Category Archives: Books
Recently it seems that Barely adei has gone by without us obsessing over a certain recently-returned betortoise-shelled could-be hero. So today, or at least until Mona Shazly comes on at 10, we’re takng some time off to highlight several arts (mostly typography and graphic design) and literature blogs and sites we’ve recently had the pleasure of adding to our RSS reader or bookmarks bar.
These are topics about which we know relatively little, but please don’t allow our paucity of knowledge and the sins of omission it may have inspired get in the way of your visual or leitory pleasure.
We’re not sure if the vociferous response in the government press to Mohamed al-Baradei’s sounding out of a presidential run demonstrates a genuine fear that a credible candidate might emerge to take on the ruling dynasty, or simply a demonstration of the latest in kitchen sink technology, but we’re fairly certain he won’t win even if he does end up running. We do think, however, that if al-Baradei does run, then Mubarak the Elder will definitely run for another term rather than handing over the reins to Gamal, since the stature gap would be too large in a prospective al-Baradei-Gamal matchup. (Though we were already convinced the incumbent would run again, we’re even more convinced now.)
Another thing we’re not sure of is whether NDP politician Hossam Badrawi’s apparent revulsion at government press tactics in smearing al-Baradei was voiced out of a legitimate concern, or whether it was a calculated move in what will become a two-pronged strategy, in which the popular press attacks the would-be candidate while the “respectable” NDP welcomes his candidacy, but only if undertaken within the “constitutional framework,” which will never be altered to allow his candidacy anyway. We tend to agree with the latter part of the Arabist’s comment appended to this post (though we disagree with the first part), that al-Baradei represents the best chance in a while for a split to develop within elite opinion, which is why we’re fascinated by Badrawi’s intervention. Readers interested in the idea of elite defections and their possible consequences for democratization can read all about them in Jason Brownlee’s Authoritarianism in an Age of Democratization.
A couple weeks ago TBE added a Reading Material tab to our masthead, but additions to it don’t show up in Google Reader and maybe other RSS readers, and the tab’s contents have the potential to become quite unruly, so we’ve decided to publish occasional book reviews on the main page as well as adding them to the reading material section. In this edition: A new biography of Muhammad Abduh, Wolf Hall, Dialogues in Arab Politics and the effects of Turkish Islamists’ governance on women’s educational and professional attainment.
We’ve also added the “subscribe via email” button for which those who have not yet accommodated themselves to the brave new world of RSS have long been clamoring. It’s below the links.
Not exactly fresh news, but “Rob,” of Arabic Media Shack fame, is blogging again, this time at War and Peace. For those that don’t know, Rob is something of an iconoclast, and his thoughts and ideas are always worth reading. Our blogroll has been updated. Has yours?
We also added Chocolate & Zucchini to the food section. While not all of their recipes are really doable in Cairo, some of them are. Also we were just pondering why zucchini is one of those vegetables that is available all year round in Cairo, along with tomatoes, onions, potatoes and cucumbers. Why are some vegetables seasonal and others not in countries where the growing season lasts all year?
TBE has also added another tab on the top of the page, called “Reading Material.” Readers should know that this decision engendered a huge argument at TBE HQ. TBE’s Facebook editor argued that he finds those “What I’m Reading Now” applications to be insidious examples of intellectual one-upmanship, meant less to recommend books than to show off, and drew a parallel between those applications and our proposed new feature. Our Long Article and Book Reading correspondent offered a vicious riposte on TBE’s in-house listserv, attacking the vacuity of anyone whose career aspirations led them to become a “social media expert.” Despite recognizing our correspondent’s tactic as attacking the person making the argument instead of taking on the argument itself, we decided to humor him, at least temporarily.
Tilting at Straw Men; or, Upsetting the Apple Cart Before the Horse
As others who are much more knowledgeable about Arabic literature than us have already pointed out, a big chunk of the current issue of literary journal Public Spaces is devoted to young Egyptian writers. One thing we pondered while reading the lead article, which is the only content available online, is the interest in placing writers into distinct “generations” (not least by writers themselves, it seems) and the perceived need to frame the discussion politically. Not having the vocabularial fortitude to read Arabic literature in its native language, we’re ill-suited to analyze the issue (or even moreso than we usually are, as it were). But in the spirit of Einstein, we’ll do so anyway, if only as a means of taking a couple of our hobbyhorses for a stroll around the corral, and in hopes of gaining a larger audience for the journal and its featured authors in the days and years to come.