Tagged: Masha Gessen

Fall Ends and Beginnings

“Любовь” Юрия Олеши
Когда я начал встречаться с женой, она дала мне копию этого рассказа на английском. Я начал читать, но решил, что хочу на русском. 8 лет спустя и вот! Красавец – он.

Love in the Time of Cholera / Gabriel García Márquez
This is a hard one to put down. The love obsession of Florentino matches other experiences of obsession I’ve had in my life.
Time turns in on itself, doubles back, does flips between perspectives. We can learn so much from this writer. Also, the sympathy for the wife, sniffing her husband’s clothes, scented by his lover. He wasn’t a macho man, one who would deny the truth with utterly male violence. Instead, he admits he cheated. Maybe she didn’t want the truth. It’s so damn well done.
Now I finally understand the romance of the riverboat, the perpetual back-and-forth, the ongoing, neverending journey, which not even death ends. Time is not a pressure for Márquez. It’s a way of getting to the ends of things, of returning, and of setting out again.

There Is No Long Distance Now / Naomi Shihab Nye
I’ve been reading against my insomnia. So far, it reminds me of Jessamyn Ward. There’s a tricky innocence to Shihab Nye’s work that keeps me wondering about the experience behind it.


“Стадион в Одессе” Юрия Олеши
Я не знал, что Олеша был такой патриот, ну здесь что-то есть. Есть вопрос, честно ли он пишет. Ну, интересно, всё равно, об истории Одессы, о Ланжероне, и т. д.

Tolokonnikova
Words Will Break Cement: the Passion of Pussy Riot / Masha Gessen
Whatever you think of their music, there’s something different about this protest avant-garde primitivist art group. Masha Gessen seems to be hip to it. Notice the title’s allusion to a holy mission.

Kaleidoscopic Odessa / Tanya Richardson
This is a great mix of academic and more personal study of this beloved city. I especially like the whole chapter dedicated to the Literature Museum and its founding. It was almost as subversive as that museum out in the far east, where forbidden works were and still are displayed.

“Identity, Power, and a Prayer to Our Lady of Repatriation: On Translating and Writing Poetry” / Khaled Mattawa
Wow, what a great essay. I’m looking forward to more from this series on translation. I especially like how these ideas about translation are making it more primary than American letters has tended to.

“Islands” / Aleksandar Hemon
I love the cicadas “revving” and the cat’s “irreversible hatred.” These seem to generally allude to the division of Yugoslavia into islands, such a significant part of Hemon’s life. But, regardless of the content, even though I spent time on that tiny island in the middle of the lake of Mljet, a place just as haunted as this story depicts, a place very much outside of everything, even with that connection, what is striking here is the physical descriptions, how they suggest the mystery of writing. It seems so simple, the language is so rich. But, of course, nothing is so simple.

“Seymour, an Introduction” / J.D. Salinger
Nothing I’ve read more blurs the distinction between a fictional character and a real-life (or real-live?) one. Salinger makes it not really matter. Same as Márquez, he creates a vacuum around his own voice, and it’s difficult to read with any distractions, difficult not to become sucked in, difficult to be objective when near his words.

Interview with Geoff Dyer (Paris Review, Art of Nonfiction No. 6)
After setting “Seymour” down, I picked up this interview, which goes into the same kind of territory, having to do with this blur between fiction and reality, or in Dyer’s case, nonfiction. So, perhaps that’s how it should be approached. This is a constant difficulty, how much of one’s self to put in a piece of fiction, how much of others, how much to make up, how much to research, how much to include that has no relevance whatsoever. It doesn’t work on a logical level. But at least Dyer is hilarious, “Having read military history I knew how catastrophic was early success.” (Perhaps this isn’t an exact quote, but that kind of goes with the point…)

“Ходите в свете пока есть свет” Льва Толстого
Я рад, что эта повесть не такая, как “Крейцеровая соната.” По крайней мере сначала. Разница в том, что эта больше похожа на притчу, чем на историю, рассказ, роман. Драматических моментов мало. Есть только разговоры и повороты сюжета, восновном. Может быть, что повесть слишком моральный, как жена думает?
Досадно, что нечего больше здесь. Я ожидал что-то новое, что этот старичок бы был появляться христианом, который хотел пытать веру Юлия. Такой досад похож на тот, который я имел после “Крейцеровой сонаты”. Может быть лучшая работа лучших писателей нечайно напсианно.

The Optimist’s Daughter / Eudora Welty
The bathos of the death scene is so figured. Welty is a writer of voices, mainly Southern ones, who fill in the space in a baroque way. Then there’s the bathos of the funeral scene, and that image of the birds lifting off. The voices of the various Southern petite bourgeoisie characters overwhelm Laurel’s. It’s a model for how Welty lets them fill her writing. But then an image such as the birds lifting off in the cemetery reminds you of who you want to listen to.
Then the chapter on her mother, Becky. It’s a feminist text dedicated to fathers of girls. But the “optimist” part of his personality came later, and it was not a good thing, as we might think. The ending makes a reader sure of this. The past is solidified, but we can still have a relationship to memory, and that relationship changes as we do.

“Slow and Steady” by Frank Fucile (Kenyon Review)
This has an interesting technique with the changing of paragraphs. The story slowly dissipates into its objects.

“The Minotaur” / Jan Grue, translated by Becky Crook (Asymptote)
Is the killing in this story that of the Dutch cartoonist? I still can’t figure out why Utrecht. Such a moody and good little story.

There’s Something I Want You To Do / Charles Baxter
My interview with him.


King Matt the First / Janusz Korczak
So far I’m enjoying the dynamic of this story. I read it with my daughter sitting in my lap, so that she can see the book too. Мы тоже читаем на русском, а тогда маме надо править моё произношение.
I love Korczak’s ability to show the naivete of the child, even though it still drives the story, because it’s an understandable naivete.
Somewhere in the middle, I get the feeling that this story is just going as randomly as the mind of a child might. But that’s all right, that’s how it should be. We shouldn’t expect so much sense out of life.


Евгений Онегин Александра Пушкина
Это так весело читать Онегина на русском. То, что хорошо в нём есть видная тёмная сторона естественности человека. Так как он, этот рассказщик, который сочувствует с его Онегином, говорит про женщин наверно значит, что Онегин, может быть и Пушкин, так называемый по-английски ass man. Простите грубость.
Четверостишия LV-LX, глава первая, говорят наоборот, что поэт не Онегин, что он типо меньше Онегина, как каждый рассказщик, наверно, должен быть меньше его персонажей.
Какая прелесть читать Онегина на русском!

Spring 2014

Middlesex / Jeffrey Eugenides

“Февраль” Захара Прилепина

Герой нашего времени Михаила Лермонтова

Waiting for Godot / Samuel Beckett

“Октябрь” Эдуарда Лимонова

“Marlinspike” / Tom Paine

The Theater of the Absurd / Martin Esslin

“Astonish Me” / Maggie Shipstead

Tenth of December: Stories / George Saunders

Long Day’s Journey Into Night / Eugene O’Neill

“She Lived Hard and Fast and Could Never Love Me” / Robert James Russell

Blood Will Out / Walter Kirn

Long Day’s Journey Into Night: Native Eloquence / Michael Hinden

The Birthday Party / Harold Pinter

“Call Sign Scorpion” / Antonio Genovese

A Confederacy of Dunces / John Kennedy Toole

Pinter: The Playwright / Martin Esslin

Benito Cereno / Hermann Melville

“Scars and Dirt: Why I Teach the Modular Story” / Christopher Lowe (Fiction Writers Review)

“Numbers Up” / Matt Walker (The Brooklyner)

“Little Saint At Home” / Marvin Shackleford (The Brooklyner)

“Since Like Forever” / Z.Z. Boone (The Brooklyner)

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead / Tom Stoppard

A Confederacy of Dunces / John Kennedy Toole

“The Sugar Bowl” / Memory Blake Peebles (Ploughshares)

Das bedingte Selbst: Familie, Identität und Geschichte im zeitgenössischen Generationenroman / Markus Neuschäfer

Journey to the End of the Night / Louis Ferdinand Celine

Подросток Савенко Эдуарда Лимонова

“The Signature of All Things” / Elizabeth Gilbert (One Story)

“Everything is Breaking News: An Interview with A.M. Homes” / Rebecca Scherm (Fiction Writers Review)

“Against Meaning: On Outpunting One’s Coverage and Achieving Greatness Anyway” / Michael Byers (Fiction Writers Review)

Words Will Break Cement: the Passion of Pussy Riot / Masha Gessen

“Language” / Martin Heidegger

“Die Sprache” / Martin Heidegger

“The Challenge” / Gabriel García Márquez (New Yorker)

“ReMem” / Amy Brill (One Story)

Language Behind Bars / Paul Celan, trans. by David Young
I picked this up to read with some tea. It reminded me of how rusty my German has become. Young’s introduction demonstrates the obsessive nature of a translator. Reading Celan has never been an easy task for me, not the thing you do when you sit down with some tea on a hiatus from tidying the apartment.

Flamethrowers / Rachel Kushner
This has been burning a hole in my reading list since I saw Kushner read at AWP 2014. It’s been sitting on the edge of the shelf with that 70s porno-esque cover. I started it last night before sleep, unable to help myself any longer. The first battle scene has already flipped me over and made me tremble.
Now it’s intimidating me. Sentence fragments work well here, not as gimmicky as they sound elsewhere. Her metaphors all draw one into the Americana atmosphere. There’s a sense this is a spooky dream on the brink. A nightmare comes in the end of the second chapter, but it still feels as necessary as if I had not expected it. What strikes me are the insights of the characters, who are not at all sentimental but also not too dark for school.
Other obligations are keeping me from reading this, and it hurts. I gave my copy away and bought another. It doesn’t matter, electronic or not.

The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner

Предподаватель симметрии Андрея Битова

The Betrayers / David Bezmozgis
Here’s my review.