|From July's Website|
|It Chooses You|
Virginia Woolf, Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Jennifer Egan, David Mitchell. None of these people are surprises really. We do seem to write about this topic quite a bit. That's fine. One should never shy from praising wonderful books. Still, for the sake of variety, I am going to pick the guy I most wish would complete a new book.
Rabih Alameddine wrote a book that held me in awe when I read it--The Hakawati. I couldn't shut up about it. It's been five years and I am still obsessed. I love books that weave together layers of stories, and The Hakawati (which is Arabic for storyteller) manages to blend more threads together than any other novel I've read. It's the story of a man returning to Lebanon to be with his dying father and his family. It's the story of a land told through myth and history and culture, told through the hakawatis who entertain listeners everyday in the tea houses of Beirut. It's Arabian Nights, and jinns, and princes, and Scheherazade. It's an adventure story, a drama centered around the aerial battles of the Beirut pigeon teams, a war story in a land of religious turmoil, a romance, a comedy, a tragedy. But like my favorite books, The Hakawati isn't just a feat of literary magic. It has a soul, and Alameddine treats history, country, and characters with compassion.
|I, the Divine is divine.|
But let's go back. Before I read The Hakawati, and before I was a Random House rep charged with selling it, I was a bookseller and stumbled upon a book called I, the Divine. I'd never heard of the author, but the premise sounded interesting and I gave it a shot. The main character here is Sarah. This is a novel, the story of Sarah's life, as told through her attempts to write her memoir. The problem, though, is that Sarah never manages to get through the first chapter of her book, so through her false starts we slowly discover her whole life. It's innovative and moving. (The title is a reference to the "divine" Sarah Bernhardt, what Sarah the protagonist's grandfather used to call her.) After I'd read and fallen for The Hakawati, it dawned on me that the author's name was familiar, and I realized that Rabih Alameddine had also written I, the Divine.
Alameddine has written other books too--Koolaids, his first novel, and a collection of short stories called The Perv. But four titles isn't enough for my obsession. My question is, Rabih Alameddine, what are you writing for me now? I'm not known for my patience. I can be whiny.