Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Russian Library in West Hollywood

I fell across an article in today's Los Angeles Times about a Russian-language library in West Hollywood, consisting of 20,000 books donated by emigres over the past 10 years. The library is currently housed in the community center of West Hollywood's Plummer Park (misspelled by the LA Times), at 7377 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood 90046. According to the Times, the library is open from 11am to 1:30 pm on weekdays. I'll try to get over there on Monday. Until then, here is a 1999 article about LA's Russian community.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

There Are Jews in My House review

Boris Fishman (see earlier post) reviews There Are Jews in My House by Lara Vapnyar in The New York Times:
In chaste, almost artless prose, she conjures up the inchoate lives of children grappling to make sense of the adults all around them.
Vapnyar, who was born in 1971 and emigrated to the United States in 1994, draws an indelible portrait of the land she left behind...Here is the Soviet Union as only its citizens knew it -- a junkyard of truncated aspirations, moral degradation, despair and inexplicable resilience, a place at once labyrinthine and explicit, dysfunctional and yet determined to survive.
This is Vapnyar's first story collection; I remember reading one of them, the humorous ''Love Lessons -- Mondays, 9 A.M.,'' in The New Yorker a while back.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Bookforum on Malevich

There is an article by Yve-Alain Bois in the winter issue of Bookforum about the expanding field of Malevich studies. Topics range from art market gossip (lawsuits, art laundering) to new discoveries and theories. Art historians are beginning to let go of the myths of Malevich and the Black Square, and look again, critically, at the dates paintings were done (versus what dates Malevich assigned them) and their multi-layered surfaces.

The issue also includes another article on Victor Serge. (See our previous post.)

Monday, December 15, 2003

LRB on The Dagaev Affair

The current issue of the London Review of Books has a review of The Degaev Affair: Terror and Treason in Tsarist Russia by Richard Pipes entitled "Raskolnikov into Pnin." It sounds interesting, but the article is only available online to subscribers. I guess I'll have to find a print copy.
Review of Shklovsky

A review in Bookslut of Viktor Shklovsky's Third Factory and the essay by Richard Sheldon that precedes the English translation.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Boris Fishman interviews

There is an interview with Boris Fishman (editor of Wild East, an anthology of recent writing located in Eastern Europe) in The Morning News. Over the past few years books about Americans in post-Soviet Eastern Europe became a very visable trend, and many of the fad's most notable authors are collected here (such as Arthur Phillips [Prague], Gary Shteyngart [The Russian Debutante's Handbook], Aleksandar Hemon [Nowhere Man] and John Beckman [The Winter Zoo]) Most of the included authors write in English, but the collection also includes Vladimir Sorokin and Miljenko Jergovic in translation.

There is another Fishman interview here.
St. Petersburm museums

Four St. Petersburg house-museums--Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Nabakov and Akhmatova--described in overly flowery language in The New York Times.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Literary Spokesmen

There is an interesting essay about the lack of a literary spokesperson for generation Y on . Novelist Caren Lissner writes that previous generations had literary voices that represented them, "But Generation Y, the teens and early twenty–somethings who are said to represent the biggest chunk of pop culture marketing power, have no one who has encapsulated their generation in their writing so far." She puts forth a few names of gen Y writers, of which I have read only Jonathan Safran Foer, and says that none has emerged as a spokesperson. Lissner concludes that this may be a good thing and that it is probably too early anyways.

While I am interested to see what writers develop out of our generation (I'm 24), I'm not surprised there is no "literary spokesperson." First of all, I'm not really sure generation Y is a real generation distinct from Gen X. After all, our parents aren't in Gen X. They are Baby Boomers, for the most part. Second of all: yes, it is way too early to expect, or even debate a literary spokesperson of "teenagers or early twenty-somethings."
The Imperial Sublime

I spent some time in the Georgetown University library this evening reading the introduction to The Imperial Sublime: A Russian Poetics of Empire by Harsha Ram. Ram is a Slavic professor at UC Berkeley (I took one of his classes during my last semester there). The Imperial Sublime, published this fall, is about the simultaneous expansion of the Russian empire and the development of Russian poetry, and their influence on each other--how the poetry, (mostly) celebrated the growth of the empire and helped to create heroic myths about it. The book covers the period from when Peter I (Peter the Great) declared himself Emperor (1721) to the death of the poet Lermontov (1841).

I found what I read of the book very accessible, although much of the literary-philosophical debate about the "sublime" went over my head.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Boris Akunin

Boris Akunin's The Winter Queen is among thousands on The New York Times notable fiction list for 2003. It was translated from the Russian title Azazel by Andrew Bromfield, who has translated at least one other Akunin book and a ton of Pelevin.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Russian Booker announcement

Yesterday the Open Russia-sponsored Russian Booker prize was awarded to Ruben David Gonsales Galiego for his memoir Beloe Na Chernom. Galiego was born in Spain to a Spanish mother and a Venezuelan father. His maternal grandfather was general-secretary of the Spanish communist party. From what I can gather, Galiego was taken from his mother when he was born (she was told he died), and raised in Soviet asylums for palsied children. As an adult he was reunited with his mother in Spain. Beloe Na Chernom (literally, White on Black) is his memoir.