Forgive me if this post sounds dizzier than normal; I came home to an apartment reeking of chemicals, like paint thinner, with no good explanation as to why. I know this means that instead of sitting inside said apartment and typing out an entry here, I should probably be out in the fresh air somewhere, typing my musings at a cafe perhaps, or at least banging on neighbors' doors to make sure they're all still alive. But I feel compelled instead to sit here whiffing fumes to write about Vladimir Sorokin's Ice.
I must confess that wasn't initially enamored with Ice. I nearly quit it all together several times, but I knew from reading The Queue that Sorokin was not the most instantly rewarding of all writers, and so decided to stick with it. In the end, sticking to it was the right idea. Ice turned out to be a backward book. It's divided into four separate sections, and they appear in reverse order of the type of prose I'd actually be interested in reading. Then there's the theme, initially tough to swallow: thugs go around pounding people with axes made of intergalactic ice to try to awaken the dormant hearts of this blond-haired, blue-eyed "race" of people. Most Russians and Russophiles know how important Sorokin is to modern Russian literature, and so might forgive the stuttering entry to this book, but the rest of the world, folks who are just being introduced to the author, might have a harder time. There's a lot of naked hugging to get through, and then he starts in with the dreams. Then a first person narrative with a bit more character, but still quite a lot of naked hugging.
The reward is slow to reveal itself, but comes blaring in during Sorokin's clever Part III, his "customer testimonials." These are the gems hidden at the end of the book that reveal Sorokin's real talent for character study, for brief glimpses into the everyday lives of everyday people who suddenly find themselves doing not-so-everyday things. This talent was hinted at in the first two sections, but then it was too restricted by the need to drive the plot forward early on. No naked hugging here, just a bit of naked hand-holding. And Part IV is just, well, just precious.
Perhaps it's the fumes, but I still need a moment to sort out much of Sorokin's blond-haired, blue-eyed, ice-picking, naked hugging theme in my head. While I go breathe through a sock, it might be best if you go appreciate a real review at the Los Angeles Times Book Review.
And check on me in the morning.