The Sheikh's Batmobile

Richard Poplak (Penguin)

In his latest, The Sheikh's Batmobile, Richard Poplak documents his bizarre two-year pilgrimage through the Middle East, where he investigates the fate of Western pop culture when it winds up in the Muslim world. The result is a humorous, astute and vivid account of Poplak's misadventures.

Poplak discovers the spirit of punk through an Indonesian band called Disease of the Cock, immerses himself in the white-toothed, tight-skinned world of plastic surgery reality TV in Lebanon, falls face-first in the dirt as he's body-slammed by a young Afghani WWE enthusiast and stumbles into many equally unusual situations. He makes a motley crew of new friends along the way, including Palestinian hip-hop artists from DAM and Ramallah Underground, Egyptian metalheads who risk arrest to rock out to grindcore and a wily Texan manufacturing American dreams in the Dubai desert.

The Sheikh's Batmobile will leave you itching to travel, giggling and glued to YouTube, looking up references. The book is less about how Muslims view Americans as it is about discovering a shared lexicon between two cultures. Poplak's view of popculture is nuanced, as it emerges as a mutating entity crossing national and ideological boundaries.

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