I suppose that one day soon I'll go into detail here about the year I spent in Latvia, where I learned how easy it is to fall deeply in love with a place. At which point I'll write things such as
The silence of the birch forest captured the barest hint of our footsteps on the mossy ground. They were strangers to me: Agnese barefoot, leaping over pine needles; Igors stooping low in the distance in search of mushrooms. A row of fir trees obscured from view the slip of a path that would pour our giddy and breathless bodies out onto the thin strip of beach, to the sprawling Baltic Sea.and
Men in felt boots hauled the sacks of our gathered potatoes up onto the tractor, the dimming October light seeping across the field, casting mechanical shadows. The other women were bent in half, fingers nimbly sieving the dirt; I knelt in the field and dug my arms in up to the elbows, overturning only dead moles and small, misshapen tubers, bit by the plow.and other such sentimental, nostalgic, Tarkovskian drivel. Or not.
But that is for another day. I mention Latvia today because three links I wanted to share are all connected by some sort of Soviet theme, and the first comes from Latvia.
My favorite Latvian blogger has scanned his copy of a Soviet science book for children (roughly translated, the title means It Is Even Farther To Earth, or, perhaps better: Earth Is Still A Long Way Off). The art on pages like this is fantastic.
In Slate, meanwhile, Keith Gessen (translator of Svetlana Alexievich's Voices from Chernobyl and a really nice guy to boot) reviews the new Martin Amis book. I never made it through London Fields, the only Amis I've attempted, so I don't have much to say about the guy, although I do find his current obsession with Stalin kind of, um, kooky. The review makes for an interesting read even for those who couldn't care less about the new Martin Amis book; Keith's insight into Tolstoy's reasons for writing the character of Anna, for example, are spot on (first paragraph). Tolstoy's ulterior motives are probably why Levin's scenes stole the show, for me at least. Or maybe it's just my love of scenes involving that place, people working the fields, the perimeter marked by a strict and solemn forest of birch trees...