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The Book of Khalid (Neversink) Paperback – June 12, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The Book of Khalid is a beautiful example of the lasting power of creative spirits in a complicated world ... masterful." —The Austin Chronicle

"...prescient in its treatment of Arab-Western relations.”The New Yorker

“Remarkably relevant to the popular uprisings sweeping the Middle East today.” —BBC News

"Rihani’s style is lavish and unrestrained...the prose is ecstatic." —The Brooklyn Rail

"This landmark novel...is artful and complex...Rihani encourages us to cherish our liberty, to seek material comfort and to engage our spiritual lives, to be patriotic yet remain critical of our failings." -- The Cleveland Plain Dealer
 

About the Author

Ameen Rihani (1876–1940) was a poet, writer, diplomat and intellectual, who wrote in both English and Arabic. Born in Lebanon, he spent his teen years in New York, where, with his friend Kahlil Gibran, he was part of the literary and artistic circles of the day. As a writer, he was greatly esteemed in the United States during his lifetime, and he remains widely read in the Middle East to this day.

TODD FINE (afterword) is the director of Project Khalid, the centennial campaign for The Book of Khalid.

projectkhalid.org
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Product Details

  • Series: Neversink
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House; Revised ed. edition (June 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1612190871
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612190877
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #634,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'll be brief in this review and not discuss the plot but what type of person should read it. The reality is you're either going to love or despise this novel.

I don't spend a great deal of time on fluff fiction, not because I don't enjoy it but because there are so many "big-lit" books which despite being a struggle are intensely rewarding. This unfortunately leads to a lot of picking-up, putting-down, and restarting novels. I like books which have a good story but the voice and writing style tends to stand equal with the content.

The Book of Khalid tickled this interest in a number of ways:
1) While verbose in spots--which is likely a bi-product of Rihani's lifetime of reading Arabic literature which tends to be more flowery/poetic (hell, he was the contemporary of Gibran)--his command of the English lexicon and grammar are untouchable. I started the novel researching words I did not know as I came across them, and eventually just started a list as the depth of his vocabulary was so deep it stopped me from actually getting through the book.
2) Colored against the period and context it was written (read Rihani's Wikipedia), it provides an interesting perspective and interpretation of the early 20th century industrial US, the cultural zeitgeist of the period, and it's relation to Arab customs/ideology.
3) It's not terribly long. So many of the books I tackle are a killer my time-investment. At 320 pages, it's practically an essay compared to Wallace, Pynchon, and Joyce.

If you're undecided, I recommend reading a couple excerpts. You should be able to decide fairly quickly if it's for you.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is challenging but it's such a joy to crack and so relevant. Humorous, poignant, and fascinating - I absolutely recommend it.
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Format: Paperback
This book was painful beyond its page count. Much of it is meandering philosophical babel. I had a very hard time forcing my way through it.

Billed as the "first Arab-American novel", this book follows Khalid, often in the company of his friend Shakib, through various adventures. They are Syrian Christians who we first meet as they travel to America for new opportunities. I'll note right here that there are a couple of anti-Jewish* passages in the book.

In the beginning Shakib is the learned one, and Khalid more the rube. But Khalid somehow becomes a philosopher, or at least a wannabe philosopher.

The duo arrives in America, and become successful street merchants. But while Shakib prospers, Khalid wanders off in odd philosophical directions, and flounders. Shakib is always there to support him, so he never starves.

Khalid decides they need to return to their homeland, but he hasn't the money and won't let Shakib pay his way. So he returns to being a street vendor for a while, then they sail home.

Once home, Khalid arranges to marry a cousin. But his carrying on gets him excommunicated. So he wanders for a while, which is described prolixly. Somehow he becomes famous. He then lectures at a Mosque, which nearly gets him killed. Then more bad stuff happens. None of which really follows from where the book started.

I'd like to say something nice about this book, but I'm struggling beyond noting that the punctuation is generally spot on. I'll do it the honor of quoting Shakespeare: "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing".

The publisher provided me a copy for review.

* I avoid the term "anti-Semitic" because one passage implies that Syrians are superior Semites to Jews.
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