The Guidebook as Literature. The new guidebook Beyroutes offers a very non-guidebook take on Lebanon’s capital city. Scholars, writers, architects and artists explore the city—mostly on foot—giving a literary view of the city and its history. The Daily Star doesn’t seem overly enthusiastic about the book, complaining that it seems to spend too much time on the wrong side of the tracks, and noting that:
Scholarly articles rub shoulders with the pseudo-scholarly. Hilarious takes on Beirut life are placed alongside visions so idiosyncratic as to be somewhat bewildering. Photographs and illustrations from numerous artists are thrown into the mix.
Nonetheless, the Star admits that the book has its fascinating moments, and notes that its sleek design helps knit the whole thing together. More images from the book at YMag. Available in Beirut bookstores, and I’m not sure where else.
Gay Egyptian Literature. In the World of Boys, by Mostafa Fathi and published in 2009, has been a phenomenon; Bikya Masr discusses it from a social rather than a literary perspective. Michael Luongo, of Gay Travels in the Middle East, also writes about it here. It’s brave, it’s popular, but I haven’t seen an assessment of its literary merits. Nonetheless, this is interesting (from Bikya Masr):
On another occasion, Fathi recounted, a journalist met with him for an interview concerning the book. The journalist began the interview confrontationally, said Fathi: “He said, ‘why do you write about these people? We should take them in the street and kill them.'” The interview continued and by its conclusion, the interviewer leaned in and confided in Fathi, “‘I, am gay’.”
Luongo says, in The Advocate, that a translation into English should be coming soon.
Dictator Lit. More than a decade after its publication, the Guardian books blog inexplicably reviews Moammar Ghaddafi’s short-story collection, Escape to Hell. It’s reputedly rambling and only semi-coherent. Unless you’re a Ghaddafi scholar, or need something to talk about at parties, I’m not sure why you’d seek this out. Available from Amazon.Com.