Run aground


I bought Hourani’s History of the Arab Peoples a few months ago, but I’ve not been getting on very well with it.

This face of history is terribly po

Since I began to read Hourani I’ve distracted myself with, and posted about, Men, Women and Dogs, My Life and Hard Times,  Fish, Flesh and Good Red Herring,  Mole Under the Fence and The Letters of Noel Coward.  I have also read the following:

‘Allamagoosa’ of course but also the much less anthologied ‘Waitabits’

Just a picturebook really, but what pictures…

And thanks to Dave for sending me back to re-read Archy’s vers libre:

Mehitabel the great: ‘it’s years since my fur was slicked/ but blow north wind blow/ i m damned if i am licked

And today I galloped through:

‘Love, blood and rhetoric’: existential angst has never been so funny

The problem is that Hourani writes some of the most dead pan non-committal history I have ever read (or not read) in my life.  There’s no insideness to the history or to the authorial voice, and although he relates facts I technically did not know, there are very few of those revelatory insights which make you blink and say, ‘I didn’t know that’.  And with a subject so rich and diverse, there ought to be.

I’ve battled on as far as the Ottoman Empire, assisted by my all-purpose interest in mediaeval history, but this adventitious support runs out at about 1600, and now Hourani’s on his own I just can’t raise the interest.  Sorry, but it is time to move on.


4 responses »

  1. If you’re not engaged with a book, there’s no point in forcing it. I can highly recommend a book by Gerald Maclean, ‘The Rise of Orietal Travel: English Visitors to the ottoman empire.’ Not quite whqat you have beens truggling with, but a good read in the general area. and it’s got stuff on clocks. How good is that!

    • Stuff on clocks sounds pretty good to me, so thanks for the idea. As for the other one – I just don’t like to give in. Especially as I paid full whack for this, not £2 from the bargain bin!

  2. It’s so frustrating when you come across a book that seems as if it should be a good informative read, and it turns out to be unreadably dull – and I think you’ve put your finger on the usual problem with books like that: the author is just shoving researched facts at you, without bothering to add any personal insights.

    On the other hand, thank you for reminding me about Alamagoosa! Haven’t read it in years, but it’s around here someplace.

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