Winner of the Milkweed National Fiction Prize, the Friends of Literature's
Chicago Foundation Award for Fiction, the Pushcart Prize, and a National Endowment
for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction
Milkweed Editions is proud to announce the publication of Larabi's Ox: Stories of
Morocco by Tony Ardizzone, the winner of the 1992 Milkweed National Fiction Prize.
Gloria Naylor, author of The Women of Brewster Place, Bailey's Cafe, and
Mama Day, acted as competition judge and has written the foreword.
Larabi's Ox is a tapestry of interwoven stories that relates the tales of three
Americans visiting Morocco for the first time. Sarah Rosen, traveling alone, is running
away from a failed relationship; Peter Corvino, an American professor, is escaping from
his own mediocrity; Henry Goodson is running toward his impending death from cancer.
Morocco is strange, mysterious, colorful; the clash and interconnection between these
travelers and the Islamic culture are the fabric of the collection.
"Larabi's Ox offers what the best fiction does: the felt human landscape
with its terrifying heights and abysses; its oddly shaped and jarring strangeness; the
awed realization on your part that, against all rhythm and reason, the artist has
taken you home." -- Gloria Naylor
"Larabi's Ox places Tony Ardizzone in our first rank of story writers.
His range is wide enough to embrace man and beast, infidel and Muslim, the fallen
and the saved; his empathy is such that he immediately makes compelling any
character that appears. These are wise stories, memorably told, beautifully
written." -- W. D. Wetherell
"Ardizzone has gone into an alien land, taken it on its own terms, and captured
the essence of the place -- the smells, the rhythms, the colors, the philosophy.
Some writers deal with the foreign by making it familiar; Ardizzone has somehow kept
it foreign, and so allows us to see what connects and what doesn't. When he's done,
the place is at it is -- it is we who are different." -- David Bradley
"Vibrant, absorbing, and ingenious as a fine collage, Larabi's Ox is a
collection of superb stories, and far more. Tony Ardizzone's stunning portrait of
Morocco is a grave and intricate riddle whose answers reveal the soul of human
striving. Look into these memorable characters and you will encounter your
essential self." -- Susan Dodd
"Who we aren't is as meaningful as who we are, and this is why I place a high
value on stories like Larabi's Ox, and storytellers like Tony Ardizzone, who
writes with a poet's questioning eye, tracing the whorls of dangerous beauty in
the fingerprints of a faraway world where, unexpectedly, we are offered the keys
to our selves." -- Bob Shacochis
Milkweed Editions press release
Jacket illustration and design by Allan Servoss
LARABI'S OX: STORIES OF MOROCCO
Milkweed Editions * September 1992 * ISBN 0-915943-72-7
High Plains Literary Review review of Larabi's Ox: Stories of Morocco, by
"Uprooting Us and Bringing Us Home," copyright © 1993 by High Plains Literary
Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, Spring 1993. Reviewed by Carol LeMasters.
In the Western World, few cultures have been so misunderstood as those of the
Middle East. All the more important, then, that there should appear a beautiful and
riveting collection such as Larabi's Ox, with the power to dispel ignorance
while telling stories that are moving, compassionate, and life-affirming. Without
condescension or prejudice, Ardizzone brilliantly explores the rich history, the
deep-rooted traditions, the magic, and the cultural intricacies of Morocco, long
considered the most "enlightened" of Middle Eastern countries.
In Larabi's Ox, Ardizzone skillfully interweaves the stories of three
Americans who, in the midst of personal crisis, come to Morocco and are irrevocably
changed. There is Peter, a cynical, self-loathing academic, tormented by a sense of
failure in his personal and professional lives. He finds the Middle East callous,
but perhaps no more so than academia, where he's learned to expect "the kiss on the
cheek, the knife in the back." There is Sarah, who, upon ending a bad love affair,
decides to come to the Middle East to prove to herself that she can. A woman in a
man's world, Jewish in an Arab nation, Sarah proves in many ways the most romantic
and the most courageous of the three. Finally, there's cancer-stricken Henry,
starved for affection, desperate for meaning, determined not to die as passively as
From these disparate lives Ardizzone spins a narrative of amazing transformative
power. He does so through immersing us in the smells, sounds, colors, and shapes of
markets and mosques, gently unraveling our defenses and disarming our prejudices
through descriptions that are pure poetry. An incredibly sensual writer, Ardizzone
seduces us through sheer eloquence into a world of unimaginable spiritual depths.
Yet never does he use Morocco as a mere exotic backdrop for an interesting story
line. A blend of Berber, Arab, and European influences Morocco remains a unique
mixture of East and West, innovation and tradition, compassion and cruelty. Yet the
reality is more subtle than that, more elusive. In the words of one Moroccan
"'Pick up any book. It [Morocco] is the land of contrasts where the ancient -- that
is the quaint, the backward, oppressive -- exists side by side with the modern -- or
shall we say, European, particularly French. Neither image is complimentary, you
understand. What they miss is the real Morocco that lies between.'"
Ardizzone displays a profound sensitivity to the interconnections and to the
differences -- as essential a basis for dialogue between nations as between
individuals. In these tales, we encounter a people who, like the rest of us, drink,
make love, make art, raise families, pray, celebrate, and grieve. But differences
exist too, ancient and deep. To his credit, Ardizzone never shies away from
depicting the worst of Moroccan society: its callousness, its poverty, its
narrowness, its brutality toward women.
The best, however, lies in a spiritual vision sorely lacking in the West. The
Moroccans of these tales live in a multidimensional universe in which visible and
invisible freely mingle, a world in which there are no accidents and in which the
most insignificant event takes on cosmic meaning. Their unshakable faith in fate --
maktub -- profoundly shapes the culture, leading less to resignation than to a deep
sense of purpose. Ardizzone presents us with a passionate people, steeped in
tradition and deeply ambivalent about the West, envying its technology, military
strength, and high standard of living while sensing the emptiness beneath.
This ambivalence is epitomized in the Moroccan student, Ahmed, who befriends
Henry and in whom Eastern and Western forces intersect. Deeply drawn to America --
the luxurious land of James Dean, beautiful women, and plentiful jobs -- Ahmed yet
dreads becoming like the tourists he guides daily:
". . . Westerners mainly believed in what their senses could perceive. They valued
the visible so highly they liked to take photographs of all the physical things
standing before them. Rather than come to Morocco and try to know it, to feel the
rhythms and repetitions of its ordinary life, to hear the silence of its art and
architecture, to understand its search for patterns, variations, repetitions, most
Westerners seemed to prefer only to photograph their presence there, as if posing
before a ruin with a grin on one's face were sufficient reason to make the long
journey across the ocean."
The most remarkable scenes are those in which Ardizzone succeeds in capturing the
specific strengths and weaknesses of both cultures simultaneously. One such example
is the haunting story, "The Whore of Fez el Bali," in which Sarah, breaking with the
endless humiliations she is forced to endure as a woman, explodes in violence at a
young street boy who insults her and thus inadvertently causes his beating by
onlookers. Carefully avoiding easy judgments, Ardizzone creates a deeply disturbing
story, morally ambiguous, evoking intense contradictory emotions. It is a tribute to
Ardizzone's artistry that he can so compassionately embrace both Sarah's rage and
the boy's tragedy, calling into question all simple distinctions between victim and
victimizer, privileged and oppressed.
Minor flaws exist. It is no accident, I think, that our one truly sexual
character is female. Romance appears central to Sarah's evolution in a way not
demanded of Ardizzone's male characters. Nevertheless, Ardizzone succeeds, for a
time, in taking us out of ourselves, enabling us to see not only Moroccans in a new
perspective but ourselves as well. When all is said and done, it is the images that
remain: Peter clasping the cripples, Henry dying in the desert, unexpected moments
of grace, peace painfully won. Once having surrendered to these tales, it is not
possible to emerge intact, so that these are not simply tales of others'
transformations but a means to our own.
Chicago Tribune review of Larabi's Ox: Stories of Morocco, by Tony
"A Trio of Americans Penetrates Morocco," copyright © 1992 by Chicago Tribune,
September 27, 1992. Reviewed by James Park Sloan.
Tony Ardizzone's second volume of short fiction (the first, The Evening
News, won the Flannery O'Connor Award) is an interwoven sequence of stories
chronicling the experience of three American travelers on a first visit to
contemporary Morocco. While each is strikingly different (a young woman fleeing an
unhappy relationship, a middle-age academic coming to terms with divorce and a
mediocre career, and a man dying of cancer pursuing a meaningful death), the three
are part of a pilgrim's progress whose encounter with poverty, disease and alien
custom is the vehicle for an inner journey.
The title story briefly introduces them while adumbrating one of the collection's
major themes: the submission to "God's will," as echoed in the incantatory Arabic
phrase "insha'Allah" (God willing). A tour de force of multiple points of view, the
story recounts in flashback a collision between a shuttle bus from the Casablanca
airport and a poor farmer's ox.
The driver, fearing for his job, blames the "stupid beast" that did not run from
the bus as it should have, and rails about the fat American taking pictures. A small
boy, often scolded for daydreaming and for spilling the canister of goat's milk he
pushes in a wheelbarrow, suffers guilt in the belief that his secret wish for the
accident caused it. The picture-taker, Henry Goodson, presses a hand to his
cancerous stomach and speculates on the feelings of the ox as an image of humankind,
Moroccan and American, to whom things simply happen.
Yet human beings are not oxen, nor is the submission to "God's will," maddening
at first to Westerners, altogether passive. In "The Beggars," Peter Corvino, who had
been rootless in his own country, nevertheless suffers pangs of homesickness.
(Ordering beer and peanuts at a hotel, he receives beer and olives -- a metaphor for
his whole failed effort to translate the familiar into Moroccan terms.) Warned
against beggars, his gift of two coins to a poor woman indirectly makes it possible
for him to stay in Morocco and begin a journey toward self-acceptance.
In "Exchange," Corvino visits the home of his Moroccan counterpart and commits a
series of gaffes. He chooses Vivaldi over Moroccan folk music and fails to
recognize, at first, a map in which Morocco occupies the northern, or "superior,"
position and Europe the "inferior" south. But emboldened by his hosts' differing
views on travel to America, he tells them the story of his failed marriage and
career, taking a first step toward exorcising the pain.
In "The Unfinished Minaret," Henry Goodson violates the prohibition on entering a
mosque and misses the moment when the dying sunlight strikes a minaret. It is not,
however, mere touristic vulgarity, but his illness that puts him outside custom and
Goodson resists integration, wisecracking to the end in idioms that his Moroccan
guide, Ahmed, cannot understand. Death remains problematically solitary, but his
very aloneness compels Ahmed to reach out and bring the American to his home
village, then on to the edge of the desert -- where, no longer a slave to his
camera, he can be a participant in his own death.
Sarah Rosen carries the burden of proving that she can survive in Morocco without
a man. "In the Garden of the Djinn" and "The Whore of Fez el Bali" exhibit her
resourcefulness in traveling as a woman and a Jew without abandoning her compassion.
Superficially an innocent, Sarah shows surprising sophistication. She knows her
lover would be different in America, she says, because "I'm not the same person
Full of masterly writing and teeming with ordinary Moroccan life, this is travel
literature of a high order. While the stories were published separately, in small
literary journals, the volume feels much like a novel, with only occasional lapses
into repetitious exposition.
In the final episode, "The Baraka of Beggars and Kings," Corvino who gestured for
peanuts and got olives, has learned enough to bargain successfully for a rug. Losing
the rug in a stunning reversal, he must then demonstrate his mastery of Moroccan
psychology and idiom in order to regain it. In doing so, he receives the unstated
goal of each traveler, a baraka, or blessing, and with it the peace of willed
submission, expressed in his comfortable use of the Arabic "insha'Allah."
San Francisco Chronicle review of Larabi's Ox: Stories of Morocco, by Tony
"Moments of Truth in Morocco," copyright © 1992 by San Francisco Chronicle, November
15, 1992. Reviewed by William Rodarmor.
The essence of Morocco penetrates the stories in Tony Ardizzone's fine new
collection the way desert sand sifts under doors and past windows.
The events in the fourteen short stories of Larabi's Ox are intertwined;
characters appear in each other's stories, sometimes at center stage, sometimes as
footnotes. Set against the backdrop of the coast and desert cities of Morocco, the
result is an intriguing, beautifully crafted exploration of the human heart.
Ardizzone shows us this marble-and-sand country through three lenses, the eyes of
the three main characters in the book. All Americans and all visiting Morocco for
the first time, they are distinctive in the varying ways they let themselves sink
into the country.
Sarah Rosen, who is running away from a man, and briefly finds another, plays
A more intellectual seeker is Peter Corvino, a failed academic who begins to
absorb and love a culture far different from the one he left behind.
But the most interesting is Henry Goodson, who is dying of cancer and looking,
almost at random, for a place to die. In the beginning he keeps his distance by
constantly taking pictures; in the end he is thigh-deep in a sand dune, having sunk
into Morocco's very soil.
What Morocco offers all three is a culture made up of as many elements as a fine
Fassi carpet has knots, where Islamic hospitality and fatality go hand in hand.
Ardizzone knows Morocco well. Like one of his characters, he taught at Mohammed V
University in Rabat in 1985, as part of a program funded by the U. S. Information
Agency. He now teaches at Indiana University and Vermont College.
Like a good teacher, he learned as much as he taught. In Larabi's Ox, the
result feels like experience earned, the ability to know a place from the inside and
describe it through the eyes of a visitor.
With the dying Henry Goodson, Ardizzone takes us north to the imperial cities of
Meknès and Fez, back to Rabat, then through bustling Casablanca and the lovely
walled town of Essaouira on the Atlantic coast to the dreamy pink spectacle of
Marrakesh and beyond to the desert, where a restless Henry finally finds rest in the
dunes of the Sahara.
"The next day," he writes, "they drove to Tiffoultoute and then Alt Benhaddou to
see their magnificent casbahs. They were the stuff of children's dreams, these
mud-brown castles that loomed suddenly on the horizon like something out of a fairy
But Larabi's Ox is no travelogue. The stories are enriched by Morocco's
exoticism, not overwhelmed by it. And they are full of twists and turns, as full of
surprises as an alley running through the heart of the medina. No sooner does Peter
the professor enjoy a moment of triumph after successfully bargaining for a
magnificent carpet than it's snatched from him, then magically returned, made richer
by an improbable blessing from Morocco's king.
Ardizzone writes like a poet, with a gift for capturing moments in perfect
elegant images, but without slowing his plots. For example, when some boys speak to
Peter Corvino in French, Ardizzone writes, "his tongue answered in French, though
like legs unused to shoes, he'd trip after the first few sentences."
Or as Sarah Rosen goes walking with a dazzling young man, Ramzi: "Swallows swung
out from pits in the red walls, looping in the air and then returning in dark
flurries to where they began. . . . Sarah listened to only to the sound of his
voice, which. . . like the birds, made little forays into the air and then returned
to silence." Later, when Sarah and Ramzi make love, "his bones locked with hers like
the wooden blocks of a puzzle she'd owned when she was a child."
Henry is asked by his Moroccan hosts: "'Mnin gi ti?' Where do you come from?
"'Fin rha di?' Where are you going?
"'Ash brhi ti?' What do you want?"
These are ancient questions, probably the only ones that really matter. In
Larabi's Ox, Ardizzone weaves their elements of past and future into a
compelling present. And like pebbles tossed into a pond, the questions send slow
ripples spreading beyond the pages of his book.
New York Times Book Review review of Larabi's Ox: Stories of Morocco, by
"They're Morocco Bound," copyright © 1992 by New York Times Book
Review, November 22, 1992. Reviewed by Margot Mifflin.
Tony Ardizzone achieves an intriguingly prismatic effect in his second collection
of short fiction, Larabi's Ox, by tracking three Americans traveling
simultaneously but independently in Morocco. Each of the main characters who figure
in these 14 stories visits North Africa for a different reason. For Peter Corvino,
the trip is a respite from the monotony of tenure-track academia; for Sarah Rosen,
it's a test of her self-sufficiency after a failed romance; and for the
cancer-afflicted Henry Goodson, Morocco is a place to die. Although they share a bus
ride in the title story, the three never meet.
Mr. Ardizzone -- who has taught at Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco, and
has traveled extensively in that country -- walks this trio through the classic
Moroccan rites of passage, from the inevitable onslaught of self-appointed guides
for foreigners to the labyrinthine formalities involved in the purchase of a rug.
But it's through their curiously affecting relationships with the locals that they
find what they blindly came to seek. In "The Surrender," the disaffected Peter
discovers new meaning in teaching by taking two young beggars under his wing. In
"The Fire-Eater," Sarah reaches a point where "her life could be more her own" after
asserting herself sexually with a Moroccan man. Disappointingly, Henry remains
stubbornly, if colorfully, one-dimensional.
Because of Mr. Ardizzone's cumulative approach to storytelling -- his deliberate
style drags at times -- these vignettes work better as a group than individually.
But his use of shifting perspectives is an effective device. His willingness to
penetrate Moroccan culture, rather than paint it as an exotic backdrop for
expatriate adventures, makes this collection, which won the 1992 Milkweed National
Fiction Prize, refreshingly original.
Review of Contemporary Fiction review of Larabi's Ox: Stories of Morocco,
by Tony Ardizzone.
Copyright © 1993 by Review of Contemporary Fiction, Spring 1993. Reviewed by Laura
This year's winner of the Milkweed National Fiction Prize joins the growing ranks
of novel/short story hybrids. Ardizzone weaves three distinct story lines in
Larabi's Ox, all involving Americans hoping to distract themselves from
stateside problems in the disturbing beauty of the Moroccan landscape.
Henry Goodson, dying of cancer, goes to Morocco to escape the horror of an
American institutionalized death. Goodson hopes to finally grasp a moment of his own
creation, independent of the mundane demands of his work-shaped life. Sarah Rosen's
purpose in Morocco is to demonstrate her self-reliance in the aftermath of a failed
relationship. The third central character, Peter Corvino, is an embittered academic
hoping to revive his career through an exchange program to a Moroccan university.
Morocco is an insistent presence in these stories. Ardizzone provides a richness
of detail that lends his treatment of the country and its people an air of
verisimilitude. Yet here the setting is not merely a backdrop; neither is it a foil,
using the contrast of First and Third World to throw (Western) characters' inner
struggles into high relief (or to make them more exotic and thus more interesting to
the reader). Rather, the keen depiction of the "fourth character" seems to convey
two ideas that are vital to an understanding of the book; first, that Morocco is
real; and second, that knowledge of this reality is essential to the characters'
The "reality" Ardizzone creates is far more than the flat fact of Morocco's
existence. It consists of the daily life and problems of individual Moroccans such
as Ahmed, the guide who becomes the companion of Henry Goodson's last days. Ahmed's
anguish over the touristic remaking of his culture (which overemphasizes the quaint
and exotic even as it seals itself off from meaningful contact with Moroccans in a
bubble of resort-ease) escapes the one-dimensionality that usually mars characters
freighted with a message. He is depicted in the rich context of his family and his
Avoiding distillation into types, Moroccans present a series of surprises to the
Americans. Their "otherness" prompts the definition of self and situation that leads
to personal growth. For Peter Corvino, self-realization is not only an inward
plunge, but also a social, public experience of fitting oneself into the world. As
Corvino learns to function in Moroccan society, acceptings its differences, he comes
to accept his own situation.
Beautifully designed and thoughtfully written, Larabi's Ox is a rarity: a
book about Americans abroad that offers the hope of some rapprochement across
The Hollins Critic review of Larabi's Ox: Stories of Morocco, by Tony
Copyright © 1994 by The Hollins Critic, Vol. 31, No. 3, June 1994. Reviewed by Rita
On the way from Casablanca to Rabat, a shuttle bus strikes an ox. The blue-black
beast lying in the middle of the road -- its stomach swollen and its lips and tongue
swarming with flies -- introduces the complexities of Morocco to three American
passengers who have just landed in Casablanca, hoping to escape bad situations in
the States by steeping themselves in the exotic atmosphere of a thoroughly foreign
So begins Larabi's Ox, fourteen superb, interrelated stories that might
serve as a model for American authors interested in writing about the expatriate
experience. Tony Ardizzone, who taught in Rabat and travelled through Morocco, has
both compassion and criticisms for his American and native Moroccan characters. By
filtering the hubbub of the streets -- the dancing monkeys, crippled beggars, and
fire-eaters -- through the eyes of Henry Goodson, Peter Corvino, and Sarah Rosen, he
recreates the Arabian Nights atmosphere of North Africa without describing the
exotic merely for its own sake.
Plagued by cancer, Henry Goodson has come to Morocco to die. The overweight
Goodson, often described as a Humpty-Dumpty figure with his "Humphrey Bogart hat and
camera and kangaroo pockets," becomes a source of fascination for Ahmed, a guide who
eventually helps Henry see more than just the usual tourist sites. The friendship
that develops between the two men -- sometimes tenuous and uneasy -- shows the
inherent limitations and possibilities of understanding between Western and Arab
Peter Corvino, a bitter, recently-divorced historian visiting Rabat on academic
exchange, is the character who has the most difficulty adjusting to Morocco. Alarmed
by the poverty that assaults him on the streets, he often retreats into a dream
world in which he relives the final days of his failed marriage. Peter finally
connects with Third World customs and culture by befriending a young beggar whom he
suspects of being a charlatan. In "The Surrender," one of the most moving stories of
this collection, Peter discovers that appearances can be greatly deceiving.
Ardizzone presents a female viewpoint on Morocco through Sarah Rosen, who travels
to prove her own independence as well as to escape a bad relationship. In a series
of ugly encounters, Sarah finds out what it means to be Jewish -- and a woman -- in
an Arab culture. Yet it does not harden her heart. Easily the most "sponge-like" of
the three characters, Sarah identifies with a series of unlikely people -- such as a
boy prostitute and a drunken expatriate -- who eventually help her become more aware
of who she is.
Larabi's Ox is reminiscent of Camus' short fiction -- especially stories
such as "The Guest" and "The Adulterous Woman" -- in which Westerners are touched by
something mysterious in the North African landscape and undergo a rebirth. Ardizzone
is a first-rate storyteller who is not afraid to touch the "big subjects" of love,
life, and death. He manages to avoid the sentimental through powerful descriptions,
intricate plotting, and subtle symbolism. Emphasis on the metaphysical experiences
of his characters makes this collection even richer. Readers will wonder how the
transformed Sarah and Peter will rearrange their lives when they return back to the
United States, and may even find themselves speculating if Henry, in death, reached
some version of Mecca or Heaven.
These short stories all were previously published in some of the country's best
literary journals; as a collection, they won the 1992 Milkweed National Fiction
Prize. With the previous publication of other interesting collections such as Susan
Straight's Aquaboogie and Eileen Drew's Blue Taxis, Milkweed Editions
has proven its dedication to publishing high-quality fiction in original paperback
editions. Besides being a wonderful read, Larabi's Ox is a beautiful book,
printed on thick, creamy paper, with subtle drawings by Allan Servoss. This is the
kind of of book serious readers and writers are known to press upon others with a
command that's easily seconded by reviewers: "Read this."
The Indianapolis News review of Larabi's Ox: Stories of Morocco, by Tony
"Dance to the Music," Copyright © 1992 by The Indianapolis News, September 26,
1992. Reviewed by Sara Sanderson.
They don't design homes with reading rooms anymore; they really should.
Reading Tony Ardizzone's Larabi's Ox: Stories of Morocco deserves rich
carpet, mellow woods, and perhaps a cup of highly sweetened tea, to grace the mood.
Ardizzone will sneak you into the fabric of the country as deftly as a weaver's
fingers knot the threads of a Berber carpet. Relax, nestle deeper into some quiet
corner, and enjoy a magnificent journey.
Larabi's Ox, billed as short stories, actually flows smoothly as a novel.
The collection spreads out a tapestry of lives as colorful as a Marrakesh bazaar.
Beginning on an ill-fated bus that hits an ox, we follow three Americans visiting
Morocco for different reasons. Peter Corvino, a professor on exchange, seeks to
know if anything he has ever done really matters, suspecting it hasn't. Sarah
Rosen, striding boldly away from marriage, steps into an unchartered future. Henry
Goodson knows why he is traveling: soak up life faster than the cancer spreading
inside him can devour it.
Imagery and spirituality layer the tales, swirling thick as Moroccan mid-day
heat and the ever-present dust. When the unfortunate ox dies beside the wheels
of an airport bus, it was merely a process of maktub, or "that what is
written is sure to pass." The ox, it seems, failed to understand that "the road
belongs to the strong...."
Henry Goodson, the man dying of cancer, comments that the bus driver had hit
an immense black ox. No one else responds. "Henry wishes someone would respond.
Because whenever he remembers how his body turned Benedict Arnold on him, he aches
to be touched, or at least acknowledged." Peter Corvino, the one his university
had compromised on sending, was making the acquaintance of M. Alain Bonet, of
Casablanca, who would later admonish him. "You must learn how to handle these
Arabs if you expect to stay here and work. It's not like they're people." Sarah
Rosen sat staring out the window, watching the ocean, and the "furious whitecaps
biting their way into the shore." Much the same, her marriage had bitten into
her soul. She realized, with a start, that the best thing they had done together
Morocco, land of contrasts, towers, and gates. Land of ancient, oppressive
ways existing side by side with modern Europeans, namely French. Yet, "the real
Morocco. . . lies between."
Ardizzone, who taught at Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco, in 1995,
must have observed with an inner eye. We easily see a water seller, copper bowls
tinkling about his scarlet robes. We feel the clutches of street beggars,
offering blessings, and we taste the Meknès wine. Henry Goodson, with his
clicking American camera, misses the life being spread out before him; Ardizzone
focuses it slyly for the reader.
Spiced with Arabic, Islam, and vibrant geography, the stories astound. Your
heart aches for Henry, as he believes his final days have found a friend. The
tale of Peter bargaining for a carpet, only to lose it to armed soldiers, is
brilliant. Walk the narrow winding streets of Marrakesh with Sarah, as she
dares to explore. Comparing the alert bustle of Marrakesh to the quiet brooding
of Fez, she muses, "If Fez were a woman, she'd be wrapped in a black djellaba,
and her face would be veiled." Marrakesh would be a woman "you could walk up to
and say hello."
We have reason to be home-state proud of Ardizzone. Winner of the Milkweed
National Fiction Prize of 1992, presently he teaches literature and creative
writing at Indiana University in Bloomington. In October, Ardizzone will be one
of the featured writers at the Writers' Center of Indianapolis Fall Literary
Festival. One of our own, rising to the top; be sure to watch for more of
Paraphrasing T. S. Eliot, Ardizzone writes that we dance for as long as
we hear the music. How long is that? The music of Morocco, through his pen,
helps you know.