details explaining the arguments on either side of the conflict takes up too much space in the narrative and there is not much of an original "story" there to maintain the reader's interest. The political talking points and "wikipedia" explications may even likely confuse anyone not already familiar with the basic timeline of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, besides boring them. Unfortunately the author gets carried away by her obsession to include every possible supporting point to the argument, and in doing so, she ends up "telling" rather than "showing." In fact, she just can't control the outright "telling." There is too much enumerating of the facts at the most unlikely moments in the story, and the author loses sight of the novel's bigger picture. By extension, the readers miss out on a good grasp of the novel's point of view, and by the end, must be "told" by the narrator what that is. Also, I could discern a fair number of instances where the author's lack of understanding of Palestinian history, culture, and political positions is evident. There is a dangerous lack of clarity throughout the text concerning the distinctions between "Palestinian" "Arab" "Bedouin" and "Islamic" which sometimes overlap or are selected at random -- which might cause readers to misunderstand certain issues or to misinterpret certain events, through the fallacy that these terms are interchangeable and therefore equivalent. For me, the descriptions of the non-Israeli characters border on caricatures. Anyone wishing to analyze the novel for its rampant "orientalizing" will have a field day. I can enumerate many instances. The most dangerous one though is the discussion between the Israeli and American characters (who happen to be academics) regarding European/Jewish modernity and the dangers/drawbacks of Arab cultural/social/technological backwardness. Yes, the author has her characters say Arabs are in the "medieval" and "middle ages" several times. Hello? The Holocaust was perpetrated by one of the most, if not the most, educated and technologically advanced society of its time. And even if it were sociologically/anthropologically accurate -which it isn't- that Arab society is "backward" this insinuation (even though merely an expression of the fictional characters) by its very inclusion in the text is counterintuitive, as it goes against the thesis that the novel, in fact, is attempting to make in the end (more on that below). My main gripe though is also a very simple one: If I was to read a book titled "Slavery" or "Abolition," let's say, I would expect to read a book that has at least some part of the narrative concerned with that specific historical period (eg, Roots), and not a story about racial tensions in Harlem or Chicago of today -- with no narrative connection to the historical time period referenced in the title. If the story were to be set primarily in the present time, I would expect to see in the book at least a single scene, or some clearly defined connection between the narrative's "now" and the "then" referenced in the title, connected/related in some way. Paradoxically, Al-Naqba is set completely in the present time, with no narrated descriptive passage, flashback or recounted memory (to name a few standard narrative fiction techniques) taking the reader back in time in a three-dimensional/illustrated manner to a depiction of the Naqba itself in any way, shape or form. The word is reduced to an abstraction, never made real and tangible to the reader. Did I say the author has a problem with not knowing how to "show" rather than "tell"? Hardly any content of the book informs or illustrates for the reader anything substantial about the Palestinian catastrophe - the Naqba in question. The novel's timeline and plot covers only the present-day conflict. I fear that ultimately readers will only "see" in their minds these specific images (the present day terror attacks), and not the full picture, since they have been not been assisted in visualizing the Palestinian catastrophe in its continually evolving historical as well as human context. This is a glaring problem on several levels and it weakens any salient message the novel could have conveyed through its main thesis and/or its point of view. For me, the closing pages of the book felt like the narrator/author was preaching to the audience. Regardless of whether I as one specific reader agree or disagree with the author's point of view, the moralizing conclusions made in those final lines hardly follow from all that preceded in the novel. (less)
Despite its age, this volume (in the Time-Life series* Foods of the World, copyright 1969, revised 1971) is a well-researched introduction to the regi...moreDespite its age, this volume (in the Time-Life series* Foods of the World, copyright 1969, revised 1971) is a well-researched introduction to the region, spanning from Greece & Egypt all the way to Iran. The first chapter introduces the common elements of the cuisines of the nine nations that are covered in this travelogue, as the author (an American of Greek descent) discovers the landscape, the peoples, and the foods along the route. This is essentially why I treasure this old book - for the historical background, the explication of the culinary traditions uniting as well as differentiating the Middle Eastern cultures, and more than anything, the photographs that immortalize the people of the region as they prepare the food and consume it. In Greece, the focus is on the Easter festivities, in Turkey a farewell family feast, in Lebanon a stylish urban cocktail and mezze spread, in Jordan a Bedouin tent mansaf, in Iraq the archeological roots of the agricultural staples on which the region's cuisines are based, in Israel the multicultural origins of the colonial settlers, in Iran meals with tilemakers and carpetweaving craftsmen, in Egypt the street vendors.
* The main text is a hardbound album, and the majority of the recipes are printed in a separate spiralbound booklet (which I don't own). (less)