"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Friday, August 29, 2008

Semiotic or Semi-Idiotic?

Inquiring minds want to know. Now that the godfather of the National Enquirer has gone to meet Elvis, there's a book about it all. Review at WSJ.com.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

But it's in the Koran

A racy, historical novel based on the Prophet Muhammad's child bride A'isha was supposed to hit book stores in the U.S....

But in a rare case of self-censorship to preempt possible violent reaction by Muslims, one of the world's largest publishing houses pulled the plug on the book just before its release date.

At issue is Jones' portrayal of the prophet's wife A'isha, whom Muhammad is said to have married when she was 9 years old. In her novel Jones describes the consummation of their marriage when A'isha was 14.
At Fox.

Um, what was the rule with child brides? Was 14 actually the age of consummation?

Uh, not according to this.


Muhammad was 52 and Aisha was 9 when they married and sexually consummated their marriage. Muhammad followed an Arab custom in marrying a child who had her first menstrual cycle. ...Muhammad's action and teachings on marriage established an Islamic precedent: a girl is judged an adult following her first menses, and is eligible for marriage and sexual relations. Thus Muslim men are allowed to marry and have intercourse with young girls who have happened to have an early first menstrual cycle....

Muhammad's first wife - Khadija, died a few years before he fled to Medina. Later, he was encouraged to take another wife. At the age of 49 he was betrothed to Aisha, age six. Aisha was his closest friend's, Abu Bakr's, daughter. At that time, she had already been betrothed to another man but by mutual consent the betrothal was dissolved. Three years later, following her first menstrual cycle, he then formally married and sexually consummated his marriage with her.

What is more critical than Muhammad's single action with Aisha is that he taught that a girl is considered an adult following her first menstrual cycle. He also taught that his followers were to follow his "sunnah" or lifestyle. Thus today, throughout much of the Mideast, girls as young as nine are often married by men old enough to be their grandfather.

So, here we have a book of historical fiction, altered to make a man considered to be a prophet not seem like a pedophile (is 14 the age of consent anywhere, however?), and it's being pulled?

It's all too complicated. Just publish the book -- I wonder how many people would have even heard of it without all the press it's getting. As the article above points out, child marriage is not uncommon in history, and in various cultures, although it is illegal in many countries now.

Book Her

The next time you forget to return a couple of library books (and ignore those annoying letters about the overdue status of said volumes), think of Heidi Dalibor. The Wisconsin woman, 20, was arrested earlier this month in connection with a pair of books overdue for several months.

Story at The Smoking Gun.

But you know, Enron, the bogus-weapons-of-mass-destruction thing, that you can get away with in this country. Anyway, I don't think you can get arrested for overdue library books just anywhere. I don't think my local library even has fines. They just send an invoice after a month. Okay, how do I know? I'm guilty. Lucky for me I don't live in Wisconsin.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fake Book Signing to Be Held in Los Angeles

Why is that not a surprise? Authors are hiring people to sign their books for them. Too busy fixing their own computers or something? Those complicated new automatic espresso machines?

At Gawker.com and the Guardian.

I have to include a photo:

A friend has one of these. Worth losing sleep over.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Art of the Blurb

For writers, to blurb or not to blurb can be a tricky matter. Blurb too little and you’ll have a hard time drumming up the requisite superlatives when your turn comes. Blurb too often, or include too many blurbs on your book, and you might get called a blurb whore.

From the NY Times

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Forget All the Other New Jersey Suburbs

RIP Rust Hills, former Esquire editor and fussy man.

In 1963 Mr. Hills conceived an entire literary issue of the magazine, which included stories, but also interviews with writers; a photo essay on writers’ lives; a snarky profile by Gay Talese of the circle surrounding George Plimpton’s Paris Review; and most controversially, an illustrated diagram of “The Structure of the American Literary Establishment,” identifying writers, agents, publishers, reviewers and events that Mr. Hills determined to be at and around the “red-hot center” of American literary life. The issue and especially the map angered many who felt they ought to have been included and many who were, but entertained just about everybody else.

Yes, we read his Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular in college, and thought he had a funny name.

Okay, full disclosure, as a friend says, I thought his writing book was eh and included a bad story he had written, unless I read that elsewhere. It was part of a writing workshop I took with one of the two really awful writing teachers I've had (I've had good ones, too). I've since seen her work anthologized, and I'm distinctly unimpressed.

It is possible her ineptitude colored my opinion of his book.