Monday, July 16, 2007

Guardian bestseller list, The Islamist review

I spent the weekend reading The Islamist by Ed Hussein. I found it un-putdownable; for a terrorism nerd seeking answers like me it gave me some clarity about the questions that nibble and bob like hungry fish in the dark water of my dreams. But it was also very moving, charting an idealistic young man's descent into paranoia and through the twisted power-politics and conspiracy theories, charting how, in hoping to get closer to God, he instead found himself trapped in a prison of the ego that starved his soul. It was a shocking murder that started to wake him from his dreams of a Caliphate: he knew that Islamist men would kill in the name of God, and thought it right and just, but not until a Christian student was knifed by an Islamist college friend at his college did he start to see the vainglorious nihilistic toxicity of the messages that he had pedalled. I hope many people read it; it does help to understand the differences between Islam, the religion, and poltical Islamism. They are very far apart, though one tries to pass itself off as the other. Islamism has more in common with hard left or hard right politics than religion. It's an ideaology wearing theology's clothes.

I also went to see the new Harry Potter film: verdict - surprisingly good for a Harry Potter film. The final book comes out next weekend and I am looking forward to seeing how the story ends.

Some good news at last: Out of the Tunnel is number 4 on the Guardian best-seller list! ( After this interview). Elizabeth Mahoney, the Guardian radio critic liked the BBC World Service Outlook interview. Three more amazon reviews , two from KCU friends George and Susan who came out of the tunnel with me, and another one from an unknown reader in East Anglia, which is stunningly complimentary. UPDATE: And another one from Graham, a blog reader. All reviews so far are 5 stars. Wow. Thank you.

Nobody from the mainstream media has yet reviewed the book. I am very lucky indeed to have the PR interviews organised by the publishers, and I am working hard to make up lost ground after last week's disaster. But I still hope that someone will actually review the writing in the book: I know the events of the story are interesting, and unusual, but they happened to me and I couldn't do anything about it, apart from muddle through as best I could. What I want, more than anything, is for someone, a professional critic, to say the way it is written is good, or to criticise it, so I can learn from it, because that was the thing I did, that I controlled, the writing.

It is as a writer that I want to be heard, not as someone who had a load of bad luck and was attacked by random horrible strangers. It is as a writer that I want to continue my career. Writing other people's stories, not always my own. I am sick of talking about myself. I shouldn't complain; I am not complaining. But oh, how I long for someone to see the story-telling, not just the story. There are big faults in the book that I can see, now I read it. I thought there would be feedback and rewriting and restructuring but that didn't happen which scared me. I had a copy editor who helped with typos/subbing instead. I wrote it fast, borrowing my agent's office to get away from the FJL bombardment, which made it impossible to work at home, and now I want feedback, I crave it, and I dread it, as all new writers do.

Two more interviews today and a European radio show tomorrow, and on Friday Jon Ronson and I did an interview for This American Life which is a brilliant programme - Jon was beside himself with excitement at being asked to be on again and I was very flattered. The Radio 4 interview when Jon told David Shayler to 'f*ck off' is passing into legend.


Blogger Graham the Funky Aardvark said...

Got my copy this morning

So far it is great

Oh, and well written too. It "flows" off the page. Would love to see some more of your work sometime, so I hope you manage to write another book

Keep it up

Hope that your mum is getting better too

Take care

July 16, 2007 10:28 am  
Blogger granny p said...

reviews take ages to come out now (unless the writer is on the A list - Philip Roth say. Plus TFP is a small publisher. Don't worry, they will happen. You're a good writer with a story to tell.

July 16, 2007 10:44 am  
Blogger Shauna said...

That's brilliant Rachel, and I enjoyed the Guardian interview too. I know exactly what you mean by the story-telling versus story thing; hope the reviews come rolling through soon :)

July 16, 2007 11:15 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

Its sad that you see the Caliphate from the eyes of someone bengali man who is trying to make some money from a book. The Caliphate is a system of justice as history will tell you, Muslims, Chritians, Jews all lived side by side in harmony. The caliphate is an elected accountable leadership who rules justly and not according to his own whims & desires.
And yes I to have read the Islamist.

July 16, 2007 11:59 am  
Blogger Daniele said...

I just purchased 'the islamist', looking forward to reading it!
Congrats again on your book. Looking forward to reading that next ;)

July 16, 2007 1:49 pm  
Blogger Debi said...

Your writing skills are abundantly clear, Rachel, to anyone who reads this blog.

Hope the book goes mega and life is sweet.

July 16, 2007 8:16 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Islam-ism, another ism to add to all these isms that don't really mean anything when gotten down to. Christianity as a religion is far from Christian politics as well. The world of Islam at large today is in turmoil and disunited and devoid of all guidance.

July 22, 2007 11:20 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rachel, I'm no theist, and obviously I'd be the last to presume to advise anyone in your position on how to pursue their search for understanding of what happened on 7 July, but I would hope that you treat anyone such as Husein, who is embraced so readily by the Mad Mels of the world, with the requisite circumspection.

July 27, 2007 2:35 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd advise you, next, to research the life of Mohammed and make the necessary conclusions about Islam. At its cultural and historic heart Islam is not only "political", its politics of the worst kind: supremacist, expansionist, with a tribalism thats a variant form of racism.

Muslims who are OK people are those who have been weaned away from this fact by a Westernising dilution of its ideology. Meanwhile, Muslim "scholars" in Pakistan - those who devote their lives to studying Islam - have "honoured" Bin Laden.
Why? - go figure.

But you will have to start by researching the facts: the example of Mohammed which, as that of a religious leader, is truly shocking. I challenge you to deny that - and it has clear implications, very relevant for current worlwide problems.

August 02, 2007 11:07 am  

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