by James Warner
Numina Press, 2011
200 pages / $14 Buy from Amazon
My father tells this story of when I was a few weeks old. His mother-in-law, visiting one afternoon, happened to observe his baby-changing skills. In the Soviet Union in the late seventies, changing a diaper was as much a matter of necessity as an art form, the most skillful parents able to wrap a baby in such a way that a lace triangle sewn to one corner of the blanket would always fall against the baby’s tender cheek. My father spread some flannelette blankets over his writing desk. The baby—me—was unwrapped, wiped, powdered, dressed in a clean shirt, several layers of cheesecloth serving as a diaper, and wrapped into several sheets and blankets. My grandmother was impressed. Pleased and honored by her praise, validated in his success as a parent, my proud father lifted me off the desk and up high into the air. My grandmother shrieked in horror. In his moment of glory, my father miscalculated the size of the space he had to work with and hit me, head first, against a bookshelf.
October 3rd, 2011 / 12:00 pm
Rasskazy, an anthology of “new fiction from a new Russia” presents a reviewer with an interesting challenge: how to write about these texts as though they had something in common with each other. The book is held together by the assumption that the authors share not only a common language, but that their work is representative of “new Russia” in at least two important ways: in the authors’ political and cultural engagement and in their continuation of “the great Russian literary tradition.” In their preface to the anthology, editors Mikhail Iossel and Jeff Parker frame the texts within the politics of the Putin-era Russia that they see as “turning back the hands of Russia’s sociopolitical clock” and implicate all authors as opposition to this political process. The editors’ ideology in approaching this collection comes across in statements such as: “Russian writing has once again found itself invested with a higher purpose. The writers in today’s Russia derive their sense of relevance from having been adjudged irrelevant by the country’s rulers (i.e., nonthreatening to the latter’s political agenda).”
September 24th, 2010 / 1:37 pm