Cleaning Out Drawers

When I can no longer jam one more sheet of paper into a file, I clean out my drawers. Some pieces are condemned to the garbage can Gulag; other archival documents retain historical value, and I cannot consign them to oblivion. What is trivia to someone else is a precious relic of the past for me. I save magazine and newspaper clippings that for one reason or another I once found particularly informative or provocative. I single out two articles from among those that escaped my latest purging operation.

The first such article that missed the cut (print-out copy of 10/16/02) is a commentary by Abdelrahman Munif for the online Pacific News Jinn Magazine titled “Other Voices-Saudi Bomb attack an Act of Despair” and dated 7/2/96. Munif’s fictionalization of an oil-rich Arabian Gulf kingdom in his novels Cities of Salt, The Trench, and Variations on Night and Day has been likened to Faulkner’s creation of Yoknapatawpha County. The presence of U.S. soldiers in Dhahran in the aftermath of the Gulf War fueled the attack on the housing complex for American military personnel. Munif correctly predicts in 1996 the rise of violent Islamic fundamentalism and its dire consequences because of U.S. misguided policies in the Middle East. He writes in this short article: “Fundamentalism will spread in the Gulf region and possibly turn more violent because no political movement or party offers a formula for acknowledging ordinary people and engaging them in the political process.” He further states: “The Dhahran attack is not an event orchestrated by outside forces but rather an expression of deep internal feelings of bitterness and injury . . . Unless a more balanced and less biased policy is adopted, anti-Americanism will spread, leading ultimately to total estrangement at the popular level . . . Absent such a process I am more apprehensive about the future than ever.”

Stripped of his Saudi citizenship for political reasons, Munif lived in Damascus, Syria, where he died in 2004. I don’t need to chronicle here all the events that made Munif’s worst fears a reality since he wrote those lines in 1996. How much greater would his heartache be, if he had lived to see the chaos and destruction in Syria of the last three years!

Of a completely different nature was the second long-forgotten item that I discovered buried in my drawer. A favorable book review! Whoopee! These are few and far between and are worth keeping. A holy relic that an obscure, unknown, unsung, insignificant hermetic author would certainly want to laminate and to preserve from the silverfish and other depredations that unprotected archival material suffer. For posterity! For grandchildren! The review of my novel The Pluperfect Phantom appeared in Midnight Mind Magazine, No. 4, Sept. 2002. It’s sweet when a reviewer reads correctly a writer’s intent. Here are excerpts from the book review: “The Pluperfect Phantom defies categorization. It doesn’t fit neatly into any commercial slot. That’s because it does so many things at once. It’s a murder mystery. It’s a love story. It’s a ghost story. It’s a Chicago crime novel. It takes the reader down not only the real streets of Chicago, but also through some dark Chicago history . . . . Aunt Adele is the dear, elderly psychic aunt who holds the book together; she is matchmaker and believer of things seen and unseen . . . This is a tale of spiritwalkers intrigue, creepy chilling mystery, love, friendship and history all wickedly thrown together in that witch’s brew called Chicago.”

This tells me I’ve achieved my purpose: to be uncategorizable. I think I can rest in peace.

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