Reviews sheviews

Posted by lapata on November 30, 2012 · 3 mins read

1. All Hail Salman Rushdie. All Hail Joseph Anton.

At times, when she was reading the memoir, she was reminded of that cherished moment in her youth, when she had first read prose in Latin class. That too was a memoir, as it happens, and one also written in the third person singular.

Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, quarum unam incolunt Belgae, aliam Aquitani, tertiam qui ipsorum lingua Celtae, nostra Galli appellantur.

Those luminous words, so clear, so forthright, so memorable.
Caesar's saucy decision to refer to himself as "he," instead of "I" -- it was modern then, it's modern now. And so, she rejoiced to be reunited once again with this form of self-writing, a veritable madeleine to her tween years, that awkward time between childhood and adolescence, when burgeoning young hormone-addled bodies lock horns and begin the cosmic dance of awakening...All Gaul is divided into three parts...

2. The Global Cyber Muslim Feminist Punk Fantasy of G. Willow Wilson

There is a climactic moment in G. Willow Wilson's new novel Alif the Unseen, in which a female character, Dina, lifts her hijab and allows the protagonist, Alif, inside. Alif is about to be separated from her, perhaps forever, and has realized that he loves her. He asks for a moment of intimacy: he doesn't ask to kiss her; he just wants to see her. The moment is powerful and revelatory:

He could not have guessed the world she had created for herself. Sewn into the underside of her longer outer cloak were patches of bright silk: patterned, beaded, spangled with points of light; they hung above him like a tent...

In this one passage, Wilson accomplishes what innumerable trashy neo-Orientalist "Behind the Veil" books cannot: she invites us into a space that is both personal and spiritual. For Dina, her hijab is like an outer skin that protects her; allowing someone to see inside is not a sexy stripping act but an invitation to deeper knowledge. Dina is contrasted throughout the novel with Alif's former girlfriend, Intisar, who is from the upper classes (unlike Dina), and also wears hijab. Her hijab is fancy: it's trimmed with beads that clink together when she moves her head. She has decided to cover her face as a kind of affectation of spiritual vanity, unlike the down-to-earth Dina, whose life is rendered more inconvenient for it.