The Root of Wild Madder: Chasing the History, Mystery, and Lore of the Persian Carpet

Brian Murphy, Author
Brian Murphy, Author . Simon & Schuster $25 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7432-6419-8
Paperback - 297 pages - 978-0-7432-6421-1
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Murphy, an AP religion reporter, presents his travels across the zone where Persian carpets are made in a diligent quest to understand them as both art and commodity. He immerses himself in carpet-making culture, accruing trade secrets and learning specialized vocabulary from Afghan and Iranian mentors. Murphy begins his journey in a Tehran bazaar stacked high with carpets before traveling to the ancient weaving center of Herat, in northwestern Afghanistan, arriving weeks after the fall of the Taliban. Visiting Shiraz, he's impressed by the untutored intellect of young illiterate girl weavers. At last he finds himself amid wild madder fields (madder is the source of Persian carpets' characteristic shade of red). Taking in dog fights, gruesome games of polo and disturbing scenes of child labor and poverty, Murphy tactfully emphasizes the warm hospitality, expertise and enterprise of his Iranian and Afghan hosts, providing extended biographies for some of them. His book exudes humility and respect for Islamic culture and a welcome eyewitness account of, and historical information about, a region much in the news. Nevertheless, the writing too often becomes pedestrian and unsatisfying in misguided efforts to be atmospheric. Map not seen by PW . Agent, Robert Shepard. (Aug.)

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