The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday

Graeme Wood review's Neil MacFarquhar's book in the Barnes & Noble Review:

Unexpectedencounters_lrg MacFarquhar's title, The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday, refers to a cordial August 2003 email from Haidar Dikmak, a flack for the militant Shiite political party in Lebanon. The book sustains the ironic, half-menacing tone of the title, and in its progress from one country to the next, it focuses on issues and personalities of interest to Arabs themselves, rather than the issues of narrow interest to the United States. As one government official notes explicitly, foreign reporters tend to arrive and raid the country for Hizbollah stories.

But to MacFarquhar and to nearly all Arabs, Lebanon is a country best known not for war but for entertainment and glamour — a sort of semi-debauched Middle Eastern Hollywood. (The Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, whose music videos and singing temptresses entertain patrons in crowded lunch spots all over the Middle East, is known as Lubnaniyaat Bidun Culottes, or Lebanese Girls Without Underwear.) Fairouz, the beloved Lebanese hit singer, often goes unmentioned in books like this, an omission that would perhaps be comparable to a book about modern Iceland that never mentioned Björk. MacFarquhar awards Fairouz several pages that explain her fans' ardor in illuminating detail.

More here.