Thursday, November 26, 2015

Give thanks not to be afraid

Photo by Sebastian Farmborough

     Happy Thanksgiving, but since I covered the holiday three different ways last year, I hope you'll forgive me if today we offer different, though still nutritious fare, for those who might have had their fill of turkey, stuffing, and the whole gluttonous carnival. 
     It's probably bush league of me, but I sometimes look to see who is following me on Twitter. Tuesday I noticed the addition of an English photographer, Sebastian Farmborough, and asked him if I could reproduce the above photo here, and he graciously agreed.
    The picture made me think of a column that ran five years ago in the Sun-Times, a reminder that pre-Paris, we were still trying to sort through our conflicted emotions about the emergence of Islam, and the idea of accepting people who look and think differently than ourselves. I believe it's even more relevant now than it was then, unfortunately. 
    And if you just HAVE to read something about Thanksgiving, well, here, and here and here.  Been there, done that.

     Fear is the emotion underlying everything. A primary instinct we share with animals -- I pad outside to retrieve the morning newspapers and catch a bunny unaware. He freezes, tracking me anxiously, then rockets away, his little heart hammering. I pick up the papers, smiling, because of course I mean him no harm. For a bunny, there is no downside to automatically fleeing humans -- much unnecessary leaping, perhaps. It is a survival mechanism, but so is my not being afraid of what doesn't pose a threat, the skill that allowed humans to slowly develop beyond isolated tribes, to work together and build this complex world of wonder we now enjoy. There are no wonders of the rabbit world besides underground burrows. But that's it.

                                                                    - - -

     My wife and I attended the 6th annual fund-raising dinner earlier this month for the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a group dedicated to thwarting the baseless fear that so rattled my rabbit friend. "I'm going to wear the long dress I wear to Hassidic weddings," my wife said beforehand, without irony. I said that sounded like a good idea.
     Some 1,500 guests attended the CAIR dinner, at the Drury Lane in Oak Brook. An older gentleman named Feteh Riyal -- a muezzin -- gave the call to prayer, eyes closed, hands pressed flat against the sides of his face, emitting long, plaintive tones I had never heard before. They were haunting, beautiful. The keynote speaker was Professor Tariq Ramadan, who had been banned from the United States for six years under George W. Bush's security state.
     I brought along a tape recorder "in case he said anything incendiary." But the speech centered on the moral duties of a Muslim to be an active part of the community and do good works. That didn't seem like news.
     To me, the most noteworthy moment came before the doors were opened. A hundred people were waiting -- men in suits, women in headscarves. Two couples walked up -- college boys in dark suits and their dates, a pair of gals packed into tiny black dresses. The girls looked almost naked among the colorful veils and modest leggings, and seemed to be constantly trying to tug their dresses over themselves.
     "I knew Islam was a big tent," I whispered to my wife. "But I didn't think it was that big a tent."
     Turns out the college couples were in the wrong place, here for a Sigma Chi dance in the ballroom next door. It's funny how the power of a majority works, because the Sigma Chi couples were suddenly the ones out of place, swimming against the cultural mainstream, and for the first time I grasped the perspective of women who dress in the modest Islamic manner and maintain that it is themselves who are the liberated ones.
     But that was subtle and not something I felt obligated to pass along to you. The next day, I began reading my e-mail, as I always do. But now the usual garbage seemed different, worse.

                                                                   - - -

     The e-mail was headed "Muslim Belief" and began, "This is a true story and the author, Rick Mathes, is a well-known leader in prison ministry."
     It describes how Mathes attended a training session at a state prison. A Muslim cleric outlines his beliefs, and Mathes challenges him. Isn't it true that "most Imams and clerics of Islam have declared a Holy war against the infidels of the world"?
     The imam admits it is.
     "Let me make sure I have this straight," Mathes continues. "All followers of Allah have been commanded to kill everyone who is not of your faith so they can have a place in heaven. Is that correct?"
     "He sheepishly replied, 'Yes.' "
     The story stank of fabrication, and a check of the debunking sign shows it's pure falsity -- the only true part is that Mathes wrote it.
     It's a lie. No such exchange took place. Yet the story has been circulating widely on the Internet for seven years.

                                                                - - -

    Tariq Ramadan spoke for 45 minutes and said, basically, that being a good Muslim means living in harmony with your neighbors and in doing good.
     "Spread peace," he said. "You are a people of peace. People of peace are going to face rejection and war, but this is not our objective. Our objective is peace. Any Muslim who tells you that you cannot love your neighbor, you have to say, 'You need to have a better understanding of Islam.' We are people who are spreading around a dignified way of life. . . . You are at home in this country. This is your home. The American people are your people. And anyone in a mosque who speaks of Americans as 'them' and not 'us' is the starting point of a problem."

                                                               - - -

     Why do Westerners succumb to anti-Muslim fear? It's a natural reflex -- certainly what terrorists expect when they claim their acts are in the name of Islam. They want to drive a wedge between the cultures, lest a harmonious blending undercut their extremism and deprive them of the enemy they crave. It's a partnership, the terrorists and the fear-mongers, working in harmony and tacit agreement.
     Actually, fear isn't the underlying instinct. Ignorance is. Fear is often ignorance in action. Rabbits are not smart animals, and so quick reflexes pass for philosophy. We humans are supposed to be brighter than that. I only wish you could have gone to the CAIR dinner with me and seen -- no offense -- the parade of unremarkable American normality that I saw; pleasant, concerned, decent people sharing a meal, albeit with a few more veils and skullcaps than are considered usual here at the moment. It will become much more common, and if that frightens you, you are being startled for no reason.

     —Originally published in the Sun-Times, April 19, 2010

    The photo atop the blog, "An Emerging Mystery," was taken by Sebastian Farmborough, an English photographer living in Dubai, who is chronicling the surprise and beauty of the Muslim world. You can learn more about him and his work here. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving incident at Trader Joe's

     My younger son came home from college Tuesday night, so Wednesday morning we go to Trader Joe's, to stock up on all the good stuff he likes, Cookie Butter and almond milk and protein bars  and what have you. As we're leaving, and being rung up by the cashier, the guy asks, "Lots of people for Thanksgiving?" and I say, "No, not really, 16," to which he replies, "Do you want to make it 17?" and looks at me meaningfully, a proposition which throws me, a little, at first, but I recover, and say, "Why, do you want to come?" Fairly naturally, as if I invite the clerk at Trader Joe's to my family holiday events all the time. And he takes a step back, and kind of waves it off, like it's a joke, perhaps saying words to that effect, I can't recall, only it's an odd joke, and I look at him, and he looks at me, neither of us saying anything, then I glance over at the line behind me, which suddenly seems considerable, and shifts, in a way I interpret as impatience.  So I grab my bag of groceries and flee, wishing him a Happy Thanksgiving over my shoulder, but also feeling like I am turning my back on him somehow.  Because how happy could it be if he has nowhere to go?
     In the parking lot I pause, and ask my son if perhaps the clerk really needs a place for Thanksgiving and perhaps we should just go back in and invite him over to our place, formally and sincerely, and which my boy rejects as just weird. "I'm a nice guy," I say, by way of explanation, or perhaps defensively, just to reassure myself, having just snubbed this poor fellow, which is not very nice at all, but even as I say it, I imagine telling my wife, "Hey honey, guess what? The cashier at Trader Joe's will be joining us for Thanksgiving—strange I know, but, hey, it seemed the thing to do and I hope you'll welcome him," and picture the cashier, still in his name tag, mingling with the family, awkwardly explaining himself, all the relatives who are tossing me confused inquiring looks, and that thought prompted me to the car though even as I drive away I am thinking that this is a lapse on my part, that I should have insisted the cashier come over for Thanksgiving, there would be plenty of food and he would be welcome and really isn't that what the holiday's all about?

Let's make the best out of that video!

     Rahm Emanuel began his first inaugural address, that long ago cloudless day in May 2011, by talking about the need to improve the schools, then quickly shifted to the violence plaguing the children attending those schools.
     "We must make our streets safer," he said, citing a grim toll that "shames the living" and "should prod all of us" to find ways to stem the bloodshed. He offered, as hope to the city, his new police superintendent, Garry McCarthy.
     "Our new police chief understands this," Emanuel said. "He is the right man at the right time for the right job."
     Now, four years later, the city is transfixed by the specter of police, who work for that right man at the right time, not as the solution to the slaughter of the city's children but as a cause of it.
     On Tuesday, Jason Van Dyke, 37, became the first police officer in 34 years to be charged with first-degree murder for a killing committed during the execution of his duties. He was charged with firing 16 shots into 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014, an act captured on the dashboard camera, a "graphic...violent...chilling" video, in the words of Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, bringing the charges just before the video is to be released. "This video will tear at the heart of all Chicagoans."
     Emanuel described the video as "hideous" without even seeing it, and tried to turn its release into a carnival of spin, hype and, ludicrously, hope, no doubt under his "let no crisis go wasted" philosophy. I couldn't be the only viewer watching the mayor tap dance Tuesday evening and think: "Just shut up already and release the video." Emanuel was trying to soften the blow, not to us, but to him. This makes him look bad or, rather, worse. Murders were up already — this September had 60 murders, making killings up 21 percent over the year before. Now, with the city reeling in horror, violence in Chicago is becoming the third leg in the tripod of Rahm's failure as a mayor, growing into stark relief in his second and almost certainly final term: inability to solve the pension crisis, the broken and deteriorating schools, and bloodshed that not only shatters families here but stains the city's reputation worldwide.
     Will the video spark riots that further besmirch Rahm's Chicago? Or just be an anti-climax after all that build-up? To say riots are coming could be the racism of low expectations. If African-American sections of Chicago rioted every time a cop did something wrong, it's all they'd ever do. Nobody rioted after a judge waved police officer Dante Servin out of a courtroom last April, explaining that he couldn't be found guilty of reckless conduct in shooting a 22-year-old unarmed woman, Rekia Boyd, in the back of the head, because he shot intentionally into the crowd where she was.
     People tend to do what's expected of them, and expecting unrest can be seen as a kind of permission, a loosening of standards. A number of community leaders sure sounded like they were already apologizing, already permitting. That's the reason sports championships often unleash violent mob behavior. People should be rejoicing, yet some see the victory as a suspension of the usual rules, a chance to act out however they please. It isn't just a poor black thing: after one Bulls championship, I watched a gang of white suburbanites turn over a cab on Rush Street. They did it a) because the cab was there and b) because the cops didn't try to stop them.
     Which brings up another factor possibly encouraging unrest. The charges being brought when they were is extraordinary timing, and it's hard not to view it as Alvarez's ham-handed attempt to quell trouble by throwing a cop under the bus. Though it might just as easily cause further violence. Because cops hate to see one of their brethren punished for anything, and typically respond with a collective sulk, pulling back and refusing to do their jobs out of the notion that nobody has their backs. "If every guy who makes a bad judgment call is charged with murder then why should we stick our necks out?" Small disturbances have a way of turning into big ones and if there is trouble, it won't be surprising if sluggish police activity is also a contributing factor. Afterward, we'll all pretend it was a surprise.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Length does matter


    My sentences can be very long.
    Well, not that one. Or the one after. Or ... oh hell, sometimes I can be cruising along, whipping in clauses and asides like a soda jerk piling hillocks of whipped cream and sprays of chopped nuts on a hot fudge sundae, and before I know it the short, simple sentence I wanted to craft—indeed, tried to craft, and would have crafted, had I been thinking—is lost and I'm snaking my way through some serpentine thought where even I've lost track of what it is I'm saying, or at least trying to say, and I wrote the damn thing, or, worse, am in the process of writing it and somehow can't stop because I'm afraid of placing that period and having to go back and see what I've done and make sense out of it.
     Must be from reading all that Proust as a young man, and Thomas Pynchon, and David Foster Wallace. Proust has a 900 word sentence in "Remembrance of Things Past." I'd repeat it here, but you'd never read it—I sure couldn't—so what would be the point? Which is the problem with long sentences. The mind drifts. The meaning is lost. Better. To. Break. Them. Up.

     Here's where a guy needs editor. When my fine editor at the paper, Bill, makes the weary walk to my office, half the time it's to suggest breaking up lengthy sentences into smaller, more digestible parts, and I invariably do. Here on the blog I'm on my own, except of course for readers who gamely point out errors, or what they think are errors, or at least raise the idea of errors without actually saying what they mean, which is maddening. But I try to notice when I'm period deficient, and keep it snappy.
     Even though I am guilty of the practice, frequently, I can still whistle through my teeth in derision seeing someone else do it. No flaws irk as much as flaws you yourself possess. I was reading about an upcoming trade show in Tokyo—don't ask why, I might have to go—and came across this description:

81st Tokyo International Gift Show ThemeTheme: Success Through Globalisation-model Manufacturing
Seriously considering, for the sake of the livelihoods and happiness of the people of our country and friendly overseas nations and territories beyond our borders, what kind of goods and amenities, after all, would be useful to them, and how those goods and amenities can be made desirable, devising in a space of free creative study solutions to problems, rather than being carried away by the quality optimization and safety of cutting-edge new technology.

      Wow, right? You would think any business entity producing some kind of international show and purporting to offer some thought in English would track down a native English speaker to render that into the vernacular. Tokyo must have its share.
     Then again, considering how many native English speakers are guilty of the same thing, I don't suppose we can fault the Japanese too much.
     In closing, knowing a challenge when I see one, I thought I should translate the 81st Tokyo International Gift Show's endless and almost incomprehensible blurb into graspable terms. What they're saying is: We're offering a space where people from Japan and abroad can come together and learn how to better sell stuff.
     I think that about covers it.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Decoding "Radical Islam"

     The danger that black gangs pose in Chicago is sadly familiar, as the murderous violence these black gangs commit shocks the city, but only momentarily, as the deaths caused by black gangs are forgotten and we move on to matters unrelated to black gang violence.
     Anything pop out of the above paragraph? Anything wrong with it? It's entirely true, but something jars, or should: my use of the word "black." The media doesn't describe the gangs on the South and West Sides as "black gangs" even though they certainly are, for a variety of good reasons, but primarily because it's irrelevant. Yes, the violence is an offshoot of African-American urban society, but so is the NBA, and violence is no more intrinsic to blackness than murdering people in Paris is intrinsic to the Germans.
     Did you think I was going to say Muslims? Sure, it's their turn, now, but laying the latest spasm of terror at the feet of Islam is as disingenuous a ploy as laying violence to black people, collectively, or to Germans. It's just a another slur clutched at by haters, with the cowardly escape clause that bigots use to try to shuck responsibility.
     This flies by many Republicans, who draw a line in the sand at Democrats' laudable, almost courageous refusal to indulge in their anti-Islam fear-mongering. Last week the Sun-Times published an op-ed, "Democratic candidates clueless even after carnage in Paris," decrying comments made at the most recent Democratic presidential debate, chiding Hillary Clinton for refusing to bind terror to Islam, as well as Bernie Sanders for steadfastly insisting that climate change is a far more deadly threat, which it is, as the next tsunami to wash away 100,000 people will remind us, and Martin O'Malley insisting that we continue to accept Syrian refugees despite the desires of ISIS.
     "The words spoken at Saturday night's debate will reverberate through the presidential campaign," the op-ed predicted.
     Let's hope so. Because panic ebbs, eventually, while truth abides.
     I began my career in advertising. And I learned that the direct route is not always the best in delivering a message, particularly one of dubious morality.
     Take the alcohol industry's oft-repeated, "Drink Responsibly." That's genius, because they realized that "Drink, damn you!" would draw criticism, So "Responsibly" is tagged on at the end in an attempt to obscure the important part: "Drink."
     With "Radical Islam," the opening word is the smokescreen. "Radical" is wrong, when you think about it. Being "radical" means hectoring your parents about Marx at Thanksgiving. Calling those who storm theaters and murder people "radical" is pallid, like calling those who blow themselves up in coffee shops "militants."
     But like "Responsibly," the word conceals. It's "Islam" that's the true message, the real reason Republicans make such a stink about it. The right side of our political spectrum is devoted to marrying Islam to terror, Which makes them on the same team as ISIS, because that's precisely why they commit these acts. Western culture is a big, warm, inclusive blob that absorbs and alters everything. Joan of Arc rides in, clad in armor, her eyes aglitter with passion for the Lord, and 500 years later, Miley Cyrus swings out, straddling a wrecking ball in her underwear. ISIS wants to separate Islam from the West, so men like them can be in charge forever and women never get to drive or sing. Thus they strike at the West in nihilistic acts of terror, counting on the Bruce Rauners of our nation to leap up and shout, "Golly, do we really want all these Syrians here?"
     Yes, yes we do. Because the way to manufacture patriotic Americans is by letting their grandparents into the country after their homelands go to hell. My grandfather, Irwin Bramson, didn't end up in a trench in Poland because a relative, Ira Saks, plucked him at age 15 out of the jaws of doom. So my mother, June, got to be born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1936, and not in Bialystok, Poland, where she'd end up another 5-year-old butchered by her neighbors.
     So yeah, I love America. Even though last week the House of Representatives passed a bill trying to choke off the trickle of Syrian refugees. I never saw Congress act so fast. What's the Warren Zevon song? "You're a whole different person when you're scared." The United States is a whole different country when it's scared. I barely recognize it, and can't wait until we recover our true selves. Because this isn't us.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Fear is easy; action is difficult

    Man, finding a place for Syrian immigrants to live is hard.
    A lot of readers challenged me last week with versions of Ken Racine's, "Too bad the 'refugees' won't be put in Northbrook," or sneeringly asking how I would feel if they were, to which I replied with some version of,
 "Great, I would feel great, a whole lot better than if I found myself living next to you.
     Looking up from these conversations, I  would gaze through the window of my home office. At the lovely, vaguely Dutch brick house kitty corner across First Street. Which is for rent. 
     Yes, it backs up against the train tracks. And yes, the basement floods with sewage —I've seen various residents drying their belongings. But it's got to be better than a tent city in Croatia. And Gov. Rauner's wishes to the contrary, this is still the United States of America, right? Once somebody gets into the country, they can live wherever they please. 
    Why not, I thought, smiling, invite some refugees to live here?  Why not put them up in the big honking house across the street?
    First I had to get through to the realtor and find out the particulars, the rent and such. The cheery red, white and blue RE/MAX sign had a name and two phone numbers.     
     I phone the top number. "Hold please," says a women. After a few minutes, I figure, "Try the cell.'" That immediately dumps to a message: the mailbox is full. 
    It'll take persistence to solve the refugee crisis. A third call to RE/MAX. "Hold please." A few more minutes. I ask for the realtor on the sign. And get transferred to the cell phone number that isn't taking messages.
   I take a break from phoning and entertain myself by reading more emails.
     "Do you understand how horrific these people are ??" writes Paul Vitaioli , a retired cop, referring, I think, not to real estate professionals, but to refugees. "You feel safe where you live? Do you have a family and young children? Or grandchildren?"

     He guesses my beliefs that America is a bastion of freedom which has always attracted the downtrodden of the world will crumble at a touch, like his.
    "Sit behind your comfortable desk and write about it," he scoffs. "When terror strikes the Midwest, then tell me your thoughts.... "

    "When terror strikes..."? I'd say terror is already here, inspiring a big old American panic. Odd; usually our panics are sexual. At least we're shaking it up, with good old fashioned fear for our safety. I've never heard from so many terrified Americans as I have in the past week. Begging the feds to tap our phones, read our emails, toss any freedom out the window if it dials back their fear.  And for God's sake, close the borders, keep the menace out, at least until some imaginary vetting process where the soul of each would-be immigrant is x-rayed by the FBI and certified 100 percent pure, like beef. A version of the first-we-secure-the-border gambit already so popular when discussing immigration, the Republican half clever strategy of demanding something impossible as a precondition for doing what is absolutely necessary. 
     Okay, enough of that. Back into the fray. Fourth time, I think, is the charm. I phone RE/MAX, don't ask for the realtor, Instead say I'm interested in renting the property on First Street. The whiff of business will snap them to action. I'll mention the Syrian refugees later. She puts me on hold, tries the number, confirms it isn't working.
     "His phone is shut off," she says. "He doesn't have a voice mail."
     And I bet this guy wonders why business is slow.
    Eventually, I convince the receptionist at RE/MAX to take my name and number — she's obviously reluctant, as if she knows nothing will come of it, which, indeed, nothing does. 
     Okay, there are other rental properties in Northbrook. Now what? The next step — probably what I should have started with all along — would be to contact whatever placement agency handles these refugee placements and see what their needs are. I can't be the only person who wants to help desperate refugees instead of throwing stumbling blocks in front of them. Then I'll be closer to finding out whether I was right guessing that any random refugee family would make a better neighbor than someone culled from the terrified herd of false Americans who have been bleating with self-concern all week. 
     I plug "Agency dealing with Syrian refugees Chicago" into Google and up pops something called RefugeeOne. So I phone them. And email. On Thursday. And again on Friday.
     Nothing. Hmmm. They're probably very busy ... ah ... helping people. I'll return to the battle on Monday, and keep you posted as to what, if anything, results. Fear is too easy, and doing anything constructive is hard. Maybe too hard.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

"They are essentially parasites"

I try to answer readers when they write. First, because it's the polite thing to do. Second, because it draws them into my oeuvre, creates loyalty, and encourages them to keep reading and third, and probably most important, in replying I form thoughts and turns of phrase that prove useful later on.
     I thought Mr. Gray's email, below, received Friday, presented a common enough perception that it is worth sharing. I'm not sure how completely I refuted him -- I know you can find examples I overlooked -- though I was pleased enough with it that I thought I'd repost it here.

Dear Mr. Steinberg:
     It is gratifying to know that we have some citizens, like yourself, who are idealistic, caring, & compassionate even though some of us think those attributes are misguided.
     Please don't equate the Muslims with the Jewish segments of society. Although Jews have endured harsh antisemitism, they continued contributing to society wherever they settled.     My uncles, George & Issac Adler, never accepted hand-outs or government largess. They, and their forefathers, were contributors & their values and culture were synonymous with those of society.
     Enlighten me if you will. Can you identify any Muslim contributions to the Arts, Literature, Humanities, or Science. Be they Syrians, Egyptians, Palestinians, etc., in my opinion, they are essentially parasites who would have us living in tents or log cabins and stoning or decapitating violators of the Koran.
    Historically the Muslims have exhibited enmity towards non-Muslims. They slaughtered Essenes at  Hebron (Tarpat) and more recently Coptic Christians. Muhammad himself would declare a truce when losing a battle only to rearm and restart the conflict. Consider that so-called exemplary Muslim, the devious Yasser Arafat who wore his gun to the Nobel ceremony. Their are countless examples of Muslim hypocrisy and heinous behavior but let me end this diatribe by saying, "Just as their is no peace in the Middle East, their will be no peace in America when Muslims become a dominant part of our society."
     Of course, this problem could be resolved if what that pompous and pedantic buffoon, Bernie Sanders predicts: Solving and eliminating global warming will conquer the growth of terrorism.

Sincerely, Eugene D. Gray

And my reply:

Dear Mr. Gray:

Sure. Enlightenment is my business. Well the Arts are easy enough—all you have to do is step into the Art Institute to see the exquisite calligraphy and illustration the Islamic world has created. Here is a link to the new gallery for Islamic art the museum has opened. 

   Literature, well, where to start? As a Dante fan, I know that Dante based a good part of his Inferno on Islamic eschatology. I assume you dismiss the old-school, 1001 Arabian Nights-type works, but you can't underestimate their influence on Western literature. The contemporary scene of course is rich -- I'm a particular fan of the Egyptian writer Andre Aciman*; I'd recommend his "Out of Egypt" if you are looking for a place to start. 
    I'm not sure what you mean by "Humanities" -- there is the organization CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations, which works to combat the kind of ill-informed bigotry reflected in your email. But bigger picture, there is the Judeo-Christian tradition, which came entirely out of the Middle East. Not to forget Islam itself, which has 1.2 billion adherents who use it to live ethical lives and understand their world, the overwhelming majority of whom do not exhibit the kind of behavior you would use to indict them all. As for Science, well, there's algebra, tself an Arabic word, al jabr and other mathematical inventions—not recent, true, but of such supreme importance; they gave us our numerical system itself, remember, "Arabic numbers" —that we can give a pass to their recent retreat from the world's technological stage. Plus music, fashion, and don't forget food. 
     I imagine that none of these facts will change your thinking one iota, since you clearly seem to be a person who is not sifting facts and drawing conclusions, but rather have drawn your conclusions and are cherry-picking facts to back them up. But remember, it isn't because the reality is not out there, but because you refuse to see it, for reasons which I could hazard a guess at, but won't.
     Still, thanks for asking. I certainly benefited from answering your question; whether you will benefit too, well, that's your business.


* I don't know why I didn't think of this writing my reply, but Andre Aciman is Jewish; I knew that, having read the book, but I thought of him as Egyptian, a mistake the Egyptians perhaps would not make. Had I given this more thought, I'd have picked Naguib Mahfouz, the Egyptian existential novelist who most certainly is Muslim and who won the Nobel Prize in literature in 2008, one of those small details that escaped Mr. Gray's attention. And no, Gray did not reply. I find that these people, when confronted, just hurry on, eager to find shiny surfaces that better reflect their fixed ideas.