Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Good and Cheap (Books)! Day 21

This is how St. George's Day is celebrated
in Barcelona. If/when I go to Spain, I will go
on April 23rd. (Hey Gianna--vacation?)
Okay, I'm currently digesting a meal of shrimp and grits, with a chocolate peanut butter lava cake dessert. You know what's great about going to the South? They can make nasty things like grits and mushrooms taste divine. Normally I'm the Foodie Anti-Christ, but today is special. It's St. George's Day, also known as International Day of the Book, also known as World Book Night, also known as Shakespeare's birthday. In this, the cruelest month, today is that one bright spot that keeps me from playing with polonium. (For the record, I have no means of acquiring polonium and don't advocate radiation poisoning...but if you need a hit list, I might have one of those.) Anyway, this is my favorite day in April and one of my favorite days of the year. You're supposed to give books to people today. It's a lovely gesture. The most gratifying part of working in the book industry in any capacity is being able to hand a book to someone and say "You have to read this book!" It's the book nerd's way of expressing love and baring our souls.

Here you go. This book was the first one I went ape shit crazy over after I started working for Random The Hakawati. I know that I mention it about as often as Gianna talks about Gail Caldwell, but the books that connect become part of a person. This book reminds me of losing myself in books when I was a kid, like throwing my hands up in the air when riding in a wagon down a hill. Trust gravity (or in this case Rabih Alameddine, the author), thrill at the speed and rhythm and slight fear when you fly into the air, hope that you'll land safely. And when you're done, you want to go again. Welcome to The Hakawati.
House. I love it. You HAVE to read

A hakawati weaving his tale.
Hakawatis are storytellers who
entertain crowds with stories in the
cafes in Lebanon. 
Here's the deal--this is a book about storytelling and families. It's a mixture of Arabian Nights, full of demons and jinns and imps and princes and thieves and legends, and a history of a Lebanese family gathering in Beirut at the bedside of a dying relative. It's a book where racing across the desert into battle could fall within pages of the pigeon wars that captured the skies of Beirut (similar to the kite wars described inThe Kite Runner except, you know, with birds), which could be on the same page with the story of a son grieving for his father. This is literary magic. "Hakawati" means storyteller, and that's who Rabih Alameddine is.

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