Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Can't speak Farsi? Me neither.

I write a column for a site with a focus on homeland security. When I’m checking facts, or trying to learn more about global political events, I have to rely on whoever translated if the site is from a country whose language I can’t speak.

I recently discovered the site MEMRI: The Middle East Media Research Institute. I found translations from media in many different countries. The site is well-organized and also has a film section. According to the description, material is translated into seven different languages.

Considering the complexities in world politics today, sites like this one really help. Anyone interested in the Middle East will find very interesting reading. Some paint MEMRI as biased against the Arab world, but since I read Arab news sites as well, I can at least compare information and make an informed decision. Problem is I have to read the Arab sites in English.

I’ve focused on studying the Middle East lately because of the column. And I just ordered an interesting looking new book Letters from an American Farmer by J. Hector St. John De Crevecoeur. The book was first published in England in 1782 as the Revolutionary War of Independence came to an end. I’m looking forward to reading about American concerns at that time. The book, according to the back cover blurb, was “written by an emigrant French aristocrat turned farmer."

I realized most of the books I’ve read lately are either poetry or nonfiction, with the exception of Marcia Preston’s excellent The Butterfly House. I highly recommend her novel; it was a very good read. She uses the motif of the study of butterflies, and successfully creates a character we care about. The book embodies a mystery, and features some very interesting characters.

Gazing around my office, I realize there are so many books I want to read. And write. As always, those are good problems for a writer to have.

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