Reading Lolita in Tehran

Last night, I finished reading Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran. As a writer it gave me a warm, smug feeling that writing matters. As a reader, it inspired me to at least pretend to consider giving Henry James another shot. And, as a regular guy, it made me feel far superior to all of you who’ve spent the last few days jabbering like idiots and crying over the death of a skin-bleaching pervert with a drug problem because once long ago he made music that made us dance. (Sure, go ahead and accuse me of being Peter King, but ask yourself this: Would you have let Michael Jackson babysit your children?)

But I digress. Reading Lolita in Tehran is not a new book by any means. But in light of recent events, it struck me as being even more relevant. Though I do think Nafisi gets a little too writerly for my tastes from time to time, the book was beautiful, a stark reminder of the power of literature and a reminder too that whatever you believe about Iran, women bear the brunt of oppression in such cultures and countries. There were a couple of times when I almost put the book down and fired off passages to the sort of people who claim that women in such places are somehow happier because they’re given more respect. Yes, such people exist — and it’s usually someone trying hard to be some kind of progressive.

At any rate, it’s a great book. Go read it. Or I will slap you.

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