Two Novels, No John Wayne

images.jpgIf you’re from my generation, you grew up with the American heroics epitomized by John Wayne in The Sands of Iwo Jima. As a very young man my two favorite books were Battle Cry by Leon Uris and Valhalla by Jere Peacock. This idealist propaganda approach was effectively destroyed by exposure to the journalistic approach to the obscenity of the Vietnam War. Blame television. Add to this the Stanley Kubrick film—Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb—and generally I avoided war stories in text or film for the next fifty years.

Oh, there were certainly exceptions: I did read War and Peace … twice. War and Peace, however, was not a jingoistic American fairy tale.

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American Taliban

images-1You’re a young man who eschews walking in favor of a skateboard, who has a bevy of wahinis surrounding him when he surfs, who is blessed with a Washington D. C. family that is powerful and rich, who is allowed to delay college to find himself: his more spiritual side.

A High School theme paper and an interest in Arabic poetry lead him to a madrasa in Brooklyn where he starts to learn Arabic; then his friend and mentor at the school invites him for further study in Pakistan; then he discovers the erotic closeness of other men and goes off into the mountains to train and learn to improve his marksmanship. He does all of this in a romantic quest to be like Richard Burton and to live life to the fullest.

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The Blind Man’s Garden

Blind man's GardenWhen was the last time you read a novel where the exceptional Americans were not the heroes, or even heroic? If it has been some time you should consider reading The Blind Man’s Garden by Nadeem Aslam.

But don’t think Al Qaeda and the Taliban are the heroes in this excellent novel. What it expresses is the fundamental strengths of humans: love, family, food, loyalty, and spiritual awareness. The Taliban is forcing the Muslim population back into the 13th century, Al Qaeda is fomenting violence throughout the region and threatening to expand, and the American Gobots are trampling the culture and traditions of the countries they have invaded in their imperialistic zeal to make every do as America says.

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