Sunday, October 5, 2008


'We are a split people. For myself, half of me wishes to sit quietly with my legs crossed, letting the things that are beyond my control wash over me. But the other half wants to fight the holy war. Jihad! And certainly we could argue this out in the street, but I think, in the end, your past is not my past and your truth is not my truth and your solution- it is not my solution. So I do not know what it is you would like me to say. Truth and firmess is one suggestion, though there are many other people you can ask if that answer does not satisfy. Personally, my hope lies in the last days. The prophet Muhammad- peace be upon Him!- tells us that on the Day of Resurrection everyone will be struck unconscious. Deaf and dumb. No chit-chat. Tongueless. And what a bloody relief that will be. Now, if you will excuse me."

________Samad Iqbal from White Teeth by Zadie Smith
April 18, 2008 by Hollis Brown Thornton

Dearest _ _ _ _ _ _,

I have only one reason to write, though confess I feel a tad guilty doing so because I owe _ _ _ _ an email. Is it safe to consider you both one unit?, at least, in a way... I mean, the whole Institution of Marriage way (capitalized to denote reverence and respect and due fear... with a bit of exasperated breathlessness from uttering it which makes all unpreviously married people feel immediately so juvenile in Its presence).

Also White Teeth, which you suggested I read many months ago and I have finally found myself in a stable enough place to manage. What can I say about it? Firstly, I should say nothing, because I am only midway, and judgement is best reserved for never, and critical analysis best reserved for some 52 hours after completing the last page... after there has been time for the dust of it to settle. I am not in love with it. I do not dislike it either... I find it is slowly becoming more and more interesting- which is ok. Due to my patience, and my stubborn insistence that I finish, cover-to-cover, every book I begin, it is an ok thing for books to grow on me gradually.

I find the theme of colonial identity saddening- but not in a pleasant way, not like... 'lost-love sadness' which is sweetened with nostalgia. Immigrant identities are a little too close to home. Myself, though I thought myself so identified, I find at 25 thoroughly unraveled, and it is a difficult age (both in physical years and in sociocultural settings) to be without an identity.

The problem with me is the Australia-America divide. The religious divide, the physical appearance divide, the divide of intellectual aptitude in a proletariat world (translation: a Flaubert fan in an MTV world), and the historical divide, the diaspora divide, the persianism-westism divide, so many divisions. Very high, this tall building. Quite windy at the top. (and lonely often.

So it is, that this book traces a great colonizing country, on its own turf, seen from the point of view of an immigrant and a native, both in a way don't fit- but one far more than the other. An entire book of misfits. And the divisions continue- husband and wife, generation from generation, language, religion- all too close to home. I find sometimes, when something is too close to home (even if it is not, but reminds me of other things that are), I become complacent with the book. A slow reader. Unaffected. Unnerved a little. Labored. Unrelating to the characters. Uncaring about the circumstances. This happened with Ulysses many times (and I could not understand why, till I read an essay by someone who said they could not stand it because it made them feel so Homeless, and thought 'YES!, it is that!').

And so, for the homeless, it is hard to read about homeless situations.

The writing is good, i'll give her that. I love the colloquialism of it. The occasional variance. It is not quite as modern as I love (think Safran-Foer), and not quite as magical and unreal as i love (Marquez, or Murakami), but it is thoughtful, and hectic enough to be real- and it is an Epic, when I expected something smaller. It is because an Epic world (many Epic worlds) (soo many epic words, each stuck within their own) have been trapped in a small space. Too small. A tiny piece of London-Town. And all clawing at its borders to try and expand it. to find a shadow to call their home, and... some failing more than others.

(and if not London, then for me it is Adelaide, or Haifa, or Los Angeles, or Brisbane, or soon to be Gold Coast- the Redux) (and shadows are strongest in summer, which approaches me with its white teeth and white apron and the glare of her knife and fork, and which i find, for once, welcoming, in a sadomasochistic sense- since I have a cold that will not dissipate, and frozen fingers which i cannot touch people with because they recoil). (and i claw at my borders on the inside too, since i am as diffident, quiet, frightened, and too-aware as i have ever been, and freedom is only an eye's length from me,
a twist of vision,
a contortion of thought.
(as it is for the Iqbal's and Archie and their messed up half-breed children)

(but I'll let you know if i loved it or not, when it is all over)

hope all is well with the both of you,
much love

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