A Funny Thing Happened to Me On My Way From the Garden of Eden

A Funny Thing Happened to Me On My Way From the Garden of Eden

The New Quarterly has just come out with a sneak peek at my next novel, Candle, which is still in manuscript form! See it in Fall, 2011, issue number 120.

Speaking of books, this odd little sculpture contains the most badly abused book in my collection, in which I carved out a fish-shaped zebra-bottomed pond in the middle of the leaves. I had to wipe off a lot of dust to take the photos, but the original story is pretty dusty, too.

When I read a book, if it’s my own, if it’s any good at all, I almost always abuse it with notes, underlining and dog-ears.

Then, there are a couple of bad books in my collection, which I won’t part with. My favorite is one I picked off the book exchange shelf at a small Mexican hotel, Catherine Coulter’s Night Storm. I didn’t read the whole book, but I keep it for the single sentence and its unintentional double meaning (I believe she was supposed to be offended):

“It was Alec’s turn to twist about and see Genny standing in the doorway, stiff as a vicar at an orgy.”

And I’ve been sadly neglectful of the listing of my

Recently Read Books:

Astronomy and the Imagination: A New Approach to Man’s Experience of the Stars, Norman Davidson.

The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory, Brian Greene.

Everything Was Goodbye, Gurjinder Basran

Half-Blood Blues, Esi Edugyan.

Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny, Amartya Sen

Infinity: The Quest to Think the Unthinkable, Brian Clegg.

I thought this book was going to take forever to finish.

Invitation to Number Theory, Oystein Ore.

My favorite form of mathematical proof shall henceforward be reductio ad absurdum.

Love Among the Butterflies: The Diary of a Wayward, Determined and Passionate Victorian Lady, Margaret Fountaine.

Middlemarch, George Elliot.

Not Wanted on the Voyage, Timothy Findley.

Number: The Language of Science, Tobias Dantzig.

Math was first organized as a religious cult. Pythagoras put one of his followers to death when he disagreed with a particular concept.

One Man’s Bible, Gao Xingjian

Palace of Desire, Naguib Mahfouz.

Palace Walk, Naguib Mahfouz.

Reading Mahfouz is uncomfortable for me because, though he “exposes the tragedy of patriarchy,” he writes as if women of the time had not undergone grotesque sexual -ssault-genital-mutilations as children. He, a father of his nation’s literature, and Nobel Prize winner, erases both the crime and its effect. I don’t see any difference between this, and a German historian, in 1948, neglecting to mention the holocaust, and the holocaust still going on. If the men of the nation had half their penises chopped off at the age of eight or so, perhaps there would be more of an outcry.

It’s hard to read of women who are prisoners, who are 13 year-old wife-slaves, who are owned and “unclean,” who are regarded as whores if they are seen looking out a window, who are constantly thought of as “bitches,” who are kept ignorant by men who then laugh at them for it. Here, Amina leaves her prison-house for the first time in years to go to a Muslim shrine without her husband’s permission – though still guarded by one of her sons — and is hit by a car. Yes, this explains why further rebellion is crushed in the heart of this woman, but there are no accidents in fiction. God struck her down.

The god of this novel is a misogynist; inconvenient, “bad” women tend to vanish through death or disappearance; a woman never shows her face to a man without evil, selfish, sexual intent. The god of this novel makes sure the father of the family is never blamed. The god invades the hearts and minds of the characters to force them to constantly assure the reader that they — all the father’s prisoners — love him without question, in spite of his behavior, in spite of their own human natures. Under this god, Daddy is owed love and he gets it, and I don’t believe it for a moment.

I become very difficult to live with when I read Mahfouz.

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