Yesterday I was reminded -- if I needed a reminder -- all over again about the power that stories have on the human imagination. I was reading Khaled Hosseini's novel A Thousand Splendid Suns, which is just as good as his international best-seller The Kite Runner. Hosseini writes about his native country, Afghanistan, with a mixture of fictional characters and real events: giving a human face to history. In one section of the book, he talks about the drought-stricken summer of 2000 in Kabul, where the Taliban has forbidden books, TV, and movies:
"That summer, Titanic fever gripped Kabul. People smuggled pirated copies of the film from Pakistan -- sometimes in their underwear. After curfew, everyone locked their doors, turned out the lights, turned down the volume, and wept tears for Jack and Rose and the passengers of the doomed ship. If there was electrical power, Mariam, Laila, and the children watched it, too. A dozen times or more, they unearthed the TV from behind the toolshed, late at night, with the lights out and quilts pinned over the windows.
"At the Kabul River, vendors moved into the parched riverbed. Soon, from the river's sunbaked hollows, it was possible to buy Titanic carpets, and Titanic cloth, from bolts arranged in wheelbarrows. There was Titanic deodorant, Titanic toothpaste, Titanic perfume, Titanic pakora, even Titanic burquas."
Such personal risk in order to share in a story!
And speaking of stories, my writing class has its first critique session today. We sat in a circle and I passed around cookies, making this as much like an American writers' group as possible. None of the students had participated in a critique class before, and only two had previously written any fiction whatsoever, but they did very well indeed. I look forward to seeing the rewrites of these three stories, and of the rest to come.