the rich, complex, and often contradictory essence of Iran.
In Iranís cities, he discovers a culture of duality existing behind
closed doors where liquor flows freely, and music fills the air as both
men and women express themselves freely. But out in the streets
religious extremism rules, enforced by bearded guards on the lookout for
those disobeying Islamic law.
Elliot also takes his readers to small towns and remote villages on
the Iran-Iraq boarder where life, itself, is one of survival. He goes
inside Iranian homes and visits and sometimes stays with the people who
own them, gaining a further insight into the complexities of this
The bookís strong point is Elliotís engaging observations as he
travels around the countryside. And though he knows Iranian history and
culture, he canít express that knowledge very well as he tries to
weave together his observations of life in contemporary Iran with
history, politics, and the secrets of Islamic art.
He writes beautifully about the culture, with its mosques and bazaars
and fascinating people. Unfortunately, all this beauty comes at a price.
It seems Elliot, like so many writers, assumes all readers have his
extensive vocabulary. He seems to cater to the New Yorker crowd,
who think writing is good when itís filled with $20 wordsĖcomplex
words that replace the more familiar ones known to most readers. Because
of this many readers will get the gist of what Elliotís saying, but
will miss some of the nuances. And though the book is rich in observed
images, it plods along paths littered with unknown words which make it a
very difficult read.