Manoucher Parvin, Author . Permanent $26 (253p) ISBN 978-1-57962-082-0

Parvin's playful debut is a "novel-in-verse," an extended narrative poem written in free verse, which begins when an Iranian academic named Pirooz journeys from New York to the Arizona desert under the weight of a growing despair. As he contemplates ending his life, a pair of cacti assume the forms of the great Persian poets, Rumi and Hafez, and Pirooz begins a freewheeling dialogue, or dardedel, with the two figures on the subjects of art, love, Persian history and modern Iranian politics. Their conversation alleviates Pirooz's suicidal urges, and he heads back to New York. But the restless spirits follow him. Hafez reappears as a Manhattan cabbie, and Rumi takes on various guises, including that of an adolescent Puerto Rican boy. Hafez falls in love with a precocious, poetic 14-year-old named Mitra, who eventually figures out her would-be lover's ancient identity. Pirooz cautions Hafez about the obvious dangers of courting a modern American adolescent, but the irrepressible poet pursues a romance, leading to his arrest and a subsequent trial. The well-balanced chemistry between the three men carries the narrative, and while several scenes get a bit silly—the trial is especially over the top—the story remains reasonably intriguing. Some of the meditative conversations fall flat, but Parvin's dialogues are mostly entertaining, and the author wisely sticks to a lighthearted take on his two legendary reincarnations. (Feb.)

Forecast:Admirers of Rumi and those interested in Eastern spirituality are a natural audience.

Reviewed on: 02/03/2003
Release date: 02/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 252 pages - 978-1-5040-2479-2
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