Brad Gooch goes from Flannery O’Connor to Rumi, from Georgia to Tajikistan

Brad Gooch‘s outstanding biography Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor shined an appropriate spotlight on arguably the most influential Savannah-born writer of the 20th century — and one of the most important writers in the South.

Many of us affiliated with the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home here in Savannah were lucky to get to know Brad when he was researching the book, and we hosted a major launch for it with a talk at Trinity United Methodist Church followed by a reception in the grand rotunda of the Telfair Academy.

Brad is now working on a book for Harper Collins about Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet.

The research has taken Brad to Asia on multiple occasions, and he’s just written this fascinating piece for Bloomberg: Modern Tajikistan Offers Persian, Pop Music, Wrestling.

An excerpt:

My cruising the ’stans over the past year had shown me how each of these former Soviet republics has struggled to segue into its new national identity. Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, is a freaky monument of conspicuous consumption, with scores of white Carrera marble buildings but few residents; a rarified ghost town.

Bradgooch1final-210Kazakhstan blurs in the imagination withSacha Baron Cohen’s Borat. Visas to Uzbekistan are hard to obtain but well worth the effort for its grand ancient cities of Samarkand and Bukhara.

Yet Tajikistan has been uniquely successful in its transition and has found an enviable equipoise — with hijab optional for women — akin to Turkey’s. A stroll along Dushanbe’s tree-lined main boulevard, Rudaki Avenue, feels like a lovely promenade in more cosmopolitan Prague or Vienna.