In Search of Islam


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“Among the Believers” was written by Naipaul in 1981. Today’s needull is a a review of the book. Many do not agree with Naipaul’s views but almost all agree that he is a great writer.

All four of them, like so many others they stand for, bring to their religion and tradition modern demands and anxieties. This creates pressures, for today’s needs are great. The outside world at once tempts and threatens Moslems. Many of them enter that world, but they can enter it only partly. When they fail to deal with it, they retreat into their shell. When they surrender to it, guilt seizes them. In Naipaul’s words: ”In the fundamentalist scheme the world constantly decays and has constantly to be re-created. The only function of intellect is to assist that re-creation. It reinterprets the texts; it re-establishes divine precedent. So history has to serve theology, law is separated from the idea of equity. …”

This theme comes close to being Naipaul’s central theme, and in dealing with it he lets his personal feelings get in the way of his presentation. He chides Moslems for being ”made” by the Western world they reject. Instead of trying to understand these people, Naipaul is ready to judge them. In his desire to discover their hidden vulnerabilities and point out their contradictions, their need for outside goods and outside approval, he tends to miss the drama and the real meaning of their situation. He forgets that it is part of the painful process of history that people are always made by the world they reject and that the rage at it they express is in large measure rage at themselves.

The complete article

Fouad Ajami — The New York Times

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‘Sex and the City’ in Hell


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Based on the novel by Australian writer Liane Moriarty and adapted by David E. Kelley and Jean-Marc Vallée, Big Little Lies portrays a group of women whose privileged lives are, predictably, neither as easy nor as enviable as they might appear. As Madeline, Reese Witherspoon—projecting herself into the world like something shot from a cannon—faces a host of first-world problems: her tense relationship with her ex-husband and his sexy young yoga-instructor wife; her resentful teenage daughter; her sweet but boring second husband; and the resultant frustrations that she passionately channels into a community-theater production of the musical Avenue Q. Her friend Celeste (Nicole Kidman) has given up a law career to raise twin sons and placate her husband Perry (Alexander Skarsgård), a man whose attractiveness and charm conceals the soul of an abusive, controlling psycho.

The complete article

Francine Prose — The New York Review of Books

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IS TRAVEL WRITING DEAD?


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Granta has published answers from various writers to the question — Is travel writing dead? I liked Karan Mahajan’s piece as it talks about blurring of nation state boundaries to create a new kind of space.

The second thing about modern travel writing: I am tired of the nation state. I grew up in India and moved to the US when I was seventeen; for the last fifteen years I have ping-ponged haplessly, crazily, self-destructively, between countries, unable to a choose one place over the other, always missing or mourning one when I should be enjoying where I was. In my mind, India and the US are two incommensurate universes – places where not only the air, water and food differ, but I, by association, change as well. I see them not as part of a continuum of humanity but as levels in a video game I must leap between – quantum states, almost.

The complete article

Granta — Karan Mahajan

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VERNON SULLIVAN: THE BESTSELLING WRITER WHO DIDN’T EXIST


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This is one of the most interesting needulls that I have come across in a long time. I am truly fascinated by writers who manage to create an authentic persona just on the basis of secondary research.

I Spit On Your Graves marked the emergence of a beautifully corrosive African-American author, given full expression, as Chester Himes later would be, in France, except that, as it turned out, there was no Vernon Sullivan. He didn’t exist. For all its bitterness about race and racism, the novel was the work of a white man, its supposed translator, Boris Vian. And Vian had never even been to the United States. In contrast to his fictional creation, a black man who passes as white, Vian adopted a black persona, and his literary hoax, at least at first, succeeded. French readers thought Vernon Sullivan was real. They didn’t suspect Vian had done more than “translate” and supply the book’s informative preface. But who was Boris Vian exactly, and why had he perpetrated the hoax? What lay behind what now would be rightly called an egregious act of cultural appropriation?

The complete article

Scott Adlerberg — Literary Hub

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Jane Austen: Galloping girl


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Jane Austen wrote fast and died young. Her life on paper may have spanned three decades, but all six of her celebrated novels made their public appearance between 1811 and 1817. The phrase “tell-tale compression,” self-consciously applied by the narrator towards the end of Northanger Abbey (1817), captures something of Austen’s authorial career, too. Indeed, in her case it is appropriate that the word “career” can mean a short gallop at full speed, as well as the potentially slower progress of an individual’s working life. Novelists are more usually seen as long-distance runners than as sprinters, and Austen’s mature fiction has been cherished for the gradual emergence into consciousness of its heroines’ thoughts and feelings. Yet speedy progress—described in Emma (1815) as the “felicities of rapid motion”—remained central to this writer’s craft from start to finish.

The complete article

Freya Johnston — Prospect

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The Top 3 Most Effective Ways to Take Notes While Reading


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Normally, I don’t recommend any needull with lists. But, I like Farnam Street and what they suggest on effective ways to take notes while reading makes sense to me. But, for this you will have to have your own copy of the book 🙂

There are three steps to effectively taking notes while reading:

  1. At the end of each chapter write a few bullet points that summarize what you’ve read and make it personal if you can — that is, apply it to something in your life. Also note any unanswered questions. When you’re done the book, put it down for a week.

  2. Pick up the book again and go through all your notes. Most of these will be garbage but there will be lots you want to remember. Write the good stuff on the inside cover of the book along with a page number.

  3. Copy out the excerpts by hand or take a picture of them to pop into Evernote. Tag accordingly.

The complete article

Shane Parrish — Farnam Street

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John Steinbeck on the Loneliness of Success and His Surprising Source of Self-Salvation


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This needull is about John Steinbeck, the writer of The Grapes of Wrath.

The loneliness and discouragement are by no means a thing that has passed. In fact they seem to crowd in more than ever. Only now I can’t talk to anyone much about them or even admit having them because I now possess the things that the great majority of people think are the death of loneliness and discouragement. Only they aren’t. The last time I saw Chaplin (this don’t repeat please but it is a part of the same thing) it was the night when the little lady [Paulette Goddard] was leaving him for good. And he said, “When I get this picture opened and all the formal things done, can I please go up to your ranch and kick all the servants out and just talk a little bit quietly about how lonely and sad I am? It will be self indulgence but I’d like to do it.” He is a good little man. And he knows so much better than I do the horrors of being a celebrity.

The complete article

Maria Popova — brainpickings

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