And now for something completely different.
Looking for a successful post-9/11 novel, Adam Kirsch finds one in the 19th century: Dostoyevsky’s Demons (“Demons Inner and Outer,” New York Sun). He asks:
Why is it that our novelists, despite their best efforts, cannot write a politically informed, psychologically convincing book about Islamic terrorism? Why is it so difficult to bring such a terrorist to life on the page?
If contemporary novelists have not produced a comparable book about the terrorists we face today, the reason may be that the variety of evil that confronts us is so unalluring. There is hardly an American of any political persuasion who sympathizes with Al Qaeda’s vision of Islamic theocracy. Dostoyevsky’s lesson is that it is when evil comes to us wearing the mask of goodness — as it has so often in the past, and certainly will again the future — that we have to be most on our guard.
But you should read the parts in between, too.