An illuminating memoir of an American abroad that captures Arab and Israeli relations at a particular moment in time.

READ REVIEW

THE FALCON DIARIES

AN AMERICAN IN JORDAN

In this memoir, Lodge (The Lodge Women, 2014) recounts her immersion in the culture and politics of the Arab Middle East during a year in Amman, Jordan.

In 2006, Lodge, scion of the famous Boston family of politicians and diplomats, was invited to join her husband, Bob, in Amman. For the past three years, Bob had lived in that city serving as a consultant for a European electrical consortium operating in Iraq. Despite the dangers—Bob had only recently survived a suicide bombing at an Amman hotel—Lodge decided to make the move: “I felt it would be better to worry with him than without him,” she writes. Although the author and her husband would remain in Jordan for eight years, it was the first year that affected her most profoundly, exposing her to a cosmopolitan Arab society that she’d never known in the West. While Bob concentrated on his work in Iraq, Lodge took Arabic lessons and made friends with her neighbors in Jordan, many of whom were Palestinians whose families were displaced during the conflicts of 1948 and 1967. Her book is a month-by-month account of that first year from the spring of 2006 to the spring of 2007, recording her travels and encounters with Jordanians, Palestinians, Iraqis, and others, learning their family histories and their perspectives on contemporary politics. During a trip to Jerusalem and Ramallah, Lodge was able to witness how different religions, cultures, and governments interacted at checkpoints, in temples, during holidays, and in different languages. Lodge’s narration is characterized by a clipped, somewhat scattered prose style, typical of a diarist, as she recounts anecdotes from journeys and conversations: “Lebanon is in many ways the sister country to Jordan, with most of the elite here, all my female friends, having gone to the American University of Beirut. I celebrate when they celebrate. I mourn when they mourn.” Along the way, Lodge’s memoir interpolates numerous bits of history that illuminate the backstories of the places she goes and the people she meets. The book concludes with a pair of interviews that she conducted at the time—one with the King of Jordan’s uncle, Prince Hassan; the other with the Israeli Ambassador to Jordan, Jacob Rosen—and she effectively highlights their divergent views on the history and future of Arab-Israeli relations. Although she addresses topics that have already inspired a vast library’s worth of volumes, Lodge’s clear interest in the Arab side of the story—as an American civilian who was previously unfamiliar with that perspective—helps this work to stand out in that crowded field. It’s clear that the author is passionate about her subject, rooted as it is in her personal life. Although the book has some inherent limitations, given the author’s perspective as an outside observer, it offers many insights into the Jordanian point of view that readers may not have encountered elsewhere.

An illuminating memoir of an American abroad that captures Arab and Israeli relations at a particular moment in time.

Pub Date: May 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-692-10011-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

more