The Uncommon Sense of the Immortal Mullah Nasruddin – Ron Suresha (Lethe Press)

Buy it now from Giovanni’s Room or from our Amazon.com store –The Uncommon Sense of the Immortal Mullah Nasruddin: Stories, Jests, and Donkey Tales of the Beloved Persian Folk Hero
 

I don’t know where I’ve been
for the last few thousand years, but I had never heard of the incomparable
Mullah Nasruddin until last summer when I was discussing this project with Ron
Suresha. The deliciously filthy anecdotes he shared with me do not appear in The
Uncommon Sense of the Immortal Mullah Nasruddin
, but in the introduction,
Suresha promises an unexpurgated volume will follow. I certainly hope so.

For those unfamiliar with
the great man, Nasruddin is a Persian folk hero with the “wise fool”
characteristics carried down in the oral traditions of other cultures
throughout the centuries. Suresha does a terrific job of tracing down
Nasruddin’s pedigree in his highly readable introduction, but the real meat of
the book is in the stories themselves, traditionally read in groups of seven.

Staunch traditionalist that
I am, that’s exactly how I read them. Mullah Nasruddin emerges from these tales
as a scholar, a wit, a fool, a counselor, a teacher and a lawyer—with many
other roles in between. His wisdom is funny, universal and pointed, and there
is much to be learned from the great Mullah. If, at times, some of the stories
remind one of old vaudeville jokes, it’s important to remember that these tales
are their antecedents.

 

                        “Young Nasruddin decided to learn a
musical instrument, so

                        he called upon a music instructor. ‘How much
do you charge for

                        private lute lessons?’ asked the boy. ‘The
lute is not an easy

                        instrument to learn,’ answered the teacher.
‘I charge three silver

                        coins for the first month and one silver
piece for each month after

                        that.’ ‘Fine,’ agreed Nasruddin, ‘I’ll start
with the second month.’”

Rim shot, please.

But this is only one facet
of a truly multi-faced character. His exchanges with the despotic Tamerlane are
barbed and intelligent, and punchlines such as the one above are mere
punctuation in the larger scope of the work. Suresha has also done a wonderful
job of updating the language and cultural references but retaining the Old
World flavor. Although there are no long, descriptive passages of the time or
place, Suresha’s detailing is so precise that by the middle of the book, you
can see the town of Aksehir as if it were right outside your window.

Is this a queer book? Er, uh
cough… no. But Suresha is a pillar of the gay/bi/bear lit community,
and his projects always have diversity shining through their pages. So, take a
break from the usual romances, vampires, angst and coming out stories and climb
up beside Nasruddin riding his donkey—facing backwards, of course.

You just might get a whole
new perspective.

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler 

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