the prophet in his own land

Now I will focus on Kahlil Gibran (1863--1931). He came through Elis Island twice, the first time, very  young. At school his teacher changed  the spelling of his name from Khalil to Kahlil, and he liked it and used it as an adult.  When he was 15, he went back to Lebanon (still part of the Ottoman Empire when he was born) for further schooling (hence twice through Ellis Island).  He is best known for his book The Prophet (1923) and he is one of the best-selling poets in the world, behind Shakespeare and Laozi. This is all thanks to Wikipedia.  I never knew any of this until this week.

The Times Literary Supplement offers a review of a "reverent biography" by a cousin who was named after him, and another relative, Jean Gibran (probably male). The TLS reviewer (Phil Baker) describes Gibran's writing as "sententious pseudo-wisdom (running) the gamut from the the totally meaningless."  He concludes that most of Gibran's writing "remains a touchstone of hokiness", while conceding that "it is still possible that Gibran was a woeful stylist but a good and sincere man".

 I was 17 when I picked up The Prophet in a friend's house where her parents were having a coffee party for her, or something - certainly not wine. I started reading casually and then went  back and began at the beginning, and loved it.  It wasn't on any college courses I was taking.  In any case, that wouldn't have taught me much more than the attention I was giving it.  Academia was going through a phase then of studying the work, not the writer. The New Criticism was enthusiastic about William Empson's Seven Types of Ambiguity. (You can look it up.)  I was half way through my research on my Master's thesis subject, W.H. Auden, before I learned that he was gay. Homosexuality was still against the law, of course, but my thesis advisor was probably too embarrassed to mention it to his tender young student.  I was still only 20.  He never did mention it.  I was invited to give a preliminary report on my progress to the English Club and it came up in the course of discussion that my hero was queer. For that matter,I didn't learn until I read his obituary that Auden and I shared the same birth date - not the year but the day.

For us in those days, it was the creation, not the creator. I didn't know anything about Aldous Huxley until I read a "definitive" biography last year, but I had read all his novels. i guess it has made me a very attentive reader.

But not that attentive.  I really liked Gibran, that is, The Prophet.  I still do. I've quoted him several times in my blogs. Well, we go on learning.  I still like The Prophet, but I'll be more discrete (sic, in case you didn't know).