Magazine article World Literature Today

Who's Afraid of Meryl Streep?

Magazine article World Literature Today

Who's Afraid of Meryl Streep?

Article excerpt

Rashid al-Daif. Who's Afraid of Meryl Streep? Paula Haydar & Nadine Sinno, tr. Austin. University of Texas Press. 2014. isbn 9780292763074

Who's Afraid of Meryl Streep? (aptly reminding us of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) was first published in Beirut in 2001. Lebanese author Rashid al-Daif, known for his enigmatic idiomatic titles, has written three volumes of poetry and more than a dozen novels, many addressing the conflicts and challenges inherent in rapidly modernizing societies. Who's Afraid of Meryl Streep? is the culmination of this theme, in which satellite television, by which "the viewer would be transported from the Middle Ages to ages that have not even occurred yet and from places of worship to bars and nightclubs," is a curse in disguise.

This novella is unreliably narrated by newlywed Rashoud. His nameless wife has lefthim following an incident involving the seamstress, and he turns to the newly acquired satellite TV for distraction. He is entranced by Meryl Streep when he encounters Kramer vs. Kramer while channel-surfing. Speaking no English, Rashoud doesn't understand the plot and projects his sentimental idealizations onto the actress. As the premise becomes clear, he is increasingly horrified and compares his wife to the wife in the movie.

Rashoud's case against his wife centers on the bedroom: she's not interested in sex with him. Al-Daif has stated that "the bed is the place where the modern West and the 'traditional' East confront each other, often violently." Accordingly, there are graphic, though not gratuitous, examples of his claim. …

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