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Monthly Archives: July 2012

A Poem To Ponder

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I find you, Lord, in all Things and in all

by Rainer Marie Rilke, English version by Stephen Mitchell

I find you, Lord, in all Things and in all
my fellow creatures, pulsing with your life;
as a tiny seed you sleep in what is small
and in the vast you vastly yield yourself.

The wondrous game that power plays with Things
is to move in such submission through the world:
groping in roots and growing thick in trunks
and in treetops like a rising from the dead.

A Memoir in Books

Screen Shot 2012-12-04 at 11.53.22 AMI am currently reading this memoir by Azar Nafisi, a New York Times bestseller  from several years ago. It is an intriguing mixture of literary critism and memoir, as well as a window into the Islamic Republic of Iran as lived by its many highly educated inhabitants.

The writer is a former English professor who left the University of Tehran due to increasing pressures to “Islamicize” her teaching and herself. Instead, she teaches a literature class out of her home to a group of young women. For this author, literature is something deeply vital and political, something that almost tangibly frees her and her fellow readers from their immediate circumstances. I think all book lovers delight in interior worlds that spring up from their books, worlds that coexist with the “real world” like two sides of a coin. But this book eloquently shows that the “real world” is up for grabs — Chicago, Illinois could be a parallel universe to Tehran, Iran, at this moment in time — and when the tangible world is a repressive, alienating place, characters and sentences and plot structures can gracefully hold the place of “reality” until a more humane existence is restored.

A book can only offer an alternate reality, while incurring lots of tangible costs for the writer — but this book shows that literary worlds are a reality to contend with — as important to Azar Nafisi’s memoir as her own life experiences.

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