A “vivid panorama” – Publishers Weekly
A first formal review of Dining with al-Qaeda from Publishers’ Weekly — topping the bill in the non-fiction review section on 23 November 2009!
The 30 years Pope (Sons of the Conquerors) has spent living and traveling in the Middle East, from a 1980 visit as an Oxford student through a decade-long stint as a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, color this reflection on the region’s recent history. Moving back and forth through time in vignettes set in Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia, this fascinating memoir of his career tackles subjects as varied as the sexual attitudes of Middle Eastern men, the murder of Daniel Pearl, the Iraq-Iran War, and the poetry of the mystic Persian poet Hafez. The text has a loose episodic structure that sometimes feels desultory, though it does end with a series of chapters that focus on Iraq in the years before and after the American invasion. The author’s writing is journalistic but imbued with the author’s personality and long involvement in the region—he decries uncritical American support for Israel and the West’s tendency to treat Islam and Muslim cultures monolithically. Pope’s exquisite photographs accompany his vivid panorama of the region. (Mar.)