A reason for celebration in this otherwise dark time: I got my first free book from an author in need of publicity. Can a place with Oprah's entourage be far behind? Without
further ado, then, let me introduce you to Twelve Stories of Russia: A Novel, I Guess by A.J. Scott. A. J. Scott has no connection that I know to Baltimore. Why am I reviewing his book? Well, dear readers, we have a surprise for you. We're plotting a Russian issue in the winter of 2003. So we've been in touch with Natasha Perova, who's the editor of Glas, the premiere journal of contemporary Russian literature in translation. As it happens, Perova recently published Twelve Stories, the first time she's handled an original work in English. She prevailed upon A.J. Scott to send it to me, and voila-or perhaps I should say bom (I earned this 10-syllable last name the hard way, people.) So here's what I have to say about Twelve Stories: I liked it. The author (or the author of his web site, at any rate) claims to have been influenced by Ilf and Petrov, but I was reminded more of Russian Beauty by Viktor Erofeyev. The two books share a loose structure and a finely tuned absurdity. (Note to self: Genis refers to Venedikt Erofeyev in his review. Must find out more
about Venedikt Erofeyev and all the ways in which he is like or not like Viktor Erofeyev.) He does a good job of capturing the sheer randomness of the post-Soviet
expat experience and its intersection with the real lives of Russians during a period of chaos. He also handles a potential clunker - the protagonist's relationship with
his mother and aunt back home - deftly, conveying powerful emotion without
overwhelming the light and flaky goodness of the narrative line. In fact, the only thing
I don't like about this "Novel, I Guess" is that it ends with its protagonist
deciding to write a book about Russia. Was that necessary? No. But fortunately, it doesn't really detract from the overall appeal of the book. I don't think any bookstores in the Baltimore area are carrying this book, but it's available online at his web site or through Amazon.com.