Sunday, March 20, 2011


I found myself recently reading Caspian Rain, by Gina B Nahai, because somehow or other, the subject of Jewish Iranians came up at work. It happens that I work with a number of Iranians, and for some reason or other someone non-Iranian was saying something like, "But you don't have Jews in Iran, do you," and I thought, "How ignorant," and one of the Iranians proceeded to set this fellow straight on the matter. But it made me think, how did I know this, and is this a common piece of knowledge or is it privileged, and how did I come by this knowledge?

And I remembered having read Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith, by Gina B Nahai, the story of a Jewish family living in the ghetto of Tehran, with a twist of magic realism about it. That's about all I remember about the book. That and the fact that I loved it, and oh, how it made me cry and cry and cry. I wept oceans reading that book, that summer. That was just about the time I figured out I was pregnant.

So I wondered what else she may have written, and thus I embarked upon Caspian Rain. I enjoyed it, but I can't really recommend it.

I love it for the glimpse it gives of Iranian Jewish life at a certain time and place, that place otherwise being a relatively inaccessible and mysterious one. I have a thing for the Middle East, which isn't entirely logical or explicable. I have little to no interest in the politics and history of the region. It's not exactly the "culture" that I'm drawn to, though it's to do with a poetic and storytelling tradition. A thousand and one nights, and all that. A sense of exoticism that may not be founded in anything real.

Anyway, Caspian Rain starts off as a kind of love story, and it's lovely, pushing all the right buttons with me. The narrator relates the story of her parents. About halfway through, the novel turns to centre around the narrator herself, the hardships she's suffered as a result of her parents' relationship being so strained but also because of her medical difficulty (well, let's just call it that for the sake of expediency). And then it felt like the novel was trying to be two different stories, and they just didn't work that well together. And it felt like the author was trying too hard to be poetic and vague and deep, and it stopped working for me, and the last page was terrible.

I'm currently reading A Polish Book of Monsters. I have mixed feelings about it so far, and I suspect I'll have a lot to say about it when I'm done, not least being regarding the problem of how one defines "monster."

Also, I've spent far too much time this weekend considering what ebook I should use my coupon to acquire. Should I actually get the book my boss recommended to me? I finally decided yes, because so many other people had esteemed it, and because it's set in an ad agency, which fact I hadn't recalled from the original commotion surrounding this novel but is a selling point with me. But then no, because the coupon couldn't be used for books from this publisher, so I could buy this book at any time, I wouldn't be saving any money by doing it today. (But I did buy some Polish noir.)

I'm missing loving a book right now. I need a book to really love.

But I found a plant for my office. And mostly I'm happy I spent most of my weekend hanging out with the kid, shopping for rainboots and almonds.

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