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Tipper posted a blog post

When You Get in the Habit of Saying the Same Thing

Have you ever been around someone who used the same word or words in every sentence? Years ago, I was introduced to a man who at the end of every sentence said and what not. I remember being obsessed with listening to him. I wanted to see if just once he wouldn't say and what not. It never happened. He said the phrase at the end of every sentence just like clock work.A few other habitual sayings I've…See More
Thursday
Bil Stahl updated their profile
Feb 17
Ann Miller Woodford posted an event
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Ann Miller Woodford at Gospel Singing program: Liberty Baptist Church, Sylva, NC & Exhibit; WCU Mountain Heritage Center

February 19, 2017 from 3pm to 5pm
WCU's Mountain Heritage Center and curator, Ann Miller Woodford, will present an exhibit on African-American far western NC community, music, and history, based on Ann’s book, When All God's Children Get Together: A Celebration of the Lives and Music of African American People in Far Western North Carolina.The exhibit is based upon Woodford’s book of the same name, which examines musical traditions of the African-Americans as practiced at home, work, churches and schools.The exhibit examines…See More
Feb 16
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Feb 15
Rob Neufeld posted blog posts
Feb 15
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy Rytson

Tyson’s Emmett Till book probes darknessby Rob NeufeldEVENT: Timothy Tyson discusses his book, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 6 p.m., Wed., Feb. 15.  828-254-6734.             The headline about the publication of Timothy Tyson’s new book, “The Blood of Emmett…See More
Feb 13
Tipper posted a video

Kudzu Kickers - Waltz Clog

In case you didn't know-we dance too! Our clogging team is called the Kudzu Kickers. In this video we were practicing for an upcoming festival. The Pressley ...
Feb 11
Tipper posted a blog post

Memories and Food

Each of us have memories that are connected to food. Typically those remembrances are directly related to our childhood, you know the things we ate around the family table like the chocolate gravy I told you about earlier this week.A few years ago I…See More
Feb 11
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Feb 8
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Jewish Studies special events March 23-26

Center for Jewish Studies 35th Anniversary Events from press releaseUNC Asheville’s Center for Jewish Studies (CJS) will celebrate its 35th anniversary with a series of special events on and off campus March 23-26. Rick Chess talk and readingUNC Asheville Professor of English Richard Chess has been director of the CJS for the past 25 years and will deliver the 2017 Phyllis Freed Sollod Memorial Lecture on the celebration’s opening night. A poet and essayist, Chess will offer a vision of Jewish…See More
Feb 7
Julia Nunnally Duncan updated their profile
Feb 7
David E. Whisnant updated their profile
Feb 6
Rob Neufeld posted blog posts
Feb 4
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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David Joy Presents His Second Novel at Jackson County Public Library

March 3, 2017 from 6:30pm to 8pm
The Jackson County Public Library and City Lights Bookstore are co-hosting an event with David Joy on Friday, March 3rd at 6:30 p.m. He will present his second novel, The Weight of This World, in the Community Room of the Jackson County Public Library. Set in the Little Canada community of Jackson County, The Weight of This World is a story of three people haunted by their past. A combat veteran returned from war, Thad Broom can’t leave the hardened world of Afghanistan behind, nor can he…See More
Feb 4
Tipper posted a blog post

Hiccup Cures

Do you ever get the hiccups? Every once in a while I do. If I have them once during a day-I always have them again before the day is over. My record is 5 different times in one day.We've all heard drinking water or holding your breath is the remedy to stop hiccups. According to John Parris saying this tongue twister will cure them:Hickup, snicup, rise up, right up! Three drops in the cup are good for…See More
Feb 4
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The German experience settling WNC

The German migration to Western North Carolinaby Rob Neufeld PICTURE CAPTION: An immigrant family comes down the Philadelphia Wagon Road in the mid-18th century, as had the George Schuck family done, and as this Scots-Irish family is doing in an 1872 “Harper’s Weekly” illustration, titled, “The…See More
Feb 3

Atheist believes in genies, novel reveals

by Rob Neufeld

 

            Salman Rushdie’s latest novel—“Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” (1,001 nights)—has permitted me to come up with a headline as wild as the one above because the book is so exuberantly and infectiously surreal.

            The novel, set in the future, looks back at the present time, when a worldwide cataclysm has opened a barrier that has existed between humans and spirits for a millennium; and all kinds of genies are popping up with their own agendas.

            In one scene, Dunia, a female genie, or jinnia, as Rushdie spells it, comes to Mr. Geronimo, an inexplicably levitated man floating above his bed, and informs him, “The fairy world is real...but it does not follow that God exists.  On that subject I am as skeptical as you.”

            Meanwhile, outside the bedroom, malicious jinn (that’s the plural form of the Arabic word) are making monstrous war on humans at the behest of Ghazali, a millennium-dead radical fundamentalist.  Religion has suddenly become wildly popular.

            “Just as I suspected,” Ghazali says.  “Fear drives men to God.”

 

Check out the no-earlobe guys

 

            The above subhead was another attention-getter I considered for the main headline because I found it hard to get over the fact that the descendants of Dunia and her 12th century human lover, the philosopher, Ibn Rushd, are genetically marked by earlobe-lessness

            Ibn Rushd, by the way, is a real historical figure, otherwise known as Averroes, who sought to reconcile the Muslim religion with reason—in opposition to Ghazali, who sought to demonstrate the failings of reason.

            You’ve got to love the way Rushdie loves up his namesake—flabby old body and all—totally in line with his main theme.  But the no-earlobe thing, it seems forced, like the sticking-out pinky-fingers that aliens couldn’t hide in the 1960s TV show, “The Invaders.”

            Rushdie doesn’t reference “The Invaders,” but his fertile mind introduces dozens of other cultural icons, both scholarly and pop, into the narrative.  If you’re going to go through the looking glass like Alice (who is referenced), you might as well have the time of your life seeing familiar names in odd contexts.

            During “The War of the Worlds”—the apocalyptic battle between dark jinn and Dunia’s humanized brood—absurdity reigns.  Not just Geronimo’s feet-off-the-ground problem, but also a baby that causes skin rot on knaves, a giant that bites off a man’s head like Saturn in the Goya painting, and many other jaw-dropping unrealities.

            “In a French town the citizenry began turning into rhinoceroses.” (That’s a Eugene Ionesco reference.)  “A Russian official lost his nose and then saw it walking around St. Petersburg by itself.” (That’s from a Nicolai Gogol story.)  A Spanish lady has her eyeball sliced while gazing at the moon; and ants crawl out of a hole in a man’s palm. (Both of those things occur in Luis Buñuel’s film, “Un Chien Andalou.”)

            These impossibilities are the result of jinnterferrence.  (I am allowed to use such wordplay because Rushdie does, too, as in his adjective describing people who have lost their homeland and identity: “Lebanonymous.”)

            You have to admire all the tools that Rushdie puts at his disposal, including humor.

            Hugo Casterbridge, a composer and essayist who has gone from being an atheist to a believer in divine retribution, publishes an article that reinterprets the Bible.

            “On the day that Adam and Eve invented god,” Casterbridge writes, “they at once lost control of him.”  God was furious.  “‘How did you come up with the idea of me,” (God) demanded, “who asked you to do that?’ and he threw them out of the garden, into, of all places, Iraq.”

            Rushdie’s style—some call it postmodernism; some, magical realism—is right for the times.  We are inundated with information, stunned by how history is going, and needing to capture people’s attention, so we better come up with a form that clicks.

            “These are days of miracle and wonder,” Paul Simon sings—and we might add, Instagram and Tinder, which means I better make every sentence of this review a humdinger or a come-on, or else I’ll lose audience.

 

Atheist believes in genies

 

            I return to the headline because I have to explain such a blatant statement.

            Why would a non-believer in what he sees as destructive self-delusion employ fairy tales and genies in his parable?  The answer is: How else are we to defeat unreason and fanaticism?

            You can see the solution that Rushdie is heading toward.  “When you’re fighting monsters, it’s good to have a few monsters on your side,” Rosa Fast, the mayor of New York tells Jimmy Kapoor, the earlobe-less graphic artist who has become her magic-zapping body guard.

            The monster v. monster formula is akin to the two dinosaurs destroying each other in “Jurassic Park.”  Rushdie knows there’s a problem with this plot resolution because he covers his bases.

            When Teresa Saca Cuartos, one of Dunia’s descendants and deputies, can’t control her otherwise useful murderousness, Rushdie writes, “Rage, no matter how profoundly justified, destroys the enraged.” 

            So, if you’re a jinni named Dunia, leading the war against the four jinn of the Apocalypse, and you’re fueled by vengeance, you may be resorting to the only way to defeat evil, but how can you expect a good society to come out of it?

            Rushdie does expect that, at least in this novel.   He needs to hold up the lamp and show that reason can triumph.  I have a few problems with that.

 

Three reasons

 

            First of all, the opposition of reason and faith is a false one, I think.  It may make sense when it takes the form of scientists and democracies vying to eradicate barbarous religious zealots.  But the issue is more complex in non-extreme cases.

            Fanatics’ appropriation of religious faith for war-mongering does not invalidate faith in the same way that the use of nuclear power and the Internet for bombs and spying does not invalidate science.

            The problem is not in religion or science, but in how they’re used.  Eugenics: enough said.

            Second of all, Rushdie's clash-of-titans ending is a metaphysical and not a psychological resolution.  No matter how humanized the figures in a metaphysical novel are, the book is going to be intellectual and symbolic.

            The most psychological episode in “Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” occurs when Dunia opens up a story box that is layered like an onion and which had already poisoned her father.

            She is soon flooded with self-doubts, most devastatingly about her father, who had never shown her love and who was disgusted by her half-human children. 

            “In my unhappiness,” Dunia thinks, “I persuaded myself that my father’s disdain for his daughter was the natural state of affairs, the healthy state, and my female nature was the plague.  But here we are at the truth, and it is he who is sick and I who am well.  What is the poison in his body?  Maybe it is himself.”

            Geronimo, who is by Dunia’s side at the moment, also plunges into despair, thinking about his late wife, who, he realizes loved her father more than she ever could love him.

            A lot of the psychological crises in the novel involve father issues, and you begin to wonder if this is good symbolic writing, for it is God our Father who is being overthrown in the larger sense.

            Third of all, we can’t root out what we call evil nature from good nature.  Carl Jung is not referenced in the novel, but he would say that our shadow selves work with our loving selves to create our hope for humanity, and that is, integrated selves.

            Rushdie is a brilliant person.  He knows this; and because he does, he adds a twist at the very end that makes his 1,000-year hence Utopia look a little less utopian.  Though it seems a little like an oops-I-got-carried-away-with-amazing-storytelling, one thing you can conclude is that the new novel is very thought-provoking.

AUTHOR EVENT

Sir Salman Rushdie gives a free public talk at UNC Asheville’s Kimmel Arena, 7 p.m., Thurs., Feb. 18.  His lecture is titled “Public Events, Private Lives: Literature + Politics in the Modern World.”  UNC Asheville will also present four companion events the week of Rushdie’s talk.  Call 251-6674.

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