You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Abd Allah ibn Abi Qilaba the discoverer of the legendary city of Iram

Abu Murra literally, 'the father of bitterness,' meaning the devil

alif the first letter of the Arabic alphabet. It takes the shape of a slender, vertical line.

banj frequently used as a generic name referring to a narcotic or knockout drug, but sometimes the word specifically refers to henbane.

ghul a cannibalistic monster. A ghula is a female ghul.

al-Khidr "The Green Man," features in the Quran as a mysterious guide to Moses as well as appearing in many legends and stories. In some tales, this immortal servant of God is the guardian of the Spring of Life, which gives eternal life to those who drink from it.

Magian A Zoroastrian, a fire worshipper. In the Nights, the Magians invariably feature as sinister figures.

maisir a pre-Islamic game of chance involving arrows and in which the stakes were designated parts of slaughtered camels.

Malik an angel who is the guardian of hell.

Qaf Mount Qaf was a legendary mountain located at the end of the world, or in some versions one that encircles the earth.

rak'a in the Muslim prayer ritual, the bowing of the body followed by two prostrations

Ridwan the angel who is the guardian of the gates of Paradise

Shaddad ibn 'Ad legendary king of the tribe of 'Ad who attempted to build the city of Iram as a rival to Paradise and was punished by God for his presumption.

tagbut a term designating pagan idols or idolatry. By extension, the word was used to refer to soothsayers, sorcerers, and infidels.

'Udhri love this refers to the Banu 'Udhra. Several famous 'Udhri poets were supposed to have died from unconsummated love.

Selected from the Glossary to
The Arabian Nights
trans. by Malcolm C. Lyons
Penguin, 2010


  1. some people have died of consummated love

  2. You're glossary makes me think you should read Declare by Tim Powers. It's got a ghula in it named Machicka Nash.

    There'll be a review on my website later this week.

  3. I've been to costermongers and the links go only to wikis.

    Am i not sophisticated enough to find other content?

  4. That image didn't just draw itself, or the code to make the image appear in your browser write itself. Doing it all myself. All the images, all the code, all the text, all the ideas. Trying to stay away from canned stuff, however:

    I might use Blogger or WordPress to drive the blog part. WordPress is all free and versatile. Blogger lets you monetize the content, i.e. ads that make small amounts of money.

    The review of Declare is being written this week. Do you have any "secret history" novels that you might recommend. I am going to put your blog under the "You" heading so that perhaps people who look at my blog might look at yours.

    Like that trapeze artist I became friends with last week named Luc. He knows David Shiner, who gave me my 15 minutes on Broadway. Changed my life is what it did.

    The Interwebz say that the first "secret history" novel to become really big is Ken Follet's Eye Of the Needle. I wonder if that's true.

    Powers seems to be a one man band. He teaches high school and college. The World Fantasy Award seems an evolving affair. I remember Harold Bloom saying that the mode of fantasy in fiction was the most promising untried ground. Ever read Little, Big by John Crowley? I think he's on your list of 100 great sf novels.

  5. If Eye of the Needle is a secret history novel, wouldn't Rogue Male predate it?

  6. Exactly what I wanted to know. Now I can change the article at Wikipedia to reflect that fact.

  7. Make sure Rogue Male fits the definition

  8. From the wiki article on Rogue Male it hardly sounds like a "secret history", which takes actual events and invents an unknown explanation for them with real historical characters acting in some factual way, but really motivated for a reason unknown to historians. The main character's object would actually have to "be" Hitler. Not someone modeled after Hitler.

    I'm surprised that the wiki article on this subject of secret histories is so extensive. The enjoyment factor seems like it might be high only if you know something about the history of the subject beforehand.

    Declare is more a genre blend in that it's a spy novel in the mold of John Le Carre, and a supernatural thriller about a city of djinn. It reminds me of King Kong in a way.

    The review is up at Next review is Le Carre's A Most Wanted Man. Endings are the real problem with speculative fiction. A few of Powers endings are really poor, especially Last Call, though the novel itself is really fast paced. Declare was satisfying.