Category Archives: Writing and publishing

In Algiers: Book Fair and Colloquium

I’m writing this on a plane, at the end of a four-day visit to Algiers… In Algiers I was participating in a big international Colloquium on the Arab Spring organized in conjunction with the ‘Salon Internationale du Livre d’Alger’ (SILA– the Algiers Book Fair.) It was really interesting to return to Algeria. I hadn’t been there since 1989; in the interim, the country passed through a truly terrible, lengthy civil war that lasted throughout most of the 1990s and was laced with repeated atrocities, committed by both sides: both the very secular government and the ferocious Islamist opposition. In 1998, at the end of what Algerians today refer to as “the Black Decade”, the government finally won.
On Friday morning, participants in the Colloquium were taken on a tour of the city’s historic Casbah, the labrynthine, historic area of four- and five-story dwellings that clings to a steep hillside in the center of the capital city. Yes, we walked right by the (under-reconstruction) house in which famed national-liberation activist “Ali La Pointe” was entombed along with two other militants, when the French colonial powers blew up the house during the national liberation war, as memorialized in “The Battle of Algiers”. And that night we dined with Madame Zohra Bitat, one of the liberation heroines who figured in the war (and in the movie), who is now Vice-President of the country’s Senate…
When we toured the Casbah our guide told us that for several years up until 1998, the country’s security forces were unable to go into it, so strongly did the Islamists control it. That’s how grave and present the threat was, that the regime felt itself under.
It is notable to me, during the present Arab Spring, that the Arab countries that have experienced grave internal conflict in the past 15 years have not witnessed the kind of mass pro-democracy movements that marked the Arab Spring. We didn’t discuss that phenomenon very much during the colloquium. But we did have a very rich discussion of, in particular, developments in Egypt and Tunisia. There were some excellent analysts– and analyst-participants– from those countries, from several other Arab countries, from the U.K., U.S., Turkey, etc., who also participated. I believe the organizers are hoping to publish some kind of a ‘proceedings’ volume from the gathering. (At which point, you can read the presentation I gave on the reactions of the Anglo-Saxon media to the Arab Spring. A shortened version is here.)

Continue reading

Updates, Sept.26

I have found it really hard to find time and energy to blog recently. Lots has been going on with Just World Books. This very evening, we are launching Manan Ahmed’s terrific book Where the Wild Frontiers Are: Pakistan and the American Imagination. I’m in New York to do this. It’s being hosted by the Asian-American Writers’ Workshop— starts 90 minutes from now!
Timely, huh? Also timely: our next book, Troubled Triangle: The United States, Turkey, and Israel in the New Middle East, edited by the fabulous William B. Quandt.
Wednesday, I’m leaving for the Algiers, where Bill the spouse and I are both taking part in a “Colloque” on the Arab Spring being organized in conjunction with the Algiers Book Fair. I am also hoping to meet some Arabic-language and French-language publishers who might be interested in buying other-language rights to some of our books.
I know there has been a lot happening recently (especially, here in New York) around Abu Mazen’s last-ditch effort to save his legacy by taking the “Palestinian statehood” request to the Security Council. There’s been a lot of dissension in Palestinian ranks about the value of this effort. And yes, it does seem very possible that the statehood request might just languish for months or years in some subcommittee of the Security Council… The matter would be a lot more straightforward if Abu Mazen and his people were to insist on taking a request for enhanced recognition to the General Assembly, and forcing a vote there…
Whatever happens to this particular initiative at this particular time, it already seems that pressure is mounting in the non-U.S. 95% of the global community that the United States has monopolized all Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy for too long now; and that the U.S. has proven itself uniquely unqualified and/or unable to do anything to bring about a fair and sustainable peace… and therefore, that some other, more authoritative and capable form of international sponsorship is needed in order to deal successfully with this important item on the world’s agenda.
I haven’t been able to blog much about this recently. Last week I had a flare-up of horrible back pain, which laid me somewhat low. But next week, on October 4, I’m speaking on the Palestinian statehood issue at Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. (I think that’s an open meeting: Check their website over the next few days, for details. They don’t have any up there yet.)

Remembering Qana, five years on

On this day five years ago, at 1:30 am Lebanon time, Israel’s U.S.-supplied warplanes attacked houses in the south Lebanese village of Qana, killing more than 60 civilians, 37 of them children. Go watch this soberly reported video clip from Britain’s Channel 4 to get a measure of the horror.
The Qana Massacre of 2006 was the single deadliest episode in the gruesome 33-day assault that the government of Israel unleashed against Lebanon– with the full support of the U.S. government– in July 2006.
Washington’s role throughout the war was twofold. At the military level it provided many services including speedy replacement of the huge amounts of ordnance with which Israel pummeled Lebanon’s people and their national infrastructure. At the political level, Washington’s main role was to stave off all the calls for a ceasefire that mounted internationally as the long-planned assault proceeded throughout July and the first half of August.
Over the weeks that the war lasted it became increasingly clear to Israel’s military leaders that (1) they could not force a Lebanese surrender purely through the use of standoff weapons, as their super-arrogant chief of staff Dan Halutz had imagined; (2) that they would therefore have to use ground forces, as well, to try to achieve their objective; but (3) their ground forces were unable to prevail against the very well-planned defenses that Hizbullah maintained throughout South Lebanon… The war– which had been designed to “restore the credibility of Israel’s military deterrent” in the eyes of potential opponents from throughout the region– was instead having quite the opposite effect! So by the second week of August, Ehud Olmert’s government in Israel was becoming increasingly eager for a ceasefire. A ceasefire agreement was finally agreed among the parties, via the U.N. Security Council, on August 11 and it went into effect on August 14.
Throughout the entire 33 days of the war, Washington put not one iota of pressure on Israel to stop the carnage. Indeed, some days before the July 30 Qana Massacre, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dismissed the importance of the already heavy Lebanese civilian casualties by describing these losses as only “the birth pangs of the New Middle East.”
This woman– who fwiw has never herself experienced “birth pangs”– helped bring to the families of Qana and so many other places in Lebanon a stream of dead babies and toddlers, caked in the dust, grime, and blood of the sarcophaguses that had been their families’ homes.
For the people of Qana, the massacre of 2006 was an eery replay of the massacre they suffered ten years earlier, during the assault that Israel launched against Lebanon in April 1996. On that occasion, Israeli artillery demolished a clearly marked U.N.-run refuge in which hundreds of old people from the local area had sought shelter from the fighting, killing 106 of them.
On both occasions, Israeli leaders did all they could to deflect responsibility for these acts. They challenged the veracity of the very well-documented news accounts (and U.N. reports) of the incidents. And they claimed that because they had “instructed” local residents to leave the area prior to the attacks, the residents “had only themselves to blame” by staying their home villages: an amazingly arrogant and quite illegal argument for an attacking foreign army to make! In addition, very early in the fighting, the Israeli air force had demolished all the key highway bridges linking south Lebanon to the rest of the country. How were families with old people, disabled people, and young children supposed to “leave” their home village when “instructed” to do so by a foreign army?
I still have a deep well of sadness about what the Israeli military did– with the full backing of my own government– in Lebanon in 2006. Longtime JWN readers will know that on August 11, 2006, a cousin of my ex-husband was killed when the Israeli air force attacked a civilian convoy that was leaving Marjayoun for safer areas further north. The route and timing of that convoy had been clearly pre-arranged in coordination with the Israeli military. But still, the Israelis attacked, killing Colette Rashed and six others of the fleeing Marjayoun civilians. Read more details about that attack here.
… And please, don’t forget to check out (and buy) War Diary: Lebanon 2006, Rami Zurayk’s amazing account of what it was like to be in Beirut and South Lebanon during the whole of that war, which my company is publishing as an ebook ($4.00; several formats) and a short paperback ($7.00). The Israeli assault against Lebanon in 2006 was a turning point for the whole region in several ways. It gave Arabs and Muslims everywhere the idea that there were indeed ways for well-organized national groups to stand up to and defy military organizations that enjoyed apparently unchallengeable superiority on the battlefield. It revealed (yet again) the degree to which U.S. policy had been made into a handmaiden of Israel’s. And it showed the importance of forging strong bonds of unity between secular anti-imperial forces and more Islamist anti-imperial forces if the power of a a hostile and aggressive imperial alliance is ever to be successfully broken.
Rami Zurayk’s book is a wonderful document: humane, impassioned, tender, intimate, and wise. Advance orders for it will be fulfilled on or before August 10. Yes, I think it is important to sell this book and get the story it tells much more widely disseminated within the Anglosphere. But I also want JWN readers to stay keenly alive to the tragedies and costs of war, everywhere. In 2006– and still, today.

Place your orders now for Zurayk’s ‘War Diary: Lebanon 2006’

You can now go to the ‘Buy’ button on the web-page for Rami Zurayk’s ‘War Diary: Lebanon 2006’ and place your advance order for this unique, 60-page work. The ebook will cost you $4.00 (in many different formats), and the paperback will cost you $7.00, plus shipping.
Here is the back-cover text:

    In the summer of 2006, the Israeli military undertook a mega-lethal 33-day attack against Lebanon in pursuit of what came to be known as the ‘Dahieh Doctrine’: an attempt to inflict such dire punishment on the country’s civilian population that they would—Israel’s leaders hoped—turn against the Hizbullah resistance movement once and for all. The attempt failed. Hizbullah emerged from the assault intact and with its political standing, in Lebanon and most of the Arab world, much stronger than before.
    Rami Zurayk, a veteran activist from the Lebanese left and the author of Food, Farming, and Freedom: Sowing the Arab Spring, stayed in Lebanon throughout the war. He was in Beirut and in his family’s home village in South Lebanon, working with other activists to relieve the suffering of the hundreds of thousands of civilians pushed out of their homes by Israel’s assault.
    War Diary: Lebanon 2006 is the journal Zurayk kept of those 33 days. It is intimate, brutally honest, angry, impassioned, tender—and often bitingly funny. In his wry, diarists’s voice he explains why so many Arab leftists are ready today to make common cause with their more Islamist compatriots as they jointly defend their societies against the attacks not just of Israel but of Western governments and publics that sometimes seem deeply hostile to Arab and Muslim aspirations.
    An engaging, must-read document, War Diary: Lebanon 2006 provides much-needed context for understanding the passions and politics of the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011.

I am so happy to make copies of this great work available to the public.
If you want to see the analysis I published of the 33-day war in Boston Review at the end of 2006, you can find it here. Rami’s view of the whole tragic affair, as he recorded it each day during the war, was much more intimate.
If you like what you see on War Diary‘s web-page, please circulate it widely to your friends and urge them to place advance orders, too. We should be able to get the ebook to you within the next week– and the paperback, just a few days after that.
This Saturday, by the way, is the anniversary of the Qana Massacre, one of the most grisly single episodes of the whole war.
p.s. If you go to the sales page(s) for the book, they’ll look as if they are run completely by our partners from OR Books. Well, they are. But we’ll be getting some mention of JWB onto those pages very son– along with a button that can send you back to browse more titles from our list, not just theirs. For now, you’ll have to use the back button– or go “back” to JWB in another tab.

Nurturing that better future

All my wonderful longtime readers here at JWN may wonder why I’ve been so silent recently. Two reasons, mainly. I’ve been deep immersed in the most wonderful forms of family life; and I’ve also been racing against the clock on the ‘War Diary: Lebanon 2006‘ project.
In the past three months, we’ve been enriched by the arrival of two new grandchildren! The second of these, little Salma, arrived just under three weeks ago. I’ve been staying with her and her parents in California. My other amazing grandchildren, now aged 2.5 years and 3 months, are also staying nearby, with (of course) their parents.
It is one of the most beautiful things in the world to be with these little ones– and also to see my own ‘little’ ones now all grown up and being such fabulous parents; and to see all of them just enjoying being together. I’ve had wonderful long periods of holding and rocking the babies, chatting with the new parents, watching the two-year-old as she explores the fabulous local tots-only playground, playing Legos with her, listening to all her great little made-up songs… helping the new parents out where I can.
I remember when I was a new parent, that finding a fit between my work at parenting– and yes, as feminist philosophers have pointed out, for all the joy involved, parenting is certainly the most important form of work that there is– and my professional work was really a big challenge…. And now, I’m trying to find the right balance between being the grandparent I want to be and my work in the professional/public sphere. This time around, though, I think the balance is easier for me to find, since I really do think that what I do in the professional/public sphere is aimed centrally at trying to build that better world in which my grandchildren– and yours, and everyone’s!– can all have an equal chance to grow and flourish, in a world that values each human life equally and turns its back on violence, exploitation, discrimination, and war.
And so, in the hours (or minutes) I can scrounge from being with my family during this week, I’ve been trying to work as effectively as I can on the War Diary project. This little book– which we’re now planning to publish as both an e-book and a paperback— is a document that is truly unique in English. It’s a record of what it was like to live in Beirut (and South Lebanon) in July-August 2006 under the bombing and anti-civilian devastation undertaken by the Israeli military as it gave the first try-out to what became known as the ‘Dahieh Doctrine.’
Yes, that’s Dahieh, as in that whole broad area of Southern Beirut where towering, ten-story buildings that housed homes, offices, shops, and schools, were obliterated from the map and reduced to smoking rubble-fields.
The Dahieh Doctrine was what Israel was also trying to pursue 30 months later, against the people of Gaza. On both occasions, its application was a notable failure. The pronounced goal of the Dahieh Doctrine, after all, was to inflict such harsh punishment on the targeted population that they would “turn against” and repudiate the resistance movements that lived among them…. And on both occasions, the respective resistance movements not only survived with their leadership and basic cadre intact– but they ended up gaining increased political stature amongst their national constituencies, and throughout the whole Arab world, by having done so.
But who know– maybe, as it did in December 2008, the Israeli government will one day once again decide that “with just a few further tweaks” the Dahieh Doctrine can be “perfected” and finally made to work?
That’s why, having the actual record of what it was like to be in Beirut during the very first application of the Dahieh Doctrine is so important. Rami Zurayk’s War Diary: Lebanon 2006 is a key testament to human resilience and to the spirit of an optimistic human community. It shows why the resilience the Lebanese population showed during summer 2006– along with, crucially, the alliance between Islamist and secularist resisters that was also evidenced then– have been cited by several leaders in the Arab Spring as giving them hope that the spirit of a proudly proclaimed and defended common humanity could indeed prevail over the “values” of military organizations, however brutal.
So this is why I think getting War Diary published as soon and as well as possible is important. It also completely fits with the goal of building the kind of world that I want my grandchildren (and everyone else’s) to grow up in. All my grandchildren have a rich mix of ethnic heritages. The littlest one, Salma, is Arab, Jewish, British– and also, very strongly “American”. How could anyone possibly say to her or to anyone that her “Jewish” aspect is more important or more valuable than her “Arab” aspect– or the other way around? How can anyone say that the lives of people who are Jewish, wherever they are, are somehow more “valuable” than the lives of people who are Lebanese, Palestinian, Egyptian, Iranian, or American?
Seeing these little children in my own family just makes me want to work all the harder for a world that gives equal value and equal care to each human person– a goal that necessarily involves turning our backs on violence, domination, and war.

New e-book soon: ‘War Diary: Lebanon 2006’

Today is the fifth anniversary of the beginning of that terrible march of folly, the Israel-Lebanon war of 2006. So I’m delighted to announce today that my publishing company, Just World Books, will shortly be publishing as a short e-book War Diary: Lebanon 2006, by the Lebanese social activist (and AUB professor) Rami Zurayk.
I think it’ll take us 10-14 days to get the e-book up and available for you to purchase. It will cost $4.00 and have around 40 pages. I’m hoping to be able to take advance orders for it very soon.
More about the book later. But you can find some good details about it if you go to that web-page for it.

My piece on Egypt and Gaza, at ME Channel

… is here.
I rather like the title they put on it, “Tahrir’s journey to Palestine”. In fact, the journey that the “spirit of of the Tahrir uprising” has to make before it gets to Palestine is just about as long and difficult as the journey that anyone needs to make to get from the outside world to the Gaza portion of Palestine. We can see the terrible and in one case at least, potentially lethal) measures that someone (presumably Israel) has been taking to prevent the current “Stay Human” flotilla from reaching Gaza. And we saw the lethal (and very intentionally mendacious/libelous) lengths to which the Israel “Defense” Forces were prepared to go in this regard on May 31, 2010.
If you can’t get to Gaza by sea, then you have to go either via Israel, through the Erez checkpoint, or via Egypt through Rafah. Erez has long been closed to everyone except a small group of humanitarian-aid workers and a very small number of Gaza Palestinians requiring urgent medical care at hospitals inside Israel. (But the medical patients are have very frequently been required to become informers for the Israelis as a “quid pro quo” for being allowed to transit Erez, as PHR-Israel has documented in detail.)
Passage through Rafah is almost equally as difficult, whether for “Gaza residents”– that is, that small portion of the Palestinian people whom Israel graciously “allows” to reside in, or visit Gaza– or for anyone else.
It is quite outrageous that an entire population can be collectively punished with illegal restrictions on their freedom of movement and freedom of association in this way. Bill the spouse and I were only able to respond positively to the invitation we received to visit Gaza because we had high-level backing from the Egyptian government. But if a school or community group in Gaza wants to invite anyone they want from Egypt, other Arab countries, Europe, or the United States, to go and take part in a seminar or to sit on the beach with them enjoy the fine Gaza sunset, they can’t do that! Why?????
Because Israel has long had carte blanche from the U.S. government to kick around the Palestinians in any way it wants, with no accountability required.
Time for a change.
Let’s bring the spirit of Tahrir here, to the United States!

Publishing: From 140 characters to 150,000 words

I haven’t blogged much recently, I know. I’ve been incredibly busy. Primarily with the book-publishing but a bit with family things and also, increasingly, with planning for the trip I’m currently on. (This blog post comes to you from London. On Saturday, I’m going to Cairo… )
Also, I’ve been tweeting quite a bit. That stuff can get quite addictive if you let it. But it also, certainly, has many excellent uses.
It has been quite an interesting experience, all in all, to have been doing so little ‘regular’, blog-post-length or oped-column-length journalism over recent month but to have spent so much time instead either working with the Just World Books authors and the editors as they bring their 100,000-or-so-word opuses (actually, opera) into existence, or just flitting around the Twittersphere, seeing what’s going on there, and contributing some of my own Tweets and Chirps.
I’m still in love with this book-publishing project. I am so happy about the five (very soon to be six!) books that JWB has published so far. Honestly, not a single one of these books would have even existed in anything like its present form unless I had worked with these talented and always-busy authors to help them to pull them together. And now they are there and available as resources for anyone around the world who cares to use them. Plus, equally importantly, they will sit in libraries around the world forever, ready to be consulted by members of the coming generations. That’s what I love about books!
Sure, the near-instant gratification of blog-post publishing gets my adrenalin running good and fast. But blog posts are evanescent. Yes, they may sit in the blog archives– and blog archives are fabulous, let me make no mistake about that! But, and this is a big but, blog archives are not organized in a way that allows for the posts easily to come together into a sustained narrative or a sustained argument. That is the big difference made by the “curating” process that my authors undertake when they pull their material together into book chapters.
Last month, we published Rami Zurayk’s fabulous book Food, Farming, and Freedom: Sowing the Arab Spring. Rami is an agronomy prof and a dedicated social activist in his native Lebanon who blogs at Land and People. The book tracks how the aid and trade policies pursued over the past 25 years by Western governments and their ‘free market’ acolytes in many Arab countries ended up wrecking the livelihoods, lives, and societies of the members of so many millennia-old farming communities throughout the Arab world– thus, over time, helping to “sow” the Arab Spring.
And this, in the part of the world where– as Rami points out in the book– farming first began.
His critique of how the “development” (or in the end, too often, “de-development”) policies pursued by pro-western governments went hand-in-hand with their repression of all dissenting voices at home and their pursuit of foreign policies that ended up kowtowing to the “West” and to Israel is a very serious one that helps to explain the root causes of the “Arab Spring”.
Food, Farming, and Freedom has a fabulous Foreword by Rashid Khalidi. You can read an excerpt from it, and other praise from the book’s advance readers, here.
We had an excellent launch event for the book in New York! It was hosted by the NGO Food & Hunger Working Group at the U.N. We’ll have some video of it to share with you, very soon.
This month, we have now gotten our e-book publishing program off the ground, with the release of the Kindle version of Joshua Foust’s Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. I figured the Kindle version would be good to begin with, both because so many people now have Kindles and because there’s a very handy (and free) iPad app that lets you read Kindle e-books on your iPad.
We’ll be putting our other titles into e-book formats soon, too.
Another big thing I’ve been doing with JWB in recent weeks has been to negotiate a strategic cooperation agreement with OR Books of New York. I’ve admired OR since I first became aware of their work last year. They have just about the same general view of how to make a go of publishing within the technological and market environment of the 21st century that I do– that is: Focus on speedy turnaround of great, timely manuscripts; focus on producing (and selling!) paperbacks and e-books rather than hardcovers; rely on Print-on-Demand so you don’t have to sink money into inventory and inventory management; focus on web-based operations rather than bookstores, etc. They are further advanced in building their business than I am, having started in 2009. The company’s co-owners John Oakes and Colin Robinson have a lot more experience in book publishing than I do. And last but not least John and Colin seem to be really nice people who share a huge amount of my political sensibilities… So this whole cooperation thing looks fabulous from my point of view.
And the final big thing I’ve been doing in the JWB context has been to complete (let’s hope…) the work on Manan Ahmed’s amazing book, Where the Wild Frontiers Are: Pakistan and the American Imagination. Manan is a thoughtful and brilliant Pakistani-American historian who blogs at Chapati Mystery. He wrote most of the blog posts and other short texts that are curated into the book during the period from 2004 until, well, just last month… For most of that time he was finishing his Ph.D. in history at the University of Chicago, so he had a front-row seat from which to gaze upon the deformations that American society and politics underwent during the height of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld years and the huge damage inflicted on both American and Pakistan under the rubric of the “War on Terror”. (He ain’t too kind to Obama on this score, either.)
My involvement in editing Manan’s book was a little episodic. I was relying on a couple of my excellent contract editors to work with him to whip it into shape. (And it had several challenging aspects in that regard.) And then, as the final step, we’ve been doing the page layout… and it turns out the text is so complex and rich, what with epigraphs in English, epigraphs in Urdu, poems in English, poems in Urdu, headings, and subheadings, and sub-sub-headings, and there have been some great graphic elements to incorporate as well (including small b&w reproductions of paintings by the gifted Daisy Rockwell and a table correlating various Pakistani leaders’ facial hair with whether they instituted martial law, etc)… As Manan himself would doubtless write at this juncture:
Well.
(Readers will love Manan’s dry wit and great style, as well as the originality of his thought and the depth of his understanding of all the relevant histories.)
The Foreword writer for WTWFA is Amitava Kumar of Vassar. Amitava was also kind enough to publish a great little interview with Manan on Bookslut. You can read it here. And be sure to read the fabulous endorsements the book got from Juan Cole and others, here.
… After wrestling with many typographical and technical gremlins, I finally got the PDFs of WTWFA’s interior and cover uploaded to the printer’s website this morning… so I’m hopeful it will be available for sale on Amazon within the next 4-5 days. (Keep your fingers crossed.) I’ll be sure to let you know when it is finally available for purchase!
Each of these latest two books has turned out, at the end, to be a real quick-turnaround challenge. Rami’s book, we added a whole additional chapter to, about the Arab Spring. And Manan’s contains as an Epilogue the wry observations he blogged a couple of days after the U.S killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.
“Timely Books for Changing Times” ~ that’s my motto at Just World Books! (TB4CT)
So anyway… when I’m working really hard at something, using twitter becomes a far too easy-to-use mind-clearer. Well, something between a relaxing mind-clearer and a potentially dangerous addiction, more like… Another “problem” I have with Twitter is that I do it in two guises. One is @helenacobban; and I try to keep to that one for personal observations. The other is @justworldbooks. I’m trying to use that one only for JWB-related items; but it’s been a bit harder to find the right tweeting “voice” there… Well, either that, or sometimes I just forget which account I’m tweeting on and get ways too mouthy on the corporate one. (I’m not sure that anyone apart from me even cares about this? Maybe having the two accounts is just all-round confusing and I should consolidate them?)
Here’s what I love about Twitter: The amazing power it gives you to connect with new tweeps through hashtags, and with new hashtags through the tweeps whom you follow. During those exciting days of the height of Egypt’s Tahrir Square revolution, it suddenly seemed as if I could connect with English-speakers (and to some extent with Arabic- and French-speakers) from all around the world as we watched all the breaking-news events and their media representations in an important way together, commenting on them as we viewed them…
One of the things I loved about OR Books was that six weeks or so ago they brought out this amazing little book, Tweets from Tahrir, a small book that in 21 chapters presents a day-by-day view of what was being tweeted from the heart of (and to a lesser extent, about) the anti-Mubarak action in Tahrir Square from January 11 through February 14. The book was edited by Nadia Idle and Alex Nunns, from London.
What an amazing thing to do.
On p.394 (I think) of Laila El-Haddad’s book with JWB, Gaza Mom, Palestine, Politics, etc…, we have a short “Tweetstory”, which is a compilation that someone made of the tweets Laila was sending out on that occasion, back in April 2009, when she got held up at Cairo airport for 32 hours with her two small kids, as she was on her way trying to get to Gaza to see her parents… The guys holding her there in the airport didn’t realize she had internet access and was tweeting for all her time there!
But OR Books made a whole book out of Tweets. Neat!
Twitter is like blogging from the point of view that your most recent tweets get put at the top while all the earlier ones get crammed ever further down beneath, meaning that– as with most blog archives– you end up having a slightly disorienting, reverse-chrono arrangement to the text. But three weeks ago I discovered this great new tool called Chirpstory that lets you very easily compile your own tweets– or anyone else’s– into forward-chrono collections that can thereby gain some real narrative heft as they proceed.
Anyway, I’ve now pulled together three or four short ‘stories’ using Chirpstory (check them out here), and see a lot of potential for its future use– particularly during periods of very significant and rapid action…
So that– and some good family things– are kind of what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks. As noted in the title here: dealing with texts of all lengths from 140 characters through 150,000 words… But at the end of the day, I still have a reporter’s heart. So that’s what I’ll be doing for the next couple of weeks.
Oh, that and continuing to do a bunch of things for the book business, of course!

Interview with R. Visser at 8th anniversary of invasion of Iraq

    (I first became acquainted with (and came to admire) Reidar Visser’s work when he started posting comments here on JWN during and after Iraq’s December 2005 election… Last fall, he was one of the four authors in Just World Books’s inaugural list. So now, as the eighth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq approaches, I’m cross-posting here the piece about about the interview I conducted with him on Saturday, for the JWB podcast series. ~HC.)

As the eighth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq approaches, Just World Books author Reidar Visser has recorded a new podcast for our series. In it, he updates his assessment of Washington’s post-invasion democratization project in Iraq, coming once again– as he did in his book A Responsible End? The United States and the Iraqi Transition, 2005-2010— to the somber conclusion that the project has been a failure. Visser also roundly refutes the claim made by some Americans that the U.S. democratization project in Iraq was somehow an “inspiration” for the many activists behind the current wave of pro-democracy movements in the Arab world.

This latest podcast was recorded by Just World Books owner Helena Cobban from a phone interview she conducted with him on March 12. It is an informative complement to this other short podcast we have of Visser, which was recorded at his book launch in Washington DC back in December.

Check out our growing library of author podcasts here!

Freeman, El-Haddad, Foust in Charlottesville, Saturday

My publishing company’s three great authors Chas Freeman, Laila El-Haddad, and josh Foust will all be in Charlottesville this Saturday, taking part in a panel discussion on developments in the (Greater) Middle East under the auspices of the Virginia Festival of the Book.
The discussion will be moderated by William Quandt.
Details are here.
I hope that all JWN readers who are nearby will come along– and bring your friends!