Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Michael Malone: Handling Sin

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Have I told you (only a hundred times?) that our family loves books? We buy them, we discuss them, and we pass them around. The one I am about to review came from my son, who got it from the wife of his wife’s father. Heee heee heeee, figure that one out!

Have you ever read A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole? As soon as you start reading Handling Sin, you get the same impression; this book is whacky, and will probably be an underground cult favorite. The author of Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole, committed suicide – or so we are supposed to believe. I am not so sure. Handling Sin sounds SO like it, and they both heavily feature New Orleans.

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Right off the top, this books starts out weird and keeps right on going. It opens with our hero, Raleigh Whittier Hayes at a Civitan (social and civic works group, kind of like diwaniyya) meeting at the local Chinese restaurant in Thermopylae, North Carolina, where his fortune cookie at the end of the meal says “You will go completely to pieces by the end of the month.” Raleigh sells insurance, he runs and watches what he eats because most of his family gets diabetes; and Raleigh likes order. When we meet Raleigh, he’s not all that likable.

His dying father takes off, leaving a message for Raleigh that he needs to do seven (crazy-sounding) tasks and meet him in New Orleans at a specific date and time, having accomplished these tasks, otherwise he won’t go back to the hospital for his cancer treatments.

His big fat best friend, Mingo Sheffield, insists on coming along. His wife, Aura, just laughs and tells him he needs to loosen up a little when he starts complaining about his Dad’s quest, and begins her campaign for mayor. His nice, safe structured little universe is flying apart, his twin teen-age daughters are out of control, reality as he knows it has just taken a big crunching shift and Raleigh is out of his element.

Perfect! It’s those times of maximum discomfort that we begin to achieve our maximum potential, isn’t it? If we stay in our safe little world, we aren’t challenged to grow, to think new thoughts, to see things from another perspective.

Handling Sin has a series of events that are at the same time heart warming, serious, and side-splittingly funny. I laughed out loud so many times reading this book, as our hero and his friend and all those he picks up along the way find themselves in the most outrageous and unlikely adventures, and learn what they are capable of (OK, for all you grammarians, do not end your sentences in a preposition, do as I say, not as I do!) I would not be at all surprised if this book were made into a movie, it is so much fun. As you rock along, Malone also deals with serious health issues, racial issues, family issues, political issues and law and order. You laugh, you cry, you learn a little and you laugh again. It’s a great read.

This was my back-up book on my flights back to Kuwait, and worth the weight – it’s a kind of big book. AdventureMan can hardly wait to get into it; he had started it but allowed me to read it while he caught up with his jet lag. Who knows who we will pass it along to when he finishes? It’s that good!

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December 13, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Community, Crime, Generational, Health Issues, Humor, Language, Living Conditions, Poetry/Literature, Political Issues, Relationships, Social Issues | , , | 4 Comments

Brother Odd: Dean Koontz

I’ve always liked Dean Koontz; he knows how to be compassionate and funny at the same time. When I showed books I had bought, my long-time friend Momcat said “Oh, you’re going to like that book!” and oh, how right she was. I like it so much that now I have to go back and buy the previous ones to catch me up.

The main character, whose name, to his embarrassment, is Odd Thomas, has secluded himself in a monastery in search of spiritual peace. Or was he brought here for another reason? Odd Thomas has some very odd gifts; he can see the undeparted dead, for example, and he can sense things that normal humans can’t. You would think these would be very cool talents, but Odd is in his early twenties, and his talents only serve to isolate him and make him feel a little alien.

The monastery / nunnery is a good place for him, full of very human monks and nuns, some of them very wise and very compassionate, as well as competant. It’s a good place for Odd Thomas, a healing place and a place where his strange gifts are protected by his spiritual cohabitants. The monastic life attracts a lot of people trying to put their pasts behind them to seek spiritual goals, and also attracts those with their own agendas.

The monastery is well endowed, and contains a special school for young people who have physical and/or mental disabilities. Some can learn enough to return to society, and some will probably spend the rest of their shortened lives under the safety and care of the nuns – until, all of a sudden, a threat appears, directed at the children.

Dean Koontz writes interesting books. He often includes benign animals, he often focuses on threats to women and children, and while his books are not difficult to read, neither are they something you read and easily forget. Both AdventureMan and I read an earlier Dean Koonz book, Watchers, to which we have often referred through the years, as one of his characters ends up homeless and living in a car with her son. She talks about money just giving you more options, and about those who are one paycheck away from homelessness. It was an easy read, but he includes some tough ideas, things you find yourself mulling over even years later. That’s a good read in my book!

The only problem with this book was that it was so good I finished it in one flight. Good thing I had packed a back-up book in my carry-on!

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December 13, 2007 Posted by | Books, Bureaucracy, Crime, Fiction, Health Issues, Poetry/Literature, Relationships, Social Issues, Spiritual, Travel | , , | 11 Comments

Dubai Rape Case Update

Here is an update on the case where the 15 year old French boy was kidnapped, taken to the desert and raped, and then the accused said it was consensual. The parents took them to court – and two have now been convicted; the third has yet to be tried. The doctor who examined this boy told the boy he was a homosexual, that there were no signs of rape. The parents were outraged, and pursued the case.

You can read the entire BBC Story HERE.

Emiratis jailed for raping youth

A court in Dubai, in the UAE, has jailed two men for 15 years for the abduction and sexual assault of a 15-year-old French-Swiss boy.
The men, one of whom is HIV positive, took the teenager to the desert and raped him at knifepoint.

The victim’s mother, Veronique Robert, says the authorities lied about the defendant’s medical status to hide the fact that Aids is present in the UAE.

“Fifteen years is nothing for someone who knew he had Aids,” she said.

A lawyer for the family said they would appeal against what they saw as a too-lenient sentence. A juvenile court is trying a third suspect in the same case.

The defence had claimed the victim had consented to sex and had lied to the authorities.

Treatment missed

Ms Robert has been campaigning to change the law in the United Arab Emirates to recognise homosexual rape as a crime and for more openness about HIV and Aids.

December 13, 2007 Posted by | Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Middle East, News, Political Issues, Social Issues | 10 Comments

Shuw’i: Night and Day

By day:
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At false dawn:
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I can only hope they are having a fantastic catch for the upcoming holidays; imagine, The Big Eid and Christmas falling in the same timeframe. How wonderful!

December 13, 2007 Posted by | Christmas, Community, Cross Cultural, Eid, ExPat Life, Holiday, Kuwait | 1 Comment