Daily Archives: May 17, 2009


It’s hard to understand this strange compulsion: the desire to possess books, to read them, to absorb their ideas and in the process transform thinking. Karl Marx’s favorite activity, he averred in answer to a 19th century game called “Confessions, was “bookworming.” As Francis Wheen describes it in the biography from which that detail is lifted, this pastime included endless cheap cigars and winebibbing. In my own experience tobacco is more congenial to reading than alcohol. After a few drams the attention begins to drift and syntax seems to convolute. 

Already I’ve bought far too many books, more than I can possibly read over the entire summer. Each of them, once started, inexorably leads to another. From The Reluctant Fundamentalist to Sowing Crisis to Islam: An Introduction, for instance, one recent trajectory. Along the way potential avenues of study present themselves in the form of themes, citations, and names: Al-Afghani, about whom I know almost nothing, save that he is considered a pivotal figure of modern Islam; the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan and its role in the Saur Revolution; the sack of Herat by Mongols– a cascade of possibilities , a surfeit of enticements…