Nabokov (who wrote the banned book Lolita) once said: “A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader.”
Here at Guernica, celebrating Banned Books Week has meant many nostalgic trips to the book store. (And helped us to finally become, ahem, major readers.) Here’s a list of stuff we re-read this week that we know you’d also enjoy:
The Color Purple - First you read the book. Then you watch the movie. Then you go see the musical—touring since 2005.
The Master and Margarita—To quote professor Woland, “Didn’t you know that manuscripts don’t burn?” In other words: you can’t keep a banned book down.
Bridge to Terabithia—This made us cry when we were 12. It still does. Make sure to keep some kleenex handy.
Beloved—Packs the same emotional wallop it did in 9th grade. Like Beloved herself, not something one can put down and walk away from.
The Satanic Verses—Salman Rushdie’s masterpiece is a literary work with street cred. In 1989 a fatwā was placed on Rushdie’s head, and it was not until 1998 that the Iranian government revoked the threat. Rushdie seemed to be living a fictional life—a fact that he recognized and promptly wrote down. His latest book, Joseph Anton: A Memoir, details that bizarre and terrifying period of his life. Fun fact: the title of the new memoir is the alias Rushdie resumed for police protection, a combination of the first and last name of his two favorite writers—Conrad and Chekhov.
Tropic of Cancer—Let’s just say we learned some slang. Let’s just say that.
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven—Sherman Alexie proves that when poets write in long form, things get interesting. And beautiful. And wild. This collection of short stories reads like a seamless novel.
And who can resist Judy Blume’s Forever, which taught more than a few of us more than a little bit about sex? We sure can’t.
Awesome! Former PEN intern and volunteer extraordinaire Humera Afridi just had a piece published in Guernica Mag.
On the night of October 8th, I sat on the floor of Dergah Al-Farah, the Sufi mosque in Tribeca, contemplating the Divine name, Ya Jabbar, that translates from the Arabic as “Bonesetter,” or “Healer of Fractured Existence.” Ya Jabbar… Ya Jabbar… I muttered, riveted by the alchemical potency of the incantation. It felt apt. Seven years ago, on this day, a massive earthquake devastated great swathes of Northern Pakistan and Kashmir. Eighty thousand people died; whole villages toppled off mountain facades; dead buffaloes floated in the Jhelum River and the landscape, cracked and split into so many fissures, was transformed into a series of twisted, gaping smiles.
Sufi mystics believe we can actualize the Divine attributes, that the power to do so resides within each one of us. I reflected on the tragedy and marveled at how the disaster of 2005 had, indeed, for a while united Pakistanis in an unprecedented way. Unity, Faith and Discipline, the founding pillars of the nation that had rung hollow for decades, were dynamically revivified as the country contended with infrastructural damage and the emergency needs of 3.5 million displaced citizens before the imminent onset of winter. Mullahs, progressives, women, men and militants sublimated their differences and got to work rebuilding. In a feudal and tribal culture that places great value on the ideal of honor, it was the honorable thing to do. The country was a heap of broken bones but the bones were being realigned. In the shattering, a new potential had been born.
We spoke on the phone not long after Veselka had accepted the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize awarded to a fiction debut. Her searing essay about the years she spent hitchhiking as a teen and the run-in she had with a possible serial killer had just come out in GQ. She’d completed a trilogy of short stories that explores how a voice changes over time—the first had been published in Tin House’s Portland-Brooklyn issue and the remaining two were forthcoming in Zzyzzyva and Swink. With so much on the horizon, Veselka was contemplating tossing her hat back in the agent-editor ring, willing to take on the potential pitfalls and possible gains of a relationship she’d shucked. Though she would say little about the new novel she is working on beyond the fact that it deals with a question that’s been occupying her thoughts, it was clear that, as with all that had come before, she was determined to follow her own instincts. To do it the hard way.