Nightgrapefruit may not remember pronouncing me genius(!) for ripping out individual New Yorker articles to read on the longish F-train ride to meet up for our weekend runs in Prospect Park (I'm entertained but don't have to sacrifice the entire mag at the end of my journey for the sake of a run), but for the record, I agree on the assessment. I also take single pieces on shorter rides when I don't want to carry a lot of stuff around and need insurance against boredom (even an inveterate people-watcher sometimes gets bored watching other trainriders).
Anyway, this is how I only recently found myself reading Margaret Talbot's profile on the journalist Orianna Fallaci, written last year, several months before Fallici's death last September.
I was momentarily fascinated, then quickly appalled, by Fallaci. I have an intuitive bias against journalists who become - and mostly it's because they allow themselves to become - celebrities. And, bigots like Fallaci are unappealing on their face. While a curious creature - her anti-Islamic vehemence is startling and therefore a cause for wonder - in the end she comes off blindly angry and single-minded (if not exactly simple-minded), and therefore is inherently boring. Fallaci reserved an acute vitriol for Muslims in Europe and the most recent wave of Islamic cultural presence there, particularly in her native Italy:
“They live at our expense, because they’ve got schools, hospitals, everything,” she said at one point, beginning to shout. “And they want to build damn mosques everywhere.” She spoke of a new mosque and Islamic center planned for Colle di Val d’Elsa, near Siena. She vowed that it would not remain standing. “If I’m alive, I will go to my friends in Carrara—you know, where there is the marble. They are all anarchists. With them, I take the explosives. I make you juuump in the air. I blow it up! With the anarchists of Carrara. I do not want to see this mosque—it’s very near my house in Tuscany. I do not want to see a twenty-four-metre minaret in the landscape of Giotto. When I cannot even wear a cross or carry a Bible in their country! So I BLOW IT UP! ”
To be fair, I have read none of Fallaci's work, but as this woman who concerned herself, ostensibly, with broadening human freedom (and whose parents were anti-fascists during WWII in Italy and suffered for it), I was sad to read that outburst (the likes of which she was apparently very well known for).
I perked up a little later, though, when I happened to visit the Arabist (their site has been down a lot the past few days), where I found
this bit about an exhibit on Islam in Italy now on at the Met, and learned that Venice holds the distinction of being the city where the first Koran was printed, and that denizens of the same town learned how to blow glass from Syrian Arabs. (Arab not always equating to Muslim, of course, but you get the point).
Perhaps it is better that Fallaci is no longer in the neighborhood to endure the presence of this exhibit (she lived for years on the Upper East Side before returning to Italy shortly before her death). Imagine the damage her shouts of denial at the quiet but thunderous facts of cultural contribution and adoption might do to the delicate objets d'art in the Met.