Monday, September 21, 2009


"I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein's brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops."
~ Stephen Jay Gould.

Most Rastî readers are familiar with Gordon Taylor, who writes the blog The Pasha and the Gypsy.

Now Gordon has been featured in The Seattle Times:

Back when I rode the bus to work every day, what got to me — what began to drive me a little crazy — was the repetition.

I knew every stop. Every light. All the rhythms of the traffic and the passengers, which seemed to bog us in delays at the same junctions every day.

I would wonder: How does the driver stand it?

I never asked. I should have, because now I know the driver might have said something like: "You think about something else. Like Kurdistan."

Gordon Taylor, 66, has been driving a Metro bus for 29 years.

[ . . . ]

Not many of his riders know it, but Taylor often wanders off to Kurdistan, a remote region in northern Iraq and southern Turkey, even as he is merging his 60-footer articulated bus onto the freeway.

He's not a professional historian. But from the seat of that bus he just published an article about mid-1800s missionaries in the twice-yearly Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies.

"I'm the only one in there who isn't a Ph.D.," he laughs.

He also wrote a 354-page historical biography, called "Fever & Thirst: An American Doctor Among the Tribes of Kurdistan, 1835-1844."

Now out in paperback, it turns out the book — which "nobody bought," Taylor sighs — attracted the attention of one of the senior advisers to the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S. transitional government after the invasion of Iraq.

For more on "The First American to Fail in Iraq", check Gordon's piece over at the History News Network.

Now, what I like best about The Seattle Times piece on Gordon Taylor is that it proves you don't have to be a professorial wind-bag to write good history. And you probably don't have to be a professorial wind-bag to write well on other subjects, either.

Go, Gordon; you go, boyfriend!


Anonymous said...

Hearty congratulations to Gordon.


Anonymous said...

I've been absolutely captivated by everything I've read at The Pasha and the Gypsy. I had no idea that Gordon Taylor had such a mundane job and yet conjured up so many profound and unique insights. I realize that genius and talent can spring up anywhere, however, I had (wrongly) assumed that the treachery (atleast the way I see it) of working life obliterated nearly all creative thought. I'm thoroughly impressed. And, I think we should all plan to buy his book!


QWX said...

Fever and Thirst is a great book, everyone should get it. Its fascinating. Once I started reading it I could not put it down. Gordon's work, I believe will eventually get the wider audience he deserves.

mishko said...

Nishti, how is the view from up there on your pedestal? Who are you to pass judgment on someone's job, and how condescending do you sound saying "he is really smart for a guy with such a mundane job"? Some attitude...

Mizgîn said...

Mishko, Nistiman admits that she "wrongly assumed" that one could not write such great history while having a job that is not associated with academia or some other employment that is generally affiliated with professorial wind-baggyness or pontification. Therefore, if Nistiman had been on a pedestal before, she certainly is not now and such public self-criticism is certainly well within the tradition of the Apocu and should be commended.

Gordon is a living lesson for everyone that if you love something enough, you learn everything you can about it and then you share your knowledge.

I think it helped Gordon, too, that he actually spent time in Kurdistan. This is something that most people--even in Turkey--don't do.

Anonymous said...

Oh I missed commenting on this when it was "fresh" but having re-read my response I suppose I sounded condescending by labeling the job of a bus driver as "mundane" but really I'd categorize any job where you work 9-5 (or usually longer) as mundane and where you necessarily have to worry about bills and mortgages, etc., as obliterating creative thought. That's not me speaking from a pedestal, that's me speaking as a working person who has little time to think outside the scope of my job and worrying about what I will eat when I get home. So, good for him! It gives me hope that let alone write a book I can actually find time to read when I get home from work tonight :)