Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Turkish Reflections

After reading a culture guide on Turkey, I discovered a review on Amazon recommending Mary Lee Settle’s “destination book” Turkish Reflections: A Biography of a Place. I immediately bought the book, but my eagerness quickly disappeared after I opened it.

Settle travels throughout Turkey and concentrates on the places she visits rather than the people she meets or the Turkish culture. Unfortunately for me, I am much more interested in human-human interaction than human-landscape interaction. As such, I found the writing pedantic and dry. I did, though, come away with a few interesting bits of information.

First, Turkish verbs have more than forty tenses, including tenses for fairy tales and gossip. Although this language sounds magical, I am afraid I’m never going to learn it. Forty tenses! I can currently count to ten, say “dog” and “cat,” and that’s about it. I will be a wiz at the market if I want to buy seven puppies.

She also remarks on how hospitable and polite the Turks are, something I’ve heard from numerous people. After leaving Turkey, Settle writes that she was so surprised when a hotel clerk in D.C. was rude to her that she burst into tears. I guess I better work on my manners.

At times, though, Settle comes across as either incredibly naïve about or simply patronizing towards the Turks. At one point, she visits a market where a man is making bootleg jeans. He attaches designer labels to the jeans, but Settle claims it was not in a “dishonest” way (143). Excuse me?

Much more disturbing and offense is the way Settle downplays and even seems to excuse the Armenian Genocide. She suggests that “history is invented”; if Armenians would do their research, they would see that the Turks viewed the Armenian alliance with the Russians as a treasonous act (67). And thus, I gather, the genocide was justifiable? I don’t even know how to respond to such statements.

I enjoy travel books and programs, but I’ve also discovered I like them even more after I’ve been somewhere. Just the other day, I watched a Rick Steves program on Normandy. Because I have been there, the scenes were more beautiful to me. They meant something to me. So maybe after I’ve lived in Turkey, I can come back to Turkish Reflections and the book will be more than just a dry travelogue.


Wanna-Be Lit said...

I can't wait to see the picture of you and your seven dogs.

notaconnoisseur said...

Me too. Especially if she has to hold the camera at arm's length and take the shot herself!