Saturday, June 30, 2007

Summer Readings

Two weeeks ago on Sunday I was at my Father-in-law's house for a luncheon to celebrate the birth and blessing of my Bro and Sis-in-law's fourth child, a daughter. The get together was quite nice, the food tasty, the conversation lively, and the impromptu reading I found myself doing from the National Geograhic Adventure magazine (you can read the article here http://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/photography/afghanistan/rory-stewart.html ).

This led me to pursue the book at the library on my next day off, but I had forgotten the title. The librarian was extremely helpful, despite the fact that Melissa and I were holding two very squirmy and voiciferous children in the toomblike adult section. I described the book and she did a search for it (I am assuming it was a Google search, as she pulled up a hit for Amazon.com). She gave me the ISBN number and directed me "to the second shelf back on the left". I found it and began reading it on breaks at work, using it as a treat to look forward to every two hours of shift.

The book is a real suprise. It's narrative flows quite well, softening the blow to the reader from the culture shock. I was not familiar with Afgan culture at all prior to this and found the mix of historical and day-to-day engaging. He writes with a connection to these peoples--speaking their language, walking their dusty and snowy paths, eating their simple food, drawing their portraits, and being their guest. His honest humane notions and his keen observations are shocking at times, but never distressing. This book will be a reference for the years to come, an almanac of the region of Afganistann in the post 9-11 Al-Quaeda years.

I appreciated his approach with tying in the ancient history of Babur's march to Kabul across the middle route in winter to his own. I appreciated his references and footnotes, and in giving us the marrow with the meat, he is allowed to complete the thought instead of leaving us hanging, disinterested and unengaged in the ancient history.

Finally, I wanted to mention is courage--the book is rather self-effacing, but his courage is keenly shown in this quest he comeplets. I am rather a timid fellow, generally reserved and taciturn, but Rory showed me his mettle, and all it required, if I may generalize, was his frankness. He was honest, he was determined to complete his task, and he told people about it all along his travels.

Finally, the entire journey was juxtaposed with the closing paragraphs in the epilogue. This was a journey that never could have happened in Brittan or America, no, this was a transmigration if you will, through the very soul of the Afgan people. He carries it off beautifully, and I believe I've found a real gem. Read it, you will not regret it.

-Jay

EDIT 7/9/07

In my haste to post my own musings about Rory Stewarts book I neglected to mention the title. It is The Spaces Inbetween. Now go to you library and enjoy it!

-Jay

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