Ranging from Seattle to Cairo, from the high seas to the US presidential campaign, Raban brings a distinctive and often unexpected perspective to the issues facing post—September 11 America.
What does the “war on terror” and a new era of religious ferocity look like to an Englishman living in the Pacific Northwest? Jonathan Raban finds, as he reads the source texts that have inspired modern-day jihad, memories of his own adolescent atheism help him understand why young people suffering from cultural alienation and moral uncertainty turn to a backward-looking version of Islam to help them resist the upheavals of modernity.
Raban reflects on the Bush administration’s manipulation of the threat of terrorism to undermine civil rights. In diagnosing what has gone wrong in the Iraq war, he emphasizes the US failure to understand the history of the Middle East, and explains the region’s shifting and complex loyalties of religion and ethnicity. He traces the continuing support for a disastrous war to the legacy of American Puritanism: the tendency of Americans to be inspired by a religious fervor oblivious to history and reason. And he explores the increasing polarization of American politics, as exemplified by the issues that he has seen divide his urban from his non urban neighbors in the Northwest.
Raban’s specialty is the sly, unsparing metaphor and jarring observation.— Village Voice Literary Supplement
We need sane voices in these times, and they don’t come much saner, or indeed much more alert and stylish, than Jonathan Raban’s….This collection of pieces is more than just a ragbag of occasional journalism (not that I have anything against ragbags). Itworks as a unified entity, a diary of anxiety and alarm caused by the current “war on terrorism”; a declaration of war, as he puts it, “like declaring war on tanks, or bows and arrows.” But it is also a useful primer, for those who need to be primed, on the relevant background details.— Nicolas Lezard, The Guardian
The book’s defense of reason over militant irrationalism, resting as it does on the author’s formidable talent for insight and analogy, will inspire readers with the underlying issues at play in this dizzying, event-crammed historical moment.— Publishers Weekly
Raban is articulate and erudite, but perhaps he is preaching to the liberal choir here. Nevertheless, his reputation as an outstanding journalist will generate demand.— Booklist
Raban’s West Coast perch provides a welcome shift from the Ground Zero-centric view of terrorism.— Time Out New York