Book Review: Explore the world of Khalil Gibran

Book Review: Explore the world of Khalil Gibran
Unlike any book ever written about the Lebanese-American poet, this offering is a feast for the eyes. (Photo courtesy: ‘Gibran Khalil Gibran: Alive’)
Updated 05 September 2017

Book Review: Explore the world of Khalil Gibran

Book Review: Explore the world of Khalil Gibran

“Gibran Khalil Gibran: Alive” is unlike any book ever written about the Lebanese-American poet, writer and artist. This labor of love was carried out by Joumana Bou Fakhreddine and saw the author painstakingly gather paintings, photographs, drawings and manuscripts as well as objects and memorabilia owned by Gibran, his family and friends. The process took two-and-a-half years and required the help of 200 volunteers.
The visual aids are set in chronological order and classified under 19 themes in two massive books. All the visuals included in this mini encyclopedia are accompanied by quotations and excerpts from no less than 220 publications.
“I am alive like you and I am standing beside you. Close your eyes and look around, you will see me in front of you,” one excerpt reads.
The book opens up Gibran’s life and offers the reader a rainbow of words and sounds, colors and ideas to devour while exploring the beauty of his writing and his paintings.
Gibran was born on Jan. 6, 1883, during a violent snowstorm in the town of Bsharri in the Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate of the Ottoman Empire
When his father was informed about the birth of his first son, he answered: “I don’t want him, throw him out to the snows.” At the age of three, he ran out during a storm and refused to go back into the house and supposedly kept repeating: “I love storms, I love them.”
Years later, Gibran wrote about the beauty of snow storms.
“I am home sick and my heart longs for those hills and valley. But it is better that I should stay here and work/ Today we are expecting a mighty snow storm/ You know how much I love all storms, especially snow storms/ I love snow, I love its whiteness/ I love the fall of snow and its deep silence/ I love snow in the heart of the distant unknown valley, where the snowflakes flicker in the light of the sun, twinkled a while and then melting and quietly flowing away as they whisper their song/ I love snow and fire, both they come from the same source.”
Barbara Young, who worked as his secretary during the later years of his life, stated that: “There was something in the man from early childhood, a passion for storms… something in him, he said, that was released, unleashed and set gloriously free by a storm.”
Besides nature, women played a crucial role in Gibran’s life and work.
His mother was not only the source of his artistic inspiration, but she also created an atmosphere that developed her son’s precocity and nurtured his genial personality.
Many women played a role in Gibran’s life. Some, like May Ziadeh, he never met. They both exchanged passionate and intense letters that became famous when they were published. However, the woman who influenced Gibran the most was undoubtedly Mary Haskell and the author has dedicated a whole chapter to this exceptional woman. She not only helped him financially, but she also believed in him and offered advice when he needed it.
Haskell was not considered a beautiful woman and she was also 10 years older and much taller than Gibran, but he loved her heart and her noble soul.
“When I am unhappy, dear Mary, I read your letters. When the mist overwhelms the ‘I’ in me, I take two or three out of the little box and re-read them. They remind me of my true self. They make me overlook all that is high and beautiful in life. Each and every one of us, dear Mary, must have a resting place somewhere. The resting place of my soul is a beautiful grove where my knowledge of you lives,” Gibran wrote.
“Gibran Khalil Gibran: Alive” abounds in rare and wonderful paintings and drawings. Gibran, in fact, spent more time painting than writing. In “Khalil Gibran: A Nonpareil Artist,” author Joseph Habib Helou wrote that “Gibran used different colors in his writing, but not in his paintings which were words in drawing and meaning in form… He usually expressed an idea through a drawing and elaborated on it in writing.”
Gibran drew or painted most of the famous people he met, including Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, French sculptor Auguste Rodin and French stage actress Sarah Bernard.
Bernard sat for her portrait on Feb. 18, 1913, after which Gibran wrote a humorous letter to his confidante Haskell. “The drawing which I made of her yesterday, though it does not show her old age, is a great success. But if I am to go through the same process with the rest of the great men and women, I might as well give up art and become a diplomat! She wanted me to sit at a distance so that I may not see the details of her face. But I did see them. She made me take off some wrinkles. She even asked to change the shape of her mouth! I think I understood her yesterday and I behaved accordingly and perhaps that is the reason why she liked me a little!”
The Pen League
Gibran also played a key role in creating Al-Rabitah Al-Qalamiyah, the Pen League. It was the first-ever Arab-American literary society and its aim was to revive Arab literature. Gibran suggested drastic measures to revive Arabic-language literature, saying: “If the meaning or beauty of a thought requires the breaking of a rule, break it… If there is no known word to express your idea, borrow or invent one… If syntax stands in the way of a needed or useful expression, away with syntax.”
As we turn to the last few pages of this exceptional work, Gibran tells us: “This is my story. How can I end it, when in truth it has no ending?”


What We Are Reading Today: Gridiron Genius by Michael Lombard

What We Are Reading Today: Gridiron Genius by Michael Lombard
Updated 11 May 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Gridiron Genius by Michael Lombard

What We Are Reading Today: Gridiron Genius by Michael Lombard

In Gridiron Genius, former NFL general manager and three-time Super Bowl winner Michael Lombardi reveals what makes football organizations tick at the championship level. 

From personnel to practice to game-day decisions that win titles, Lombardi shares what he learned working with coaching legends Bill Walsh of the 49ers, Al Davis of the Raiders, and Bill Belichick of the Patriots, among others, during his three decades in football.

In this book, Lombardi provides the blueprint that makes a successful organization click and win — and the mistakes unsuccessful organizations make that keep them on the losing side time and again.  

He explains how the smartest leaders script everything: From an afternoon’s special-teams practice to a season’s playoff run to a decade-long organizational blueprint. From how to build a team, to how to watch a game, to understanding the essential qualities of great leaders, Gridiron Genius gives football fans the knowledge to be the smartest person in the room every Sunday.


What We Are Reading Today: Wonderworks by Angus Fletcher

What We Are Reading Today: Wonderworks by Angus Fletcher
Updated 10 May 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Wonderworks by Angus Fletcher

What We Are Reading Today: Wonderworks by Angus Fletcher

This is a long and dense book, but any effort expended in the reading is exponentially rewarded. 

In Wonderworks, Angus Fletcher, a Renaissance literature scholar at Ohio State University, attempts a practical approach to putting the humanities back on the map. 

Fletcher takes a close look at the power of innovations in literature to improve human happiness, and he analyzes these effects on the physical body.

Wonderworks “is an unusual, thought-provoking book. It mixes history, literature, and neuroscience to create essentially a self-help book where the cure for what ails you is a certain element of literature,” said a review on goodreads.com. 

In 25 chapters, Fletcher “travels from the first stories told in caves to the present day showing, comparing and contracting how literature works, and why its messages, when done right, can be so compelling,” the review added. 

It said the book “details various literary inventions, their potential origin from ancient times, and further development through contemporary authors, and ties each one to psychological benefits for readers.”


What We Are Reading Today: Madhouse at the End of the Earth by Julian Sancton

What We Are Reading Today: Madhouse at the End of the Earth by Julian Sancton
Updated 09 May 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Madhouse at the End of the Earth by Julian Sancton

What We Are Reading Today: Madhouse at the End of the Earth by Julian Sancton

Madhouse at the End of the Earth is a must-read book for anyone interested in polar exploration and geographic discovery.

It is a fictionalized account of an actual Belgian expedition to the Antarctic, in the final years of the 19th century, and is based on a multitude of journals and reports.

In this epic tale, Sancton unfolds a story of adventure gone horribly awry.

“It is a fascinating and exciting story of endurance, with a flowing narrative and characters well described and full of depth,” said a review in goodreads.com.

It offers a gripping account of the de Gerlache Antarctic expedition of 1897-1899, in which the ship became frozen in the ice for the entire winter. 

It is also the story of the friendship between the ship’s doctor, Dr. Frederick Albert Cook, and Roald Amundsen, who was at the beginning of his career as an explorer.

The author uses a lot of primary sources such as diaries.

“Anyone who values a human story in trying conditions, under desperate circumstances, will completely enjoy this book,” said the review.


What We Are Reading Today: Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe

What We Are Reading Today: Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe
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Updated 08 May 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe

What We Are Reading Today: Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe

Author: Niall Ferguson

Drawing from multiple disciplines, including economics and network science, Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe offers not just a history but a general theory of disaster.
The book falls into multiple parts, the first of which forms the bulk of the text with an examination of disasters throughout history, both natural and man-made, some in the deep past, others in more recent memory.
As author Niall Ferguson shows, governments “must learn to become less bureaucratic if we are to avoid the impending doom of irreversible decline,” said a review on goodreads.com.
“While populist rulers certainly performed poorly in the face of the pandemic, Ferguson argues that more profound pathologies were at work — pathologies already visible in our responses to earlier disasters,” said the review.
It said that Ferguson “examines various plagues through the ages, as knowledge of how they work gradually grew, and how such knowledge was usually ignored or abused by those in power.”


What We Are Reading Today: The Big Roads by Earl Swift

What We Are Reading Today: The Big Roads by Earl Swift
Updated 06 May 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Big Roads by Earl Swift

What We Are Reading Today: The Big Roads by Earl Swift

A man-made wonder, a connective network, an economic force, a bringer of blight and sprawl and the possibility of escape — the US interstate system changed the face of our country. 

Earl Swift’s The Big Roads charts the creation of these essential American highways. From the turn-of-the-century car racing entrepreneur who spurred the citizen-led “Good Roads” movement, to the handful of driven engineers who conceived of the interstates and how they would work to the protests that erupted across the nation when highways reached the cities and found people unwilling to be uprooted in the name of progress, Swift follows a winding, fascinating route through twentieth-century American life. 

How did we get from dirt tracks to expressways in less than a century? Through decades of politics, activism, and marvels of engineering, we recognize in our highways the wanderlust, grand scale, and conflicting notions of citizenship and progress that define America.