Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Aimless Reading: The H's, Part 31 (Albert Hourani)

Hourani, Albert
A History of the Arab Peoples

I think I bought this online. It was recommended to me by Anselm Berrigan during one of his visits to Buffalo. I have a memory of having read it, or at least of having read a part of it. I don't recall anything about it. At all. Weird. Nothing. Maybe I didn't read it. Who knows?

Interesting blogging day yesterday. I posted a little critique of some of the reports I'd read about the Rethinking Poetics conference--suddenly the number of hits to my blog climbed over four hundred percent. That's about as big a jump as the blog has ever experienced in a single day, outside those days when Ron Silliman has linked to it, which he hasn't done for a long time.

What is it about argument that makes people more interested in what one has to say?

I could publish poems each day and no one would read them.

I could publish friendly, thoughtful book reviews and no one would read those, either, although probably more would read those than would the poetry.

I suspect if I started ranting about the poetry scene every morning my readership would increase greatly, at least until people got bored.

I guess it has to do with the fact that argument stirs emotion -- one finds oneself either agreeing or disagreeing with the author's point of view, and this response usually has a strong emotional basis.

Argument stirs emotion, emotion stirred equals readership?

I guess that's why news services are now more or less opinion factories.

from A History of the Arab Peoples

In the early seventh century a religious movement appeared on the margins of the great empires, those of the Byzantines and Sasanians, which dominated the western half of the world. In Mecca, a town in western Arabia, Muhammed began to call men and women to moral reform and submission to the will of God as expressed in what he and his adherents accepted as divine messages revealed to him and later embodied in a book, the Qur'an. In the name of the new religion, Islam, armies drawn from inhabitants of Arabia conquered the surrounding countries and founded a new empire, the caliphate, which included much of the territory of the Byzantine Empire and all of that of the Sasanian, and extended from central Asia to Spain. The centre of power moved from Arabia to Damascus in Syria under the Umayyad caliphs, and then to Baghdad in Iraq under the 'Abbasids.

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