Sunday, March 10, 2013

Anne Norton

Anne Norton is professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. Her books include Leo Strauss and the Politics of American Empire; 95 Theses on Politics, Culture, and Method; and Republic of Signs.

Her new book is On the Muslim Question.

Late last month I asked Norton about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m reading Michael Chabon once again. It’s his new book Telegraph Avenue, of course: I’ve read all the rest. “Summertime Berkeley giving off her old lady smell: nine different styles of jasmine and a squirt of he-cat.” I love that smell. I first read Chabon because I heard him read himself. He was on the radio, talking about The Yiddish Policeman’s Union and I thought it was a disastrous idea for a book. Then he read it. I bought myself one. I bought it for all my friends. Then I read the rest of his work. Then I read The Longships, because he said everyone should. I’ve put Gentlemen of the Road into On the Muslim Question because of Chabon’s brilliant evasion of the traps laid by prejudice. If you haven’t read it, read it tomorrow.

Every now and then I have a poetry wallow. This one started with a poem by James Wright. Then I went to Philip Larkin, whose poem “The Card Players” made me laugh out loud. Now I’m reading Ted Hughes. No, that’s a lie. I am reading “The Thought Fox” over and over. Maybe tomorrow I’ll move onto another.

One has to read to teach. I am re-reading Ibn Khaldun’s marvelous history of power, The Muqaddimah in which one learns the hazards of taxation and what happens when one feeds figs to a severed head. For my own work, I’ve been reading works on banditry, Vikings, and free market economics. In recent days though, I’ve been distracted by Eve Troutt-Powell’s brilliant and moving Tell This in My Memory: Stories of Enslavement from Egypt, Sudan and the Ottoman Empire.

One of the great things about books is that one can pass them around. A friend gave me The Stolen Child, Keith Donohue’s grimly realist fantasy novel. I still don’t know what I think of it, but I think of it often. I gave him Willow Wilson’s Alif, a novel of djinn and cyber Gulfis. The Stolen Child went to my nephew, who gave me David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King. Booksellers might cringe, but they shouldn’t. I’ll buy new ones because I valued each enough to give it away, and I’ll be braver in buying books for my friends, knowing what they liked.
Learn more about Anne Norton's On the Muslim Question at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue