Suheil Bushrui and James Malarkey’s anthology, Desert Songs of the Night: AnAnthology of 1500 years of Arabic Literature, is not aptly named. The romantic title conjures up an image of a bard, reciting poetry and telling stories in the Arabian desert by a fire: the very best poetry and tales from the Arabic literary tradition. In fact, the anthology is a collection of a wide range of texts, reflecting the rich cultural history and thought of Arabic heritage: chivalric verse, political, philosophical, and legal treatises, religious texts, moralistic essays, folktales, travel writing, excerpts from plays and memoirs and modern narrative poetry.
The collection is tempered by the academic backgrounds and interests of the two editors. Suheil Bushrui, who died last year at 84, was a distinguished critic and translator, an authority on Yeats and Kahlil Gibran and the founder and former director of the George and Lisa Zakhem Kahlil Gibran Center for Values and Peace at the University of Maryland. James Malarkey was Professor Emeritus at Antioch University, the former Chair of Humanities and General Education with past stints at universities in Algeria and Beirut. He is an anthropologist, specializing in Algerian politics.
Review: Desert Songs of the Night: An Anthology of 1500 Years of Arabic Literature
Book by ANN HOOD, ELIZABETH STROUT, PETER FARRELLY, BRUCE DESILVA, MARIE MYUNG-OK LEE, ROBERT LEUCI, DAWN RAFFEL, LUANNE RICE, THOMAS COBB, JOHN SEARLES, TAYLOR M. POLITES, PABLO RODRIGUEZ, AMITY GAIGE, LASHONDA KATRICE BARNETT, HESTER KAPLAN Reviewed by SUSAN TACENT
Noir is not my regular genre. But I have read my fair share of Raymond Chandler, and I’ve seen The Big Sleep more than once. I’m from Brooklyn originally—Noir Central—and I’ve lived in Rhode Island for over 20 years. So I jumped at the opportunity to review Providence Noir, Brooklyn-based Akashic Books’s latest entry in its 11-year-old Noir series, atmospheric story collections set in cities all over the world.
Part of the fun of reading the series is imagining familiar landmarks in a sinister light. The appropriately mysterious cover photo of Providence Noir looks out on a deserted Dorrance Street, in the city’s old center, from an alley behind the Union Trust Company at night. The sidewalk looks wet where the streetlight falls. Might be rain, might be blood. We also see Coffee Exchange, Central High, Trinity Rep. Benefit Street, Adler’s Hardware, India Point Park. These are the places where we Providence folk overcaffeinate, or teach, or take our kids to watch A Christmas Carol. Places where we try to find parking for jury duty, pick up paint to brighten the kitchen, buy freshly made pasta, enjoy one more late summer picnic. Turned by the writers ofProvidence Noir into sites of intrigue, mayhem, and death, they make the little reptilian hairs on the back our necks rise, as if suddenly we find ourselves inside the fiction on the page.