I took a break from Runaway, a manuscript I am reading for a writing friend, last night and devoted my reading hour(s) to finishing The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. I had to. Fundamentalist was a library book and it was soon coming due. Not that I haven’t ever been guilty of 1. returning a book before finishing it or 2. returning a book after its due date. But when a book is so excellently written, it would be a sin not to finish it. How else can excellent writing be cultivated if it is not read?
Funda was sort of Graham Greene-ish. It features a young, principled man trying to make his Horatio Algiered way in the world. Changez possesses a sharp, steel-trap mind, a soccer player’s agile body, and oceans of politeness. He hails from Pakistan, yes, but he is the right kind of foreigner. Not the kind to embarrass. You can bring him home to mom and dad. He can represent your company’s “face of diversity.”
But what happens to such a hero after hijackers of roughly his skin color, subscribing to his religion and from, approximately, his part of the world, suicide crash planes into the World Trade Center? How does he change? How does the cosmos of faces around him change? Is he still the guy you want to represent your company’s “face of diversity”? Really? What about if he starts sporting a beard? Are you sure you’re still on board with that? And are you quite sure you want to partake of that drink he just poured for you? Oh, that’s better. He took a sip. It must be fine.
My big confession about Hamid’s book? It’s “spin” ending. It caught me by my U.S. of A. centric, white-biased views and sent me skidding. Conclusion: it’s awfully difficult not to have my so-called open-minded view of the world biased by standard issue, U.S. of A. assumptions and presumptions. Maybe it’s impossible?
Fortunately books like Hamid’s are out there. I can at least check where I’m at and challenge myself to keep growing.
Hamid’s book was also of interest to me in another regard: Fundamentalist worked as a sort of measuring stick against which to compare my own delve into post-911 politics with Traveling to Palestine.