Virgins, Crime, and Florence of Arabia

Sorry folks, I just haven’t been in the mood to blog. Honestly, I’m not sure why I’ve been slacking off so much. Maybe after doing this blog for six years I’m starting to feel burned-out. Maybe age is catching up with me and I no longer possess the intellectual vigor I once had. Or maybe after working a long day at the office all I care to do during my free hours is just unwind and unplug. What I do know is I haven’t stopped reading. And that means regardless of any reluctance to blog, I need to do some writing. So, just as I’ve done in the recent past, let me do a little catch-up and get you all up to speed on what I’ve been reading, thanks to my local public library.

The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay – McKay’s 2012 novel has been on my radar for a few years, ever since I read a favorable review on another book blog. It tells the story of Moth, an impoverished  young girl who winds up being sold into domestic servitude by her alcohol and drug addicted mother. After escaping the clutches of her employer, a physically abusive and emotionally unstable housewife trapped in a troubled marriage, she naively falls in with a group of girls residing in a local “infant school” or relatively upscale brothel specializing in providing fresh young girls (“near whores” as they call themselves) to older, well-healed men. While living in the brothel, she’s befriended by a crusading woman doctor who warns her of the “virgin cure”: the mistaken belief held by some syphilitic men that sex with a virgin girl will cleanse them of their diseased blood and thus cure them of the disease.

The Virgin Cure did not disappoint and like any good book that took me a few years to get around reading, I wished I’d read it sooner. I enjoyed McKay’s writing and especially enjoyed her depiction of New York City in 1871 with all its grinding poverty, violence and wide gap between rich and poor. So much did I enjoy The Virgin Cure I think I’d also like to read her 2006 multiple award-winning novel The Birth House.

The Best American Crime Reporting 2009 edited by Jeffrey Toobin – I used to totally dig on anthologies. I loved reading stuff like The Best American Science and Nature Writing, The Best American Essays and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. I have fond memories of sitting on the porch of a local brewpub one crisp early winter evening with a pint of beer in one hand and copy of The Best American Crime Writing: 2004 Edition: The Year’s Best True Crime Reporting in the other. And while I don’t consider myself a fan of true crime writing (or maybe I am and I just won’t admit it) I had an utterly enjoyable evening drinking great beer and reading engaging and well-written accounts of the human condition’s less savory manifestations. Therefore, with pleasant memories like these, I guess it’s no wonder when my public library offered me the opportunity to read The Best American Crime Reporting 2009 I seized it.

Even though the online reviews for The Best American Crime Reporting 2009 look a bit on the lukewarm side, I liked the book. Kudos to Toobin for choosing an interesting collection of diverse pieces covering a variety of stories, everything from Somali gang activity in Minneapolis-St. Paul to a Polish deconstructionist author who’s been accused of committing a murder that resembles something straight out of his own novel to the latest efforts in combating the ubiquitous scourge of shoplifting. While most anthologies tend to be uneven offerings, I enjoyed every one of Toobin’s selections.

Florence of Arabia by Christopher Buckley – I’ve been itching to read this one for close to a decade and just like with The Virgin Cure, I kicked myself for not reading it sooner. I expected great things from the man who wrote Thank You For Smoking and Buckley did not let me down. His 2004 novel is smart, fast-paced and funny as hell. When our heroine is sent to a Middle East emirate to start the region’s first Arabic language satellite TV station for women chaos and hilarity ensues. If you have any interest in the Arab world this novel is for you. If you’ve been closely following events in this part of the world for a long time then this novel is definitely for you.

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8 Comments

Filed under Arab World, Area Studies/International Relations, Current Affairs, Fiction, History, International Crime, Islam, Middle East/North Africa

8 responses to “Virgins, Crime, and Florence of Arabia

  1. JoV

    It’s age and work. Does your workload increase tremendously recently? I check back today how long I haven’t blog, since August 2015! staggering but as long as you are still reading, keep this blog alive friend. One day when you retire and have too much time on your hand, you might want to come back. I have stopped reading for awhile due to workload but I do want my old life back.

  2. If you need to let the blog be fallow for a while, we’ll still be here when you come back. I don’t drop blogs from my reader even if they’ve been quiet for a long time. I know that I’ve had huge gaps in my blogging from time to time. Mini-review posts like what you’ve done here are a good compromise too.

    It’s been a while since I’ve read an essay anthology book. I read a few of the travel writing ones earlier in my blogging days and really enjoyed them. I haven’t branched out to the other Best American varieties, but know I’d like to try the Science kind someday.

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