Few people have bothered to read From West to East. It is a brilliant work about the movement and history of art, politics and literature in California. Many of us buy the same set of books and never challenge our assumptions. I will be buying a copy of his newest book about Sufism and will review it with an open mind.
Schwartz represents the other side of Islam that we sometimes forget about when presented with constant images of angry cartoon like hateful Wahabis and blood crazed Iranian Revolutionary madman. How do we rationalize those images with the many decent Muslims we meet in our daily lives. Does the life of my friend Omar who works 60 hours in a gas station differ as much from my life or yours. What about Abdul the printer forever doting on his daughter who dreams of buying a larger home? Is much of Wahabism fed by people not working and desperate for self worth like Nazism? Are people like the familiar middle class terrorists bombers in London reacting to a far left culture thatdemands angry Muslims as "authentic".
There is something interesting at looking at the mix of politics and art. When one looks at communists in the 1920's through the prism of Schwartz's wisdom we note the familiar self serving hacks, the amoral adventurers and the insane. The previous communists are not too dissimilar from the madmen and goons we loathe today except they no longer have the vision of a limitless future.
In many ways the cast of opportunist, hacks and are all to hauntingly familiar and real. Schwartz, has conveyed the human realities of a mindless movement out of control blundering along. Above all things the book is entertaining and thought provoking.