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Whatever Gets You through the Night: A Story of Sheherezade and the Arabian Entertainments [NOOK Book]

Overview

"I fear each passing night that I will not receive my maintenance dose of suspense, and then I will cease to exist."--Whatever Gets You through the Night

Whatever Gets You through the Night is an irreverent and deeply funny retelling of the Arabian Nights and a wildly inspired exploration of the timeless art of storytelling. Award-winning writer Andrei Codrescu reimagines how Sheherezade saved Baghdad's virgins and her own life through a heroic feat of storytelling--one that ...

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Whatever Gets You through the Night: A Story of Sheherezade and the Arabian Entertainments

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Overview

"I fear each passing night that I will not receive my maintenance dose of suspense, and then I will cease to exist."--Whatever Gets You through the Night

Whatever Gets You through the Night is an irreverent and deeply funny retelling of the Arabian Nights and a wildly inspired exploration of the timeless art of storytelling. Award-winning writer Andrei Codrescu reimagines how Sheherezade saved Baghdad's virgins and her own life through a heroic feat of storytelling--one that kept the Persian king Sharyar hanging in agonizing narrative and erotic suspense for 1001 nights. For Sheherezade, the end of either suspense or curiosity means death, but Codrescu keeps both alive in this entertaining tale of how she learned to hold a king in thrall, setting with her endless invention an unsurpassable example for all storytellers across the ages. Liberated and mischievous, Codrescu's Sheherezade is as charming as she is shrewd--and so is the story Codrescu tells.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Novelist, poet, and NPR commentator Codrescu (The Poetry Lesson) displays his usual unorthodox intellect in this interpretation of the tale of Sheherezade. He opens with a series of quotations from earlier recountings and interpretations, ending with this: "Sharyar (the sultan) is the spectator par excellence" whose violence is controlled by "Shezz the Telly." Codrescu posits Sheherezade as a "proto-feminist" who volunteered to marry the sultan to end his brutal habit of marrying virgins, deflowering them, and executing them the next morning. Codrescu takes issue with scholar Husain Haddawy's acclaimed 1990 translation of the tales because it underscores the Arabic national character of stories that, according to Codrescu, can belong to no one culture or religion. For Codrescu, stories, and the curiosity that propels them, belong to all humanity. Sex, mystery, curiosity, and imagination are linked in Codrescu's narrative, and he finds them lacking in a brief critique of today's media-driven world. Salacious, irreverent, and impious, Codrescu's modern version of the classic, accompanied by his commentary in more than 100 footnotes, may disquiet some readers, while others will enjoy his humor and insights into storytelling devices. (June)
ForeWord Reviews
Andrei Codrescu, with his trademark mixture of wit and wonder, explores the story of the Arabian Nights, how Sheherazade came to spin her nightly tales, and what they might mean to today's population, infiltrated as we are with access and explanation. . . . Under his scrutiny, Arabian Nights becomes larger than its sum of stories and stretches to encompass the future of humanity, the future of storytelling. Codrescu isn't retelling the Arabian Nights as much as he is reveling in their existence and sharing them with the contagious glee of a boy and his can of worms. . . . An homage to the power of stories, Codrescu's book of Arabian tales will well serve those who have studied the text before and those readers new to it. He is a funny and commanding guide, and his obvious love for the written and spoken word tints every line with a vital hue.
— Andi Diehn
Toronto Star
[O]ne of my favourite contemporary writers has released his own take on the perennial classic. Whatever Gets You through the Night is on the one hand a retelling of the Nights, on the other a commentary upon the anthology and a critique of every translation of it into English. . . . Codrescu attempts to liberate these immortal, mischievous and fecund stories from the apparatus of intellectual discourse which has raged around them since they were first written down. He plays with time, character and the frames of the stories themselves, inventing new ways to look at them, repeating elements from one to another, always getting in a joke when he can. Unlike some of the English translators, he embraces the carnality and brutality of the telling. He confronts the misogyny of the tales head on, rather than suppressing them on the grounds of their indecency, and he slyly inserts into this cultural touchstone a description of the gradual suppression and control of women's lives and their movements, their bodies and their minds, which still operates all over the Middle East. . . . Codrescu's book rescues The Arabian Nights from the nursery, where the magic and wonder surely belong but where the reality of adult life has been sacrificed for the comfort of children.
— Michel Basilières
The Age
Codrescu mashes up fiction and criticism, giving us Borgesian fabulation complete with the trappings of scholarship playfully deployed—his Sheherezade is a linguist and narratologist as well as a deft spinner of yarns. . . . Mediaeval Arabia, the present and even a science-fiction future, all swirl around on the page. Anything goes: storytelling is life and freedom for Codrescu as well as for Sheherezade.
— Owen Richardson
San Francisco Chronicle
Whatever Gets You Through the Night nominally includes only one of the 1,001 stories that, told over several nights by Sheherezade, keep the king curious enough to spare her. But Codrescu's is not so much a retelling as a treatise on or demonstration of the Nights' mechanics; in his hands, this story becomes almost infinite. . . . Like Borges before him, Codrescu shows the borders between fiction and truth to be ragged, if not nonexistent. A kind of linguistic alchemy occurs between word and flesh. . . . Although much of the book is dedicated to, and may be read as, a serious investigation of storytelling and its place in our future (our own iSheherezade), Codrescu never loses sight of the fact that these stories are meant to be 'entertainments' above all.
— Jenny Hendrix
ForeWord Reviews - Andi Diehn
Andrei Codrescu, with his trademark mixture of wit and wonder, explores the story of the Arabian Nights, how Sheherazade came to spin her nightly tales, and what they might mean to today's population, infiltrated as we are with access and explanation. . . . Under his scrutiny, Arabian Nights becomes larger than its sum of stories and stretches to encompass the future of humanity, the future of storytelling. Codrescu isn't retelling the Arabian Nights as much as he is reveling in their existence and sharing them with the contagious glee of a boy and his can of worms. . . . An homage to the power of stories, Codrescu's book of Arabian tales will well serve those who have studied the text before and those readers new to it. He is a funny and commanding guide, and his obvious love for the written and spoken word tints every line with a vital hue.
Toronto Star - Michel Basilieres
[O]ne of my favourite contemporary writers has released his own take on the perennial classic. Whatever Gets You through the Night is on the one hand a retelling of the Nights, on the other a commentary upon the anthology and a critique of every translation of it into English. . . . Codrescu attempts to liberate these immortal, mischievous and fecund stories from the apparatus of intellectual discourse which has raged around them since they were first written down. He plays with time, character and the frames of the stories themselves, inventing new ways to look at them, repeating elements from one to another, always getting in a joke when he can. Unlike some of the English translators, he embraces the carnality and brutality of the telling. He confronts the misogyny of the tales head on, rather than suppressing them on the grounds of their indecency, and he slyly inserts into this cultural touchstone a description of the gradual suppression and control of women's lives and their movements, their bodies and their minds, which still operates all over the Middle East. . . . Codrescu's book rescues The Arabian Nights from the nursery, where the magic and wonder surely belong but where the reality of adult life has been sacrificed for the comfort of children.
The Age - Owen Richardson
Codrescu mashes up fiction and criticism, giving us Borgesian fabulation complete with the trappings of scholarship playfully deployed—his Sheherezade is a linguist and narratologist as well as a deft spinner of yarns. . . . Mediaeval Arabia, the present and even a science-fiction future, all swirl around on the page. Anything goes: storytelling is life and freedom for Codrescu as well as for Sheherezade.
San Francisco Chronicle - Jenny Hendrix
Whatever Gets You Through the Night nominally includes only one of the 1,001 stories that, told over several nights by Sheherezade, keep the king curious enough to spare her. But Codrescu's is not so much a retelling as a treatise on or demonstration of the Nights' mechanics; in his hands, this story becomes almost infinite. . . . Like Borges before him, Codrescu shows the borders between fiction and truth to be ragged, if not nonexistent. A kind of linguistic alchemy occurs between word and flesh. . . . Although much of the book is dedicated to, and may be read as, a serious investigation of storytelling and its place in our future (our own iSheherezade), Codrescu never loses sight of the fact that these stories are meant to be 'entertainments' above all.
Toronto Star - Michel Basilières
[O]ne of my favourite contemporary writers has released his own take on the perennial classic. Whatever Gets You through the Night is on the one hand a retelling of the Nights, on the other a commentary upon the anthology and a critique of every translation of it into English. . . . Codrescu attempts to liberate these immortal, mischievous and fecund stories from the apparatus of intellectual discourse which has raged around them since they were first written down. He plays with time, character and the frames of the stories themselves, inventing new ways to look at them, repeating elements from one to another, always getting in a joke when he can. Unlike some of the English translators, he embraces the carnality and brutality of the telling. He confronts the misogyny of the tales head on, rather than suppressing them on the grounds of their indecency, and he slyly inserts into this cultural touchstone a description of the gradual suppression and control of women's lives and their movements, their bodies and their minds, which still operates all over the Middle East. . . . Codrescu's book rescues The Arabian Nights from the nursery, where the magic and wonder surely belong but where the reality of adult life has been sacrificed for the comfort of children.
From the Publisher
"[Codrescu] isn't offering a retelling of the original Arabic tales, but is presenting an independent story featuring Scheherazade. . . . The stories share some characteristics and plotlines with Arabian Nights but always with a twist or new metaphysical take. . . . Interesting and witty footnotes about translations of the Arabian Nights and the culture of the story are added as a kind of bonus, contributing to the narrative. . . . Codrescu's fans will love this book, and Arabists will be charmed by this new take on the classic."—David Azzolina, Library Journal

"Andrei Codrescu, with his trademark mixture of wit and wonder, explores the story of the Arabian Nights, how Sheherazade came to spin her nightly tales, and what they might mean to today's population, infiltrated as we are with access and explanation. . . . Under his scrutiny, Arabian Nights becomes larger than its sum of stories and stretches to encompass the future of humanity, the future of storytelling. Codrescu isn't retelling the Arabian Nights as much as he is reveling in their existence and sharing them with the contagious glee of a boy and his can of worms. . . . An homage to the power of stories, Codrescu's book of Arabian tales will well serve those who have studied the text before and those readers new to it. He is a funny and commanding guide, and his obvious love for the written and spoken word tints every line with a vital hue."—Andi Diehn, ForeWord Reviews

"[O]ne of my favourite contemporary writers has released his own take on the perennial classic. Whatever Gets You through the Night is on the one hand a retelling of the Nights, on the other a commentary upon the anthology and a critique of every translation of it into English. . . . Codrescu attempts to liberate these immortal, mischievous and fecund stories from the apparatus of intellectual discourse which has raged around them since they were first written down. He plays with time, character and the frames of the stories themselves, inventing new ways to look at them, repeating elements from one to another, always getting in a joke when he can. Unlike some of the English translators, he embraces the carnality and brutality of the telling. He confronts the misogyny of the tales head on, rather than suppressing them on the grounds of their indecency, and he slyly inserts into this cultural touchstone a description of the gradual suppression and control of women's lives and their movements, their bodies and their minds, which still operates all over the Middle East. . . . Codrescu's book rescues The Arabian Nights from the nursery, where the magic and wonder surely belong but where the reality of adult life has been sacrificed for the comfort of children."—Michel Basilires, Toronto Star

"Codrescu mashes up fiction and criticism, giving us Borgesian fabulation complete with the trappings of scholarship playfully deployed—his Sheherezade is a linguist and narratologist as well as a deft spinner of yarns. . . . Mediaeval Arabia, the present and even a science-fiction future, all swirl around on the page. Anything goes: storytelling is life and freedom for Codrescu as well as for Sheherezade."—Owen Richardson, The Age

"Whatever Gets You Through the Night nominally includes only one of the 1,001 stories that, told over several nights by Sheherezade, keep the king curious enough to spare her. But Codrescu's is not so much a retelling as a treatise on or demonstration of the Nights' mechanics; in his hands, this story becomes almost infinite. . . . Like Borges before him, Codrescu shows the borders between fiction and truth to be ragged, if not nonexistent. A kind of linguistic alchemy occurs between word and flesh. . . . Although much of the book is dedicated to, and may be read as, a serious investigation of storytelling and its place in our future (our own iSheherezade), Codrescu never loses sight of the fact that these stories are meant to be 'entertainments' above all."—Jenny Hendrix, San Francisco Chronicle

"You may have read the Arabian Nights before, but I promise you have never read it quite like this."World Book Industry

Library Journal
The publisher's blurbs call this a "retelling" of The Arabian Nights, but Codrescu's subtitle is more accurate. In other words, Codrescu (The Poetry Lesson), a wildly popular and prolific author and also a commentator on NPR's All Things Considered, isn't offering a retelling of the original Arabic tales, but is presenting an independent story featuring Scheherazade and referencing the title used in the earliest English translations, The Arabian Nights' Entertainments. In short, this book is a sort of riff on the original themes. The stories share some characteristics and plotlines with Arabian Nights but always with a twist or new metaphysical take. They also have a different sense of the fantastic. Genies become Genuises, for example, and the original frame itself isn't really there. Interesting and witty footnotes about translations of the Arabian Nights and the culture of the story are added as a kind of bonus, contributing to the narrative. VERDICT Codrescu's fans will love this book, and Arabists will be charmed by this new take on the classic. Most libraries will have a readership for it.—David Azzolina, Univ. of Pennsylvania Libs., Philadelphia
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400838011
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 4/25/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Course Book
  • Pages: 200
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Andrei Codrescu is an award-winning poet, novelist, essayist, and NPR commentator. His recent books include "The Posthuman Dada Guide" and "The Poetry Lesson" (both Princeton).
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 27, 2012

    Excellent redention of 1001 Nights

    Mr.Codrescu gives an excellent rendition of 1001 Nights and a lot of history behind the stories and translations of the past. Andrei Codrescu tells the stories and background with his sardonic sense of humor so prevalent on NPR. I would highly recommend it.

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