Critical Mass

Dog Days of Summer Reads: Lev Grossman

By Lev Grossman

I'm reading Girls of Riyadh, by Rajaa Alsanea, which was I think a bit of a succes de scandale when it was first published in Arabic in Lebanon two years ago. It's basically Sex and the City transposed to the capital of the kingdom of Saudia Arabia, where four well-off young women are trying to negotiate the dangerous shell game of love, sex,marriage, etc. in a strict Islamic society where contact between men and women is obsessively scrutinized and regulated, and where casual flirting often seems to come down to some random lust-crazed man yelling his cell phone number at you through the tinted windows of your BMW SUV. Hardly a literary masterpiece, but deeply compelling nonetheless — it's an almost uniquely candid look at life in a culture that I, as an American, feel an increasingly urgent need to understand.–NBCC Board Member Lev Grossman