No new posts lately because I’m in the middle of a few big books:
- Steve Coll’s Ghost Soldiers, about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan from 1979 to Sept. 10, 2001. It’s a good, thorough read, but I’ve read most of that information elsewhere before (or saw it in Charlie Wilson’s War). I did like the line, “Terrorism is theater,” a quote from analyst Brian Michael Jenkins.
- Robert Stone’s Damascus Gate. This is sort of a thriller set in Jerusalem in 1992, about a burned out and spiritually lost journalist. I’ll write more about this later, but I will say that I can’t think of the last time I read a better scene than chapter 29. This is a big book, but I’d highly recommend checking out of the library and reading that one chapter, if nothing else. The journalist and these two women are smuggling something – guns, probably – into Gaza in a UN van.
- The Norton Anthology of Southern Literature. Across the board, I tend to read more deeply than widely. I’ll find an author I like and read and reread everything he wrote, but it’s at the cost of a lot of famous stuff. Since I’m working in the southern tradition, I’m trying to give myself a survey. I’m especially unread in the poets – Ransom, Tate, Jarrell. One tension this anthology is highlighting is that during the Southern Renaissance (Faulkner’s time) the twin impulses were to look back at the Antebellum (agrarian) South with either nostalgia (because of the ugly industrial life) or with shame (a progressive move make things right). The anthology ends with the generation born around 1950. I’m coming 30 years after that, and I’m wondering just how much of that regional tension still exists and is unique to the South. One thing I’ve noticed is that there are race issues all over the country, and tensions between urban (progressive, industrial) and rural (agrarian, conservative), so is there anything uniquely southern anymore that’s not partly a construct (i.e. my grandma on the mountain)?