Monday, June 28, 2010

Reader's Diary #625- Gretchen McCullough: Khamaseen

My wife and I are tossing around a few new vacation ideas. We've considered New Orleans, Peru, and now we're sort of fixated on Egypt. In any case, it's a ways off. But in the meantime, I decided to do a reading tour and went looking for an Egyptian story online. I found a bunch written by an author named Gretchen McCullough, not Egyptian by birth (American), but now living in Cairo. Most of her essays and short stories are set in either Syria or Egypt.

I settled on "Khamaseen" mostly because I was attracted to the foreign sounding title. A khamaseen is 50 day long windstorm blowing out of the Sahara across Egypt. At first I was attracted to such details as these, scratching my itch for travel. But I couldn't get into the story. It's about a Greek-American who'd relocated to Cairo and is trying to maintain a long-distance relationship with his fiancée, but finding it increasingly difficult especially as he's struck up a close friendship with his neighbour Margarete who's clearly interested in him.

However, when I went back to find examples of how the story didn't flow well, I ended up liking it. I still think the attempts at symbolism (with the storm, the pigeon trapped in the house, and the invading feral cats) are a bit forced and distracting, but all in all, I enjoyed it-- much more the second time around.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)


Teddy Rose said...

This sounds like it's worth a try. I hate it when authors feel like they have to have a lot of symbolism. If it's "forced" it usually doesn't work well.

I read Agreeable by Jonathan Frazen

Margot said...

John, I like your idea of reading local authors before you actually visit a place. That's a good way to get the feel of a place, especially if they refer to local landmarks or the quirkiness of the place. I'll have to give it a try. Hmm, where do I want to visit?

I posted a short story today. You can find it here.

Anonymous said...

I'm not good with too much symbolism, I either miss it totally or just don't understand it.

Mine's a Sherlock Holmes story this week.

Heather said...

Exotic travels. A good friend of mine went to Eygpt last year and loved it and this year she hiked the Inca Trail and then went to the Galapagos. I'm happy just finding someone with a pool so I can relax and get some reading done. (I've been working on my list for this year's Canadian reading challenge and I've got a couple of Suzuki's on there.)

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I'm going to read it to see if I like it the first time around. Love the sandstorm idea, although I bet I would love the reality a lot less.

paalok said...

Enjoyed this post!! I would like to take time out and read more of your posts!

I have started a new blog on books-- do give me a visit sometime::