The skin of my teeth
I've been scribbling to myself about what the Americanization of the world means, and whether it's good or bad and what can be done about it, but you don't want to read about that. It can't last long anyway, with deficits going up into the trillions -- the imperial collapse will come when our towns and states can no longer provide enough healthy, literate young people to work the weaponry that we can no longer afford. The US economic disaster will be like Argentina's, multiplied enormously. Maybe I'll be dead by then; that's some solace.

Actually, I've been thinking of taking up some high-risk activity ever since my periodontist pointed out that my teeth were deteriorating slowly and I might outlive them or they might outlive me. He suggested sky-diving. I love heights -- hang-gliding in Brazil was one of my greatest recent thrills -- but that's not risky enough. Besides, it would be as expensive as to have the necessary work done to save the teeth, and I'm sure I'd land safely and still have the same problem to worry about. So maybe instead I'll become a foreign correspondent. If El Jazeera will take me (but I'd have to learn Arabic), I could get blasted by a US missile by my own tax dollars that are not going to healthcare. Better yet, since I already speak Spanish, maybe I can try freelancing in the most dangerous correspondents' territory in the world, Colombia. Then my teeth are almost sure to outlive me.


A Gift for the Sultan: revised synopsis
(This is the latest version of the synopsis of my novel that I am circulating to literary agents. Comments welcome. Click on "contact" to the left.)

A Gift for the Sultan: Synopsis
Geoffrey Fox

In the summer of 1402, a young princess vows to save Constantinople from the Islamic horde at its gates, while other nobles, merchants, clergy, aristocrats, juvenile street fighters and foreign mercenaries prepare to profit, yield, fight or die in its defense. But the regent has secretly agreed to surrender the greatest city in the Christian world to the Ottoman sultan, and his tribute will include the princess and scores of slaves. The Turkish war chief who is to deliver this gift must hurry, to forestall a clash between the sultan and another Muslim challenger from the East.

On their journey, Christian Greco-Roman urbanity confronts the traditions of honor, magic and power of the horsepeople of the Central Asian steppes. Within the miscommunication, human bonds form across the gulf, between the Ottoman women traveling with their warriors and the Orthodox princess, within the consciousness of a Christian-Muslim janissary, or in the shaming of an English mercenary about to murder a Turkish babe. Unknowingly, all are headed toward a cataclysm that will turn their world upside down: the confrontation of Timur of Samarkand (�Tamerlane�) and �Thunderbolt� Bayezid, sultan of the Ottomans. A comedy of greed will have catastrophic consequences, and a romance will dissolve into ambiguous myth.

The novel is not merely about an East-West clash that redrew national boundaries from the Balkans to the whole of the Middle East and North Africa, stimulated the voyages of discovery of America and spun into countless wars that continue even today.

It is about all that, but it is also about a larger issue: City v. Anti-City. A dominant urban civilization � here, Constantinople � with all its culture, resources and vulnerabilities confronts the rage of those scorned by a civilization they don�t understand and that makes no serious effort to understand them. For me, the novel is a meditation on the siege of Sarajevo, and New York�s 9/11, and Baghdad�s rubble and resistance, and many other conflicts. The novel imagines both sides and the complex forces that drive them, for there are love and loyalty, treachery and greed on both.

In this telling the City wins, not a definitive victory but a respite. To achieve it, the City has sacrificed its children, from street waifs to a princess, and still survived only thanks to a war that has divided its enemies. Constantinople will fall to another Ottoman sultan 51 years later, but even then the wily city will thrive by captivating its captors � and will tell lies, many and contradictory lies for its many contradictory constituencies, so that each may claim the City as its own. This real, historical sequel is hinted at in the prologue, called �The Fountain.�

Shock, awe, & reconsideration
The Iraq Blitzkrieg has jolted me -- and should have jolted everybody who hadn't already bought into Rumsfeldianism -- into rethinking many things. However, these thoughts are still too immature to expose them here. Soon, though.