Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Kabuki and 77 Words for Love

My friend Jill recently informed me that a small part of my novel was blended into a modern dance piece in LA by choreographer Jeremy Hahn called “Facets of Love.” This is the coolest cross-pollinating artistic thing my novel has come across. Jill was inspired by a reference in “Finding Nouf” to the many words Arabic has for love. The dancers wore kabuki-style make-up and used cue cards with Arabic words and their meanings.

It has been claimed that Arabic has 77 Words for love. I don’t know where that number came from. Probably it’s just catchy. There’s more like 45.

Many of those words describe particular states of love. Such as hayam, a love that causes someone to wander around distractedly, and gharam, a love so intense it causes physical pain. A lot of the other words for love also translate into basic ideas like “terror”, “slight mental confusion”, “derangement”, and “disease”. Yep. There’s also “chaos” and “civil war.”

I was hoping to find 77 new ways of describing that blissful, chemical phenomenon of passion…but no, it’s pretty much 40-odd reasons you might need a doctor. Yet there is one word I keep going back to: izaz. (rhymes with eee-GADS!) It means a kind of love that gives power and dignity to both lovers, but which still remains innocent and pure.

Monday, March 22, 2010

And just today - the Dutch cover of CITY OF VEILS. Whoever designed this beautiful cover obviously hasn't memorized the "Hijab Checklist".

On the subject of video, in this book my victim is a filmmaker who goes around Jeddah filming immodesties like women eating spaghetti in burqas. Painful to watch...

And the Israeli cover for FINDING NOUF from Kinneret-Zmora-Dvir

A new cover for FINDING NOUF published by Avenue in Spain.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Self-indulgent activity #5: go see an action flick. These movies have certain rules that I like. 1) Someone gets threatened or shot with a high-powered rifle every ten minutes. 2) Cars or helicopters must explode at least once an hour. 3) You never cry.

These movies also have rules I don’t like. 1) The bad guys are Arabs 2) The other bad guys are Americans working with Arabs and 3) If Arabs are the good guys, they get shot.

Because I woke up before dawn this morning to see some horses, by afternoon I was ready for an action flick. So I went to see THE GREEN ZONE. Plenty of guns and Humvees. A whole lot of shaky camera work where you get a good dizzy buzz.

But just as I was deluded into thinking this was a typical action flick, a bunch of special forces soldiers start torturing an Iraqi. Then I realized that the bad guys are Americans working for the DoD. The good guys are Arabs trying to save Iraq from spiraling into civil war. And our hero is an American soldier who is caught in the middle. My, how times have changed.

It’s worth noting that Universal Studios considered the film a “flop”. I guess people weren’t happy with the role reversal, and a lot of people called it anti-American. (On my way out of the theater I heard some grumbling.) Michael Moore called it the most “honest” film ever made about the Iraq War. (Psssht! Okay, whatever.) The story revolves around the Big Ugly Thing We’ll Never Stop Talking About: faulty intelligence on WMD. In other words, an easy target. Blam! Brains on the wall.

Personally, I liked it. Although in the black-and-white logic of action movies, the Americans were just a little too evil, and the Arabs were just a little too righteous. But it’s not like that’s a new concept for people to chew on. The question remains: do other people beat America up as badly as we beat ourselves?