Jottings From The Labyrinth

Fiction - Adventure
131 Pages
Reviewed on 05/03/2015
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

Jottings From The Labyrinth is a collection of short stories, poems and artwork by William Kind Hamburg, Jr. Hamburg served in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He lived in Cairo, Egypt, from 1998-2003, where he worked as a journalist and writer. His work and lengthy stay immersed him in the culture, and many of the stories included in this collection are retellings of traditional stories and anecdotes about the people he came to know. His free verse poetry is polished, elegant and spare. Hamburg also included pen and ink drawings, with subjects ranging from a whimsical nature scene to an architectural rendering of a clock tower. Hamburg died in 2006, and this edition of his book contains an introduction by his son, William J. Hamburg.

William Kind Hamburg, Jr.'s short story collection, Jottings From The Labyrinth, is written in the first person, and indeed, it seems as though the voice and spirit of the man have somehow been distilled and infused into his words and drawings. That voice is sometimes dispassionate, the detached and disciplined words of the journalist, but one soon discovers the tones of the humanist lurking under that professional disguise, sometimes wry, often outraged by the cruelties of the culture he found himself in. I was fascinated with his story about Al-Azhar, the university that was also a mosque, and the history, educational offerings and scope of that institution, yet infinitely saddened at his stories about the cultural inequities with regard to the treatment of women and girls, and the outlawed, though still pervasive practice of genital mutilation. Hamburg was also a skilled and intuitive artist, and the drawings included in this volume are masterful and elaborately detailed. They left me hoping one day to see a fuller collection of the author's artwork in print. Jottings From The Labyrinth is most highly recommended.