Lines run. Pages turn. Hours pass. The silence is utter. All Istanbul is outside the window, but it seems muted, slowed, suspended in golden heat, mellified. Ayşe glances up to refresh her eyes. Arabic imposes a rhythm, a diction, a direction on the world different from the left-to-right, up and down of Roman alphabets. The room is cut free from time; it could be a hundred years from now, a thousand years ago. Sacred time. Ayşe understands it now. The words run. The words run. Look for what the eye of faith overlooks. See with the eye of the unbeliever, with the eye of the dealer, the merchant. Light moves across the room.
—A glorious passage from The Dervish House by Ian McDonald.
Some mornings, she’d wake and vow, Today I will get it right. I won’t be such an awful mess of a girl. I won’t lose my temper or make unkind remarks. I won’t go too far with a joke and feel the room go quiet with disapproval. I’ll be good and kind and sensible and patient. The sort everyone loves. But by evening her good intentions would have unraveled. She’d take a dare she shouldn’t, just to be noticed. Perhaps Mabel was right, and she was selfish. But what was the point of living so quietly you made no noise at all?