Reading Washington Irving’s

TALES OF THE ALHAMBRA Early on, the most striking thing about the book is that Irving appears to have a strong admiration for the religion of Islam and the Moorish people who ruled Spain from 711 to 1492. Without study on my part, this appears to be an early manifestation of the orientalist strain of xenophila so decried by Edward Said, but manifest in such Western luminaries as Richard Burton, Gertrude Bell, and T.E. Lawrence, and counterweighted by prescient visionaries such as Winston Churchill and General Charles George “Chinese” Gordon, inter alia. Rather jarring in these latter times. The edifice itself, however, is entirely charming, and the glimpses Irving affords put me in mind of the vast pile (the Bradbury Building in Los Angeles), in which lived the toymaker, J.F. Sebastian, in Blade Runner. Dunno why. Just does.

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