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Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Wet and The Dry by Lawrence Osborne

This is an unusual premise for a book, although perhaps not for this particular author.  About half of this travel memoir takes place through out the Muslim world, where the author is essentially going from bar to bar.  What is it like to drink alcohol in countries where the predominant way of like is to be alcohol free?  These chapters are interesting cultural studies of what the author's views as a paradox about Islam related to alcohol.  First, why alcohol?  The Taliban sells poppies and tolerates heroin, but not alcohol?  That doesn't make a lot of sense.  Then there is the duplicity--on the one hand standing on the higher ground that alcohol is for sinners, then on the other hand arranging for a non-Muslim to purchase your drink for you.

Osborne is very clear on his biases.  His mother was an alcoholic, and while he turns his nose up at her drink of choice, he followed faithfully in her footsteps in other ways.  He only describes two binges in the book, but it is not much over 200 pages and it is largely not about him, so it is unlikely that these are rare events.  He is a self-described nomad, living now in Turkey, but having set up camp in Thailand and several other countries over the course of hislife, so he is restless, a people watcher, and perhaps someone who likes being the foreigner in the crowd, and attention seeker of a certain kind.  The book is interesting in that it is completely different from either a commentary on Islam or a traditional travel memoir, and is worth an evening read.

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