To Heaven with Buraq, and Other News


On the Shelf

Buraq with Taj Mahal, a poster from Delhi. Image: Sandria Freitag personal collection/Public Domain Review.

  • As the Quran has it, Prophet Muhammad took a night trip to heaven aboard a trusty winged pony-horse-mule-ish creature called Buraq. It’s an episode that’s inspired Islamic art ever since, because few artists can resist a theologically sound reason to draw a winged horse. Yasmine Seale writes, “The friction between the historical Prophet and his fantastical mount, between the sacred and the physical, reflects a similar divide within Buraq herself: she has been perceived both as a dream-horse—mythical, sexless, emblematic—and as a creature of flesh. And Buraq as animal, especially in her more sexualized incarnations, in turn raises thorny questions about the body of the Prophet himself. Artists generally elided this problem, or creatively eluded it; early images of the Prophet tend to show him with a veil, and more recently his body has been symbolized by a white cloud, a rose, or a flame.”

  • Today in genre writers gone wild: you may have heard that James Patterson, who does not actually write his own novels, was planning on “writing” one starring Stephen King, who does write his own novels. A kind of sadistic metafiction, The Murder of Stephen King would star King as a beleaguered horror writer facing a stalker who resembled the villains in his fiction. But now Patterson’s calling it off; he learned that King—who has called Patterson (and his surrogates in the Patterson factory) “a terrible writer”—has actually faced death threats in the past: “‘I do not want to cause Stephen King or his family any discomfort. Out of respect for them, I have decided not to publish The Murder of Stephen King’ … Patterson told AP last week that King’s remarks dismissing him as a terrible writer were ‘hyperbole.’ ‘I know I’m not a terrible writer. That’s a little over the top,’ said Patterson, adding that if King wrote a novel called The Murder of James Patterson he ‘would definitely want to read it.’ ”