An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alammedine, a Review

72 year old Aaliya Saleh has only one mirror in her apartment, and it is smudged. “I don’t think we need to consult Freud or one of his many minions to know that there’s an issue here,” she says. “I begin this tale with a badly lit reflection.” But it is clear enough for her to see that she has unwittingly dyed her white hair, blue. Aaliya has lived alone in her apartment in Beirut for all of her adult life. She is divorced and childless, the ‘unnecessary appendage’ of her family. Alone in her apartment, Aaliya reads the hundreds of…

Review: Dani Shapiro, Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life

Dani Shapiro is the writing mentor I wish I had. In her memoir – Still Writing: the Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life – Shapiro, a writer as well as a teacher of writing, describes the simple act of sitting down to write. How can someone read (let alone write) an entire book about this? Try it, and the simple act of sitting down to write can encompass the entire world. In chapter-snippets from Reading and Patience to Cigarette Break and Envy, Shapiro explores the formidable space between the desire to write and the repeated act of putting words down…

Reading a Book is like Falling in Love

I love serendipitous moments. While I was reading a book and falling a love with it, the character in my book described reading a book and falling in love with it. And it was during Ramzan (or Ramadan as it is known in the Arab world.) Why is that last part relevant? Read the beautiful passage below. The book is Rabih Alameddine’s An Unnecessary Woman, a portrait of a 72 year old woman living alone in Beirut. Ah… the deliciousness of discovering a masterwork. the beauty of the first sentences, the “what is this?,” the “how can this be?,” the first crush…

Book Review: Ursula Le Guin’s The Earthsea Quartet

I confess. I read the Earthsea Quartet because of a quote on the cover of the new edition. (The cover also looked more ‘literary’ and less ‘genre’ – and that appealed to me, although I’d like to believe it didn’t.) The quote read: “J.K. Rowling can type, but Le Guin can write.” An unfair quote, but it appealed to me because I read the first Harry Potter book and failed to get caught up in Rowling’s world (though I have seen every movie.) But as I started reading Earthsea, I was struck by the beauty of the writing. And it wasn’t just about the…