THE TAQWACORES by michael muhammad knight

in this interview author knight says he’s continued to identify as muslim because he’d “rather be in the mosque urinating out than outside the mosque urinating in.” and that delicate preference gives the book its permission and power to radically deal with islam.

it’s done through the lens of punk rock (or, as the book likes to spell it: punk rawk!) wherein your humble narrator is a nerdy engineering student reporting on the (d)evolving escapades of a muslim punk house–where the living room goes, for example on friday night, from ju’mah to all-ages show almost before you can say oi!

knights uses the two religious questions — what is punk? and what is islam? — to riotous and appropriately scandalous effect. the cast list could make you think it’s just easy mashup — burqua-clad riot grrrls, mohawked imams, liwaticore — but knight handles all of it with a soft-touch authenticity, all the more remarkable for the fact that the taqwacore punk scene came AFTER he wrote the book. details on that here:

here’s a bit early on where the book’s hero tries to sort out the mess:

“Bro, listen,” said Jehangir. “They were Muslims, man, but not your uncles. They need a deen that’s not your uncle’s deen. Iman, think about it like that, iman! It’s supposed to be all about having no fear of death, right? And we got that part down, we’ve done that and we have plenty of Muslims who aren’t afraid to die. Mash’Allah–but now Muslims are afraid to fuckin’ live! They fear life, yakee, more than they fear shaytans or shirk or fitna or bid’a or kafr or qiyamah or the torments in the grave, they fear Life… You got all these poor kids who think they’re inferior because they don’t get their two Fajr in, their four Zuhr, four Asr… they don’t have beards, they don’t wear hejab, maybe they went to their fuckin’ high school proms and the only masjid around was regular horsehit-horseshit-takbir-masjid and they had to pretend like they were doing everything right…well I say fuck that and this whole house says fuck that — even Umar, you think Umar can go in a regular masjid with all his stupid tattoos and dumb straghtedge bands? Even Umar, bro, as much as he tries to Wahabbi-hard-ass his way around here, he’s still one of us. He’s still fuckin’ taqwacore — ” (41)

who woulda thought you could still write a punk novel? granted it’s not a punk novel like kathy acker or mark amerika’s THE KAFKA CHRONICLES. it’s not in other words a novel iconoclastic in form. but it does try to be iconoclastic in content — and knight’s take on islam does seem pretty radical.

a genius raconteur, he obviously cares about this world and its characters enough to make them seem real, to make the scene seem possible. the book succeeds because that care gives it a sweetness and integrity that’s very charismatic — plus the book has a real outrageousness that’s both rare and powerful. give it a whirl.

buy the book. find it at the library.



barely trembling still lives a la duchamp’s ÉTANT DONNÉS, howard’s genre games hint at motion–sea wrecks, cowboys at chase, revolutionaries and kidnappings, gypsies and sailors, violence and unleashed victorian sexuality–but these tales remain defiantly frozen, artificial and perfected. the accumulating effect is occasionally claustrophobic and often a mesmerized enthrallment.

i dug “The Scent of Apples” for its rich tapestry of place and character, the gorgeous baroque style. also, “She Came from the East,” which was a snappy, dark comedic act. in fact what was surprising, throughout the book, was how the tight and detailed language opened up at times to, danced to the rhythm of, jokes.

one other to mention, because it seemed a distillation and symbol of her method, the opener: “Light Carried on Air Moves Less,” whose climax of flickering poses uncannily animates the parched landscape around it.

buy it from the publisher or find it at your local library.

hey, what’s behind that door?

Ellipsis Press will be at TWO bookfests in Brooklyn this weekend.


Ellipsis Press and Harp & Altar at the

3rd Annual Boog City Festival.

Saturday & Sunday, September 12th and 13th, 2009

at Unnameable Books | 600 Vanderbilt Ave. in Brooklyn

Books–including new titles by Joanna Ruocco and Norman Lock–will be on sale.

Harp & Altar contributor and new Ellipsis Press editor Corey Frost will be reading at 1:40PM on Saturday.

Also hear further astonishments by these other Harp & Altar contributors:

Jill Magi will be reading at 12:30 on Saturday.

Joanna Sondheim will be reading at around 12:30PM on Sunday.

Eileen Myles will be speaking on a panel at 2:45PM on Sunday.

See full schedule at:

. . .

Ellipsis Press will be at the Brooklyn Book Festival

at Brooklyn Borough Hall.

Brooklyn Book Festival Directions

THE MOTHERING COVEN by joanna ruocco



The_Mothering_Coven_Cover 20090814.indd

i’ll dare to call this first novel joycean for its daredevil wordplay. i mean sick. somehow with none of the ego-fluffing look-at-me posturing, it combines the virtuosic vocabulary of a george perec with the referential knowledge of a PHd student in Pagan Studies all written with a style all her own but as iconoclastic and rhythmic as david markson. hopeful and smart. and all brand new. and you should most definitely try it.

“Ruocco’s Coven is an engagingly whimsical tale, graceful and inventive, with its own distinctive lexicon, reminiscent of the works of such writers as Ronald Firbank or Coleman Dowell. It toys with language and knowledge somewhat like the emerald-eyed black cat in the book toys with a large bird. Batting it about playfully. Coaxing something new out of it.”
—Robert Coover

“Deliriously imagined, The Mothering Coven is a work of wonder. Joanna Ruocco arrives: marvelous, and fully sprung!”
—Carole Maso

Buy from Ellipsis Press.

SHADOWPLAY by Norman Lock




an uncanny tale of the limits and power of story telling, SHADOWPLAY also works with a mesmerizing and subtle structure where the story repeats and folds into itself over and over again. among lock’s best work, it continues the self-conscious fascination and manipulation of the theme of “other” that appeared in works like A HISTORY OF THE IMAGINATION and LAND OF THE SNOW MEN. here however lock’s uproarious and dark-humored wit has been replaced with a different mode: that of a parable or fable. the alienation, vanity, occasional triumph, and seemingly inevitable destruction of the story-teller are almost classically illustrated in this compact and powerful tale.

“Stories compensate for lives unlived. They are what Norman Lock, or his avatar Guntur, calls shadows, negative reflections on a backlit screen, comprising, through artistry and brief illumination, ghosts. Lock’s teller is imprisoned by darkness, captivated by warriors and princesses no longer, if ever, living. Death becomes a distance from which the voices of these unliving return. It is a journey as delicious as it is threatening.”
—R.M. Berry

“[Lock’s] prose is melodial, and alert to every signal from the unseen.”
—Gary Lutz

Buy from Ellipsis Press.

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