Chapati Review: Four Books by Etgar Keret

The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God & Other Stories (Toby Press, 2004), $12.95.
Jetlag (Toby Press, 2006), $12.95.
The Nimrod Flipout (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006), $12.00.
Pizzeria Kamikaze (Alternative Comics, 2006), $14.95.

Pizzeria KamikazeIt’s one of those days when you find yourself in a new part of town with an hour to kill, and you decide you to sit in a cafe with a book, but you don’t have a book with you, so you walk around browsing in a few bookstores, looking for something you could actually sit and read in public, and to your surprise, you actually find something stunning that you have never heard of, and, frankly never even fantasized about. You notice the book because its cover is well-designed and when you flip through it, there is a lot of shiny silver. Since it’s a graphic novel, you can tell whether it’s good from its cover, because if you don’t like the layout, design and artwork, what’s the point of reading it, really? And this is an Israeli graphic novel, and that’s the part of the whole thing that you had never even fantasized about, besides, of course, all the shiny silver parts. You purchase the book and walk to a cafe, more quickly than you ought to when you are killing time, and sitting on a stool at a shiny silver bar, you order a solitary piece of raw fish, a glass of something cold and proceed to delve into Pizzeria Kamikaze, hoping you will not be terribly disappointed.

A few pages in, you find your expectations vindicated by an unbeatable premise:

Two days after I killed myself, I found a job at some pizza joint called ‘Kamikaze.’

The following sentences seal the deal:

…whenever they used to talk about life after death and go through the is-there-isn’t-there routine. I’d always imagine these beeping sounds, and people floating around in space and stuff. But now that I’m here, it reminds me of Tel Aviv. My German roommate says this place could just as well be Frankfurt. I guess Frankfurt’s a dump too.

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You Mean Mahound?

mhqmp.jpgI am no expert on Insurgencies. I don’t know much about Terrorism. I have very little understanding of military history. So, when I say that Richard A. Gabriel’s Muhammad: The Warrior Prophet. The Ingenious Military Mind of the First Insurgent has, on average, a mistake per sentence, I speak only as someone with some familiarity with early Islamic history and the biography of the Prophet.

ps. The errors are not only factual, but also descriptive, analytical and, well, logical.

pps. I will also ignore the incongruously presentist reading of Islamic history.

ppps. I despair.

pppps. Wait, I do have a question that needs answered: Where did the Muslims offer Mormons the option of conversion to Islam or death?

ppppps. No. This is not Neo-Orientalism. This is Old Skool.

Free Haleh Esfandiari

Haleh Esfandiari is the director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She was detained and arrested in Iran while visiting her aging mother in December and prevented from leaving the country. She was subsequently threatened, pressured, and repeatedly questioned by security authorities. Most recently, on May 8, 2007, she was arrested without charges and taken to Evin Prison.

Please read MESA’s Committee on Academic Freedom’s Letter to Ahmedinejad and visit the Free Haleh site to sign petition on her behalf.

A signature on a petition is no effort on our behalf. Writing an email to our newspaper or a letter to the authorities takes perhaps a little more of our time. Walking in the streets and picketing the Indian or Pakistani or Iranian consulates and embassies is perhaps the best possible action for those of us far-removed. These cases of academics, artists, and doctors suffering the injustices of the State may never rise us out of our respective complacencies but they should. They really, really should.

Juan Cole has decided to pull out of a conference in Iran to protest Haleh’s detainment. Similar action by scholars could and should add up to pressure the Iranian govt. says Robin Wright’s Boycott Threat Puts Pressure on Iran to Release Scholar

Free Dr. Binayak Sen

Dr. Binayak Sen, paediatrician and senior civil rights activist, has spent decades training and helping people in villages in Chhattisgarh – running free clinics in remote areas and helping enable communities to provide health care. He is also the national vice-president of People’s Union for Civil Liberties and a critic of the Salwa Judum – the government-sponsored movement to counter the Naxalites.

He has recently been charged for ‘aiding and abetting Naxal activity in the State’ under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005 and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 2004 and is in federal custody.

Outrage against this action has been universal. There are a number of appeals on-line for his release: Asian Human Rights Commission, People’s Movement, People’s Union for Democractic Rights. And one that everyone can and should sign.

Dr. Sen’s nephew is a friend and fellow History graduate student at the University of Chicago.

Aliens in America!

Here‘s the madcap comedy we’ve all been waiting for:

The CW’s only new comedy, “Aliens in America,” is about a high school student trying to adjust to a Pakistani exchange student.


The plot just gets better. According to this source:

The comedy will focus on a shy nerdy kid living in a small Wisconsin town whose mother invites an exchange student to live with the family. The mother hopes the new friend will help her son become more popular, but the exchange student turns out to be Muslim.

If the punchline is “but he turns out to be Muslim” what’s the logical conclusion to the joke? …so therefore can’t help the shy guy be more popular? …does not help him out of his shell? …makes him even less popular?

Luckily further explanation is provided by Variety:

“Aliens” is set in Altoona, Wis., where Justin Hobgood is an awkward, lanky 16-year-old having trouble fitting in at school. His mom hears about the school’s foreign exchange program and signs up her family, figuring the new arrival will give her son a hipness transplant.

Things don’t go as planned, however, when the exchange student turns out to be a Pakistani Muslim who wears a kufi on his head and a shalwar kameez over his body.

I wonder if that means he just drapes the shalwar kameez over his body like a sari? That would not help with a hipness transplant. Bad move, Mrs. Hobgood!