I am supposed to be reading a book by an American right now. (I am American. I love the older work of J.E. Wideman to pieces, and the older work of Toni M., and Alice Munro—oops, she’s Canadian. And Roberto Bolano and Derek Walcott—oops, wrong America.)

Anyhow, it’s a good book; a well-received book. It’s a book that was sent to me by a magazine so I could review it. Ergo, it’s my job.

So, showing responsibility, I started. I see that this book is slickly constructed. I see the plot advancing, the characters unfolding. It’s got shape and movement. It’s got small observations about life; it’s got nice turns of phrase. It all the ingredients. It speeds over the surface like a hydrofoil.

But here I am, bored somehow, abandoning my assigned reading and picking up Khaled al Khamissi’s Taxi, which no one has asked me to read, and no one will care if I read, (except perhaps the author’s mother, bless her).

Taxi doesn’t have the same slick opening (the opening is perhaps too chatty) and it doesn’t have the same clean-as-snow language, but immediately I feel: Ahh. Here I am, home.