When, on the farm, I was called upon to give judgment in matters between my Mohammedan people, I looked up rules and regulations in the manual of Mohammedan law, Minhaj et Taliban. It is a thick and heavy, highly imposing book to have carried about with you, a surprising work as well to a North European mind in its taboos and recommendations, enlightening as to the Mohammadan view of life, infinitely detailed in its regulations on legal purity, prayer, fasting and distribution of alms and particularly upon woman and her position in the community of the Orthodox. "The law," the classic states, "forbids a man to clothe himself in silk. But a woman may wear clothes of silk and should do so whenever this be in all decency possible to her." The Somali whom I knew did, however, wear silk, but Farah explained to me that they would do so only when outside their own country and in the service of other people--and surely my old valued friend Ali bin Salim of Mombassa, or the old Indian high priest who came to see me on the farm, wore but the finest and most delicate wools. The book also lays down as law that a husband shall supply his wife not only with the necessary nourishment, lodgings and clothes, but that he shall also give her such and such luxuries, within his means, which are truly worthy of her and will make her truly value her husbaqnd. "In the case, however," it adds, "of a woman of remarkable beauty, jurists may find themselves not entirely in accordance and will have to weigh the matter between them." The very grave and somewhat pedantic book thus registers woman's beauty as an indisputable, juridical asset in existence.
Dinesen, Isak. Shadows on the Grass. 30-31. New York: Random House, 1961.
I've carried my library forward from childhood -- indeed, I have all of my Hardy Boys books around here -- and have most, possibly all, of the high school to college to graduate school complement plus the inheritance from father's smaller and perhaps ego-revealing collection with its small blue volumes of Shakespeare's plays and the cumbersome brown hardcovers of Durant's mighty strivings.
With such an asset, something like a 19th Century gentleman's library, books may call to me from my own shelves, ensuring, as is the way of books, that they will be read when the time is right.
For mise en scene:the mansion (with a garden) inside a cabin inside an apartment in the countryside -- in fully voiced snoot, call it the northwest province of the Capital -- provides me my theater in the head.
As spring warms to summer, the cabin simile seems in force, and I am camped out in my own space: 'tis the season for sandals, light jeans, and Madras shirts. For one or another of the many motives attending indulgence in books -- but trust me, with me, atmosphere counts! -- I managed to pull from the shelves Dinesen's book, Shadows on the Grass, an unread volume -- probably from my father's library as it has no penciled in price on the unadorned tan recto inside cover.
I thought I'd escape the Jihad, anti-Jihad, peace, and hate-peace crowds online.
Enough with religion!
I meant only to lay my leukemic fatigue-oscillating self on my bunk and travel a while in the tracks of an accomplished writer's memoir.
It's not like I hadn't had other and perhaps more immediately enticing choices around the place.
From the perspective of my shelved books with their always visible spines and titles showing off (something else Kindle can't do), the odds of being chosen are a little better than 1:2,000 (because you know I'm not going to pick up, say, 501 French Verbs on a whim . . . but you never know), and down to brass tacks, I've new arrivals!
While Dinesen has me with her in Kenya, which seems to have a whole different relationship with Somalia today, Joyce Carol Oates' Zombie waits to the side. Also: the final pages of On Rereading by Patricia Meyer Spacks (I borrowed a copy from the county library, and then purchased one for my own) and, for starting fresh, Spacks' annotated edition of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (no need to guess at the effects of reading On Rereading on that purchase).
Among still recent arrivals:
Howard Bloom's The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History.
Erich Fromm's The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness -- this is another library-starter and owner-ender.
Marvin Harris's The Rise of Anthropological Theory.
James Carroll's Constantine's Sword.
Hrederick Smith's The Russians.
Maziar Bahari's Then They Came for Me: A Family's Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival.
From the last days of Borders: Dominic Tierney's How We Fight; Shannon D. Beebe and Mary Kaloor's The Ultimate Weapon is No Weapon: Human Security and the New Rules of War and Peace; and Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin's Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace One School at a Time.
That's not a complete list of unread volumes acquired within the past year or so, but from it, and the bit of extra data transmitted, on might see the many collisions involved in career focus, cyber-realspace relationships, intellectual motives, and so on. Given the conditions of my constraints -- or I would not be typing from an apartment -- and the so many things to do (there will be whole sets of prints from my Antietam photography series and I'm still singing Tuesday nights down at the Georgia Boy Cafe on the south side of town), to read, and accomplish, one might also understand the irrestable urge (proven) to pull an old volume from a shelf, have the windows open to the rain, a Casablanca fan spinning slowly in the dining room, and to cast away into Kenya on Dinesen's prose and there encounter, first thing, the pleasant surprise of her comment on Islam in Somalia.
* * * * *
# # #