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Scathing, but accurate review.

Reader comment on item: Tribes With Flags

Submitted by Nick (United States), Apr 26, 2004 at 21:10

Thank you, Mr. Pipes. I stumbled upon this site looking for a review of this book that could help me clarify my own thoughts. I'm glad to find that I'm not the only one to see that this widely-praised book is an unwieldy mishmash of factoids and personal travel diary, bogged down by tiresome reported conversations that stop just short of getting the jist of the speaker's meaning across to the reader. (The conversational reporting is the worst aspect of the book. Hearing what Lebanese think about the movie Platoon, or interviews with Syrian traxi drivers, are great, but... "Shall we have orange juice?" "This labneh is delicious." "How long can it [Beirut's anarchy] go on?" "When did this cafe close?" --- We don't need to read every syllable of the pointless small talk people make in the daily course of their lives, Mr. Glass. There's even a lengthy dialogue beginning: "Do you know anything about this church?" "No." "When was it built." "I don't know." It goes on like that.

I think a good writing tip is: if it's not stylistically interesting, and includes no information at all, don't write it down!") On the plus side, I did feel that the kidnapping story was interesting, and revealed a good deal about the kinds of people who become "militia" memebers in the Middle East, as well as the fundamentalists' purblindness to the absurdity of their own actions. Anyway, thanks for first off acting as a voice of dissent in the unbridled praise out there, and also in pointing out the errors.

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