Madame L recommends the book "Ararat," by Robert Houston, a fun novel of intrigue, espionage, politics, the Middle East, the Sandinistas, the large corporations that actually rule the world, and (of course) some romantic entanglements ... and this great story, supposedly originally told by Nasreddin Hodja, which starts when a camel and a scorpion come to a river together.
"At the water's edge, the scorpion said to the camel, 'Dear Camel, I will surely drown if I try to swim this broad river. May I ride across on your hump?'
"'Oh, dear Scorpion,' said the camel. 'If I allow you to do that, you will sting me and I shall surely die.'
"'Consider, dear Camel,' said the scorpion. 'If I sting you, you will sink and we shall both die. Is that reasonable?'
"So. The camel considered, found the scorpion reasonable, and allowed him to ride his hump. And lo and behold, in the middle of the raging waters, the scorpion stung him. 'Oh, dear Scorpion,' the camel said as he felt the poison spreading. 'You have stung me and I shall surely die.'
"'This is true, dear Camel.'
"'But you, too, dear Scorpion, will die with me.'
"'This also is true, dear Camel.'
"'Then tell me, dear Scorpion---I entreat you with my last breath---why for the love of Allah did you sting me?'
"'Because, dear Camel,' said the scorpion as the water lapped at his little scorpion feet, 'This is the Middle East.'"