I’ve just finished reading some really great books. You should, too. This being Christmastime, they would all make excellent gift ideas.
They’re by a local author named Marcus Wilder who had this idea to write a book about his travels in Pakistan 20 years ago. Originally conceived as notes on his travels to quiet an insistent friend, his 10 page manuscript has grown to a 200 page critique and insight you won’t find in any other book available. Written in a style reminiscent of Hemingway’s short, punchy word pictures, Marcus almost overwhelms the senses with sensory input from his descriptions of “pungent” room cleaners in Pakistan, the sheer grandeur of the Taj Mahal, or the simple pleasure of a succulent orange in the Hindu Kush.
Marcus’ manuscript, just as an outsider viewing an Islamic society in passing, has shown me more than I learned in a college-level comparative-religions course that contrasted the three faiths of Abraham (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.) Take his observations on the prophet Mohammed: that unlike the teachings of Christ or Buddha, Mohammed’s teachings do not project well into a modern, literate world. Education is the Koran’s worst enemy. (p.60)
Marcus also doesn’t mince words when analyzing the opposition to both America and Israel, as well as our basic inability to grasp the problem facing us: For them it is about killing infidels. For us it is about understanding their point of view. What twits we are. (p. 167)
And yet, as Paul Harvey likes to say, “It is -not- one world.” Marcus’ description of Lahore Pakistan made me laugh out loud: “Lahore–in Muslim Pakistan–has one of the largest, oldest, continuously operated red light districts in the world. (A bawdy editor penciled in, “La Whore.”) In some families, prostitution has been the family business for uncountable generations. No family member–male or female–is too young to serve in the family business. Lahore is the cultural capital of Pakistan.” (p. 40)
Marcus’ little internal dialogue — that’s very much what it reads like on paper — discusses so much that I frequently wanted to go back and re-read the last two or three pages to make sure I had fully absorbed everything on the pages before moving on. “The burkah is not Islamic. Muslims adopted that custom from a primitive tribe they converted to Islam.” Or that Mohammed married a 6-year old girl, but waited to consummate the marriage until she was nine. Or, that to prove rape, a woman must have four male witnesses. Or, how he came to travel to Pakistan in the first place — to play a horseback game called buz kashi (literally “goat snatching” — so named by Rudyard Kipling as a bizarre sort of horseback soccer involving a headless goat carcass and several dozen very angry horsemen. (Marcus excelled at the game when finally allowed to play.)
The book was so riveting for me I had to learn how to get the Adobe PDF version to download into my Palm Pilot so I could read it during pauses at stoplights. Timely, insightful, and engaging;
There’s an old tradition that the sophomore entry by an author or artist is usually somewhat lessened in comparison to the first effort. Sequels always pale in comparison to the first movies. The television series based on a popular movie is never quite as good as the movie.
The piece continues here