Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Books for Thought

I love reading The Guardian because as a former New Yorker I am pretty New York Times centric and so when I occasionally shell out the 3.80 Euros for the weekend edition of the Guardian it is always a breath of fresh air and new perspective. For instance, two really interesting articles from the Saturday, October 6th edition in the Book Review:

Under ‘Biography and Memoir’: “The Original Bridget Jones,” (a descriptive I can’t stand because I only saw the movie which was a disgrace to anything resembling feminism and courage), is the biography of Katherine Whitehorn, titled “Selective Memory.”

Katherine Whitehorn was a lifelong journalist at a time when many women were shoved in the background and not allowed the real opportunities they are more often allowed now. She was a rebel, leaving school early, and in the 1950s hitchhiking around Europe and road tripping across America with boyfriends, when in the early1960s she began to accumulate several columns for writing, one of the first, for the Observer, where she wrote for many years, was about Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique.”

On the opposite page sits ‘a life in writing,’ an interview with former nun turned writer Karen Armstrong, who, as the header describes, “has dedicated her life to the study of humanity’s search for God.” She entered the convent at 17 full of hope and conviction and left at 24 filled with frustration and disillusionment at which point, thank God, she began writing. Her life of isolation that was to be in the convent is now spent in her home where she basically translates and explains religious texts and history, one of the most important titled “The History of God, A Short History of Islam and The Battle for God,” which since 9/11 has thrown her into the limelight as it provides a reading and understanding of a religion that most in the West fear without knowing and perhaps fear knowing because of the current trend to think of it is as the enemy.
In the Muslim world she is revered for helping to spread understanding of their religion, which is not based in fanaticism and hatred; she was recently given an award from President Mubarak of Egypt. And in the West she is revered because she provides a voice of reason on the subject of Islam, among so many talking heads and so much anger. She will have a post at Harvard this fall. Her newest book is titled “The Bible: the Biography,” in which she explores such themes as the “role of myth in articulating religious and spiritual truth as opposed to factual truth.”

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