LIKE WATER gets a review in LARB, shared with Olga Livshin's poetry collection “A Life Replaced”

I’m delighted and grateful to Linda Kinstler and Los Angeles Review of Books for reviewing my book in a thoughtful piece that places it side by side with the book by my comrade and compatriot Olga Livshin.

What should one tell one’s children of a former life? How much should be passed down? How much can be? These questions also animate Olga Zilberbourg’s new book of short fiction, Like Water and Other Stories, her first collection published in the United States. …

One of Zilberbourg’s heroines, newly graduated from college and desiring to learn more about her heritage, goes to live with an elderly Russian woman in a nearby town. When that experience does not suffice, she goes to St. Petersburg, where she catches the flu, gets groped, and feels alienated and stonewalled by the city’s bureaucracy. “I was back in the United States within a month,” our heroine admits. She discovers that the city of her parents owes her nothing, that it is not required to open itself up to those who were deflected from its path.

https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/deflected-by-this-bitter-era-on-olga-livshins-a-life-replaced-and-olga-zilberbourgs-like-water-and-other-stories/

Review of LIKE WATER AND OTHER STORIES in The Manchester Review

Alicia J. Rouverol, a writer and a scholar based in the UK, wrote about my book in The Manchester Review. The anglophone corner of my heart where I store my memories of learning by heart “Down Whitehall street, there’s a square, Trafalgar Square” from my Soviet English textbook in 7th grade, couldn’t be more pleased with this development!

In the remarkable Like Water and Other Stories (WTAW Press), released in September 2019, Zilberbourg offers a collection of shorts that call us to query our sense of time and place, mortality, and most especially identity. Her topics range from migration and mobility, to parenthood and miscarriage; settings feature rural Russia to urban America (Rochester, NY; San Francisco; among others). Global place/displacement serves as a centrepoint of the collection, making this volume particularly timely. Yet it is Zilberbourg’s play with the story form in this collection that draws us in, inviting a re-consideration of how collections can at once reveal substantive stand-alone works and generate a body of work united as a whole. The blend of ‘story play’ in combination with themes that reverberate in these times makes this a collection especially rich and worthy of reading and contemplating.

http://www.themanchesterreview.co.uk/?p=11103

It’s a lovely in-depth piece — please click through to read the rest.

Review of Like Water

I love that this reviewer pointed out “Ada.” It’s an important story for me, and I deeply care for the character, but I never did find a home for it in a lit mag. It’s so great to see Ada hold her own in the collection.

“My favorite story, “Ada at Twelve and a Half,” felt of these the most utterly specific and intensely imagined, the kind of story that reads not like a fiction but a detailed reporting of an actual event, the log of an inner life. It’s about a little girl who wishes she didn’t have to go to school–who wants so much to walk past it to anywhere, anything must be better than this, she wants so much to be someone, somewhere different–but she ends up in her classroom “where she will sit, trying, and failing, to accept the ordinary.”

“To Understand Russia’s Complexities, Turn to Its Contemporary Literature”

Epiphany published a blog post I wrote, highlighting three fascinating recent translations from Russian.

A FRIEND’S TEN-YEAR-OLD SON son recently came up to me at a party to ask, “You’re from Russia, right?” Sensing caution in my assent, the boy hesitated before asking the next question, clearly trying to phrase it in a way that wouldn’t cause offense but would express his curiosity. He finally came up with, “It’s a very violent place, isn’t it?”

Whenever I’m asked to summarize the entire country of Russia at a party, I invariably recall a scene from a popular Soviet movie…

Click here to read the piece.

Review of The Consequences by Niña Weijers, trans. by Hester Velmans

I’m delighted to have this review up on The Common. It took longer to write than I had anticipated, in part, because every time I returned to this book, there was more to say about it. So many fascinating layers!

Outstanding books often have a way of catching the reader by surprise, one insight, one unexpected narrative shift at a time. Niña Weijers, a debut novelist from the Netherlands, begins her book as a character study of her protagonist, Minnie Panis. Minnie is a conceptual artist of growing international reputation, whose career has been built on acts of public self-abnegation.  With each turn of the page, Weijers extends her subject and thematic reach, keeping her protagonist in focus while exploring contemporary art, mysticism, Mayan beliefs, and early childhood development (among other themes) to enrich our understanding of Minnie’s character and the forces that govern her life.

Minnie’s story is told by an omniscient narrator who documents Minnie’s history of “disappearances”: moments of near death and of extreme out of body experiences, all of which Hester Velmans, an NEA fellowship recipient for translation, has rendered to strong effect in plain and unpretentious language. The prologue introduces us to Minnie in February, 2012 when she falls through a frozen lake in Amsterdam. This is described as a deliberate gesture—not a suicide attempt, but rather a Houdini-like disappearing act, Minnie’s third. But why such a radical performance? The ensuing narrative leads us on an investigation. . . .

Read the rest of this review here.

 

Новая рецензия на Хлоп-страну

Московский автор и критик Данила Давыдов написал рецензию на мою книжку Хлоп-страна!

Говоря об этих рассказах как о психологической прозе мы не удаляемся от истины, но делаем ее более скудной, поскольку само вышеприведенное определение можно применить решительно к чему угодно. Важнее описать контуры того мира, который создает Гренец. Перед нами множество персонажей, женщин и мужчин, эмигрантов той или иной степени адаптированности к новым условиям, причем отнюдь не только (э)мигрантов из постсоветского пространства, – но и вполне местных, чаще молодых людей, но и зрелых, даже пожилых, и малых детей. Этот мультикультуральный и очень насыщенный гулом присутствующих «я» со всем разнообразием их опыта не производит впечатления ни утопии, ни антиутопии. Часто это пластмассовый мир, отчужденный от человека или, напротив, удобно-консьюмеристский, но бывает что и романтический, и насыщенный возвышенными смыслами, порой даже безбашенно-контркультурный.

Читать рецензию целиком тут.

А тут можно купить книжку.

Gunnhild Øyehaug’s Knots, Review

I recommend Gunnhild Øyehaug’s short story collection Knots, out from FSG this summer.

It felt foreordained to open this short story collection by the Norwegian writer Gunnhild Øyehaug and find IKEA on the first page, as in: “…park the car outside IKEA.” IKEA, now based in the Netherlands, originated in Sweden, but to many foreigners, it personifies Scandinavia—pleasant and unthreatening. “Blah, how boring,” was my first thought. Then, trying to stave off disappointment at being welcomed by the all-too-familiar global brand, I told myself, “Well, I guess IKEA did start somewhere nearby. Perhaps, Scandinavians have a particular attachment to clean lines.” (Nervous laughter.) I know that stereotyping is a form of blindness; in practice, my desire for novelty trips me up and leads to overly broad generalizations. Like a tourist, I had to remind myself to check my expectations at the airport.

Gunnhild Øyehaug’s Norway begins, indeed, with the comfortably familiar. . . .

Read the rest of my review on The Common.