In This Review

Granta 77: What We Think of America
Granta 77: What We Think of America
Edited by Ian Jack
Granta Books, 2002, 256 pp.

Of all the attempts to capture the international reactions to September 11, Granta's spring 2002 issue must be the most interesting and useful. This is not because the 24 intellectual and cultural figures contributing the issue's short essays are always intelligent or thoughtful. Harold Pinter, for example, calls the United States "a rogue state of colossal military and economic might." Nevertheless, the essayists -- including such wide-ranging luminaries as Ian Buruma, Ariel Dorfman, Doris Lessing, and Orhan Pamuk -- offer a subtle and varied set of responses that will intrigue, provoke, enlighten, and surprise. Despite some predictable (although not always misguided) ideas informing most of these writers -- admiration for American openness and democracy combined with dislike of American unilateralism and arrogance -- the essays also offer sly perceptions and interweaving of personal memoir with political reflection. Readers should not miss the extraordinary essay by Ziauddin Sardar, which describes five years of work with Saudi authorities in Mecca. In his account of both Saudi culture and the religious controversies surrounding the attempt to remake the Holy Cities of the peninsula in the image of Wahhabi Islam, Sardar delivers one astonishing insight after another.