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Saturday, May 06, 2017
Reviewer-shopping at the New York Review of Books
Peter Brown at The New York Review of Books reviews Crucible of Islam. This is less a weighing of evidence and more a Eusebian hagiography. This critique was so a-critical I got suspicious of the critic they'd chosen.
One finds in here prose like
Our critic Dr Brown is
My teacher in these matters thought more of Averil Cameron. As far as pre-Islamic Arabia goes, I don't recall Brown as ever an authority. How about assigning these review tasks to Philip Wood? Brown reviewing Bowersock amounts to one member of an older generation giving a content-free thumbs-up to another.
I was trying to figure out what Brown's point was, and ended up here:
Bowersock’s book shows, with unflinching scholarship, how these incompatibilities—many of them longstanding—had been thrown together in the age of Muhammad and his successors in the crucible of Islam. They are perilous incompatibilities. How each generation handles them is a test of its humanity. In recent times, alas, few generations have passed this test. But we have to keep on trying. To get the beginning of the story right is part of this effort. For this reason, we must be grateful to Bowersock for giving us, at this time, a masterpiece of the historian’s craft.
So, on the assumption that Bowersock got
(So that explains NYRoB's choice of dinosaur.)
Although I wonder if Distant-Mirror theory is the message Brown, the NYRoB, and even Bowersock want to send. If they be right that the Muhammadan Sira be accurate, then we're not living in the world of Robert Spencer's Did Muhammad Exist?. What a relief - we're, er, living in the world of Spencer's The Truth About Muhammad. And the hadi we get to lead us out of this wilderness will likely be of a similar character.
UPDATE 9/17: it's worse than that.
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