‘TWELVE STORIES OF RUSSIA’ by A. J. Perry: A Review, I Guess
By STACEY MAZUR
A. J. Perry’s twelve stories are ‘told’ on paper in a diary-confession fashion, saturated with author’s hilarious comical observations and anecdotes, steeped further with his broad cultural views and manifold philosophical perspectives.
The book gives an insight into the life in Russia of the beginning of the 1990s, as it can be quite fairly regarded and truly considered a different country than the one it has now become.
Through the eyes of a foreigner, a dialogue between cultures is provided, illustrating the manifold stereotypes about the American and Russian cultures alike—in a manner so humorous—that makes the reader (no matter how serious) smile involuntarily.
Following a man from ‘there’ in search for changes ‘here’, a modern (Russian) reader can re-discover the harsh life of the 1990s for themselves, presented in somewhat comical yet deeply-observational way.
The characters are typically Russian and naive, with stereotypical Russian names: several Olgas, Tanyas, Vadim and Boris — James’best friends.
The journey begins when an American man (James a.k.a. A.J. Perry) with a stable (yet somewhat boring) American life (boring enough, that is, to flee a safe country to the perestroika-aftershock-experiencing nation) makes a decision to escape its safety and comfort by flying… to Russia.
From his life-altering meeting with a German man on the board of the plane, the seemingly unremarkable finding of the muddied two-kopeck coin — the presence/absence of which in his wallet will quite symbolically mark his fateful decision to finally leave Russia (the point of exhaustion of his mission) — and the 11 encrypted yellow words he is yet to uncover, the reader will follow his each and every step in and outside Russia, his every line, hooked to read on.
What is more, by the end of the book the mystery of the eleventh word remains yet unsolved, to be uncovered; indeed, it stays beyond the author’s grasp, unreachable, elusive, left for the reader to find out.
All in all, the reader will most likely find the book most enriching, light and entertaining yet captivating from the very first lines.
What comes to me, I’ve enjoyed the cultural journey of the main character to the fullest, diving into his inner world—while in the meantime rediscovering Russia ‘which is yet to become Russia’ from a totally different standpoint, seeing it in an ultimately new light.
Needless to say, this highely unlikely intercontinental journey-through-time, it has tought me a lot.
And so it could teach you. If you only decided to open up your mind to it, and set out on a trip back to… (no, not the USSR, rather) the RSFSR, discovering the era of the post-Soviet 1990s through the lens of a New Worlder.
Take this chance, for this might truly be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
THE INSIGHTS INTO |THE| LIFE OF THE GREAT AND GREATLY-GIFTED JANE AUSTEN
THE GENIUS OF JANE AUSTEN
“My canvas is just a little bit of ivory, two inches wide, on which I work with so fine a brush.”
based on the movie ‘Miss Austen Regrets,’ a beautiful film [and a romantic drama by BBC] uncovering the drama of Jane Austen’s personal life, visualizing on the big screen the green luxuriance and openness of England’s space and giving us, the viewers, the readers, the worshippers of her infinite talent [to all those who worship her talent beyond time], an insight into the life of Jane Austen and into her world; into her heroes’ era, her characters’ way of life.
Jane Austen Regrets… But who doesn’t regret something in their life? Not just for a second? Not just for an instant? Not for a split moment? Is it at all possible not to regret anything in one’s life? entirely? Hardly, for that is not human nature. And what is? Jane Austen knew better.
Royal England of the early 1800s… These were the years when Jane Austen, the Writer, was born. It was the time of setting convenient marriages and joining fortunes, a time when a woman, unmarried, was considered a failure in her life, as if the roles of a faithful wife and good mother were the ones she was only ever capable of performing in a society.
“Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.”
(Chapter XII, Jayne Eyre)
An excellent example set by Miss Jane Austen proved that wrong, terribly wrong, in fact. Her ‘career’ span 6 masterpieces — novels delivered with such sparkling beauty, clever humor, and those ever-witty, forever-quoted lines that they won even His Royal Highness King George IV’s sincere admiration.
Still, despite their unquestionable literary excellence, during her lifetime the authoress’ books enjoyed quite a moderate success and popularity, and none had her name on them — titled to have been written“By a Lady” — AND YETTHEY HAVE NEVER BEEN OUT OF PRINT since.
BUT TRUE TALENT could only be ever fulfilled through sacrifice. And she had made that Sacrifice — of true human Happiness of her own.
But even though she had never in her entire lifetime been happily married [or married at all, for that matter], never did meet her own Mr. Darcy; never did give birth to any children—who might have turned out just as brilliant as she did herself—the literary legacy she has endowed the world with, the contribution she has made to the British nation (and the entire universe of readers) is inestimable,insurmountable.Immense.
Her stories are her children, and they are simplygenius.
“They are my darling children… I send them out into the world to compete with the likes of Sir Walter Scott and Lord Byron… And yet, I have accomplished so little in my life. I have seen so little. My work is so small.”
In fact, she had accomplished A LOT. Her work had liberated women, marking the transition from the 18-century neo-classicism to the 19-century romanticism in English Literature.
BUT WHAT IS IT THAT MAKES IT SO COMPELLING?
Her books provide us with the cultural background of her era, of her time; they enable us to dive into the culture and atmosphere of her century all the while taking in all the mannerisms and manners of those days; absorbing them in, getting a feel of them.
And in the end, who doesn’t regret something done or ‘forever not done’ in their life? in hindsight?
At the dawn of our days, we’re all likely to reflect upon our lives and past behaviors, wishing to undo our past mistakes, wishing to have made the right decision, the right choice at the right time, of knowing-it-all beforehand… In the end, we’re all wishing to turn back the hands of time and live our lives differently, in one way or another.
[But we can’t. That is THE TRAGIC TRUTH.]
REGRETTING is all there is; IT IS HUMAN NATURE.
In Jane Austen’s nature, however, there was a talent unique and yet unprecedented in the entire history of English Literature. A talent for uncovering those elusive, carefully crafted features of the very nature of human relationships, for bringing them to light through the art of melting words and sounds, and for resurfacing features of human nature hidden so gracefully — skilfully and masterfully — to her readers’ delight and to the clever judgment of theirs, and to the appreciation of all those descendants to come.
How very brilliant, in that, indeed, she was.
And though she had never once in her entire lifetime, ever been abroad, enjoying much the rural placidness of their comfortable cottage in Chawton (which provided a safe haven for her to write), the insights into the inner worlds of her characters are deep and voluminous, as ever, and have been winning the full, utmost Readers’ attention at all times.
‘Passion is made for the young. It fades so quickly. Comfort remains, friendship remains. But the fuss we make about whom to choose… And love still dies, and money still vanishes. And every woman, spinster, wife, widow, every woman has regrets. So we read about your heroines and feel young again and in love and full of hope as if we can make that choice again. ThisISthe Gift which God has given you. It is enough, I think.’
Harlequin’s “Super Romance” story “Her Sister’s Keeper” byJulia Penney is more than a simple romance; it is a riveting detective story spiced up with an enormously compelling love line. It keeps you guessing till the very end.
After the first few pages, you feel absolutely captivated by author’s compelling writing and the eloquence of her style; you are completely absorbed by it: you simply cannot put the book down. It is a breath taking read.
The plot is completely unpredictable, always twisting, holding the reader’s attention to the last, totally captivating.
The first twist strikes when a dead body is discovered in one of LA’s hotel suites registered under the name of Ariel Harris, Melanie’s sister and the rising star in town, who is missing along with her new-born baby. But, as it turns out, the dead body actuallybelongs to another woman…
From that moment on the narrative is full of breathtaking turns, twisting all the way throughout the story.
Truly, the book leaves you feelingoverwhelmed; the twists of the plot —breathless…It manages to successfully combine love drama and detective story.
Surely, after reading this, you will be longing for more of Julia Penney.
It keeps you guessing till the very end.
A mind-blowing read, a compelling story. This book really absorbs one…
The book is written so eloquently… Totally moving… truly absorbing…
Reading this book, you cannot fail to be totally absorbed by its compelling writing and the awe-inspiring twists of the plot that leave you gasping… for more.
It is a one-sitting read.
SYNOPSIS: HOW IT ALL BEGAN
The main theme of this book is the kidnapping of the main character’s sister, Ariel, along with her newborn baby, by the old, childless and emotionally unstable Russian immigrant.
The first two chapters describe the acquaintance of the two main characters, Melanie Harris and Dr. Mattson (or simply Kent).
The story is set in the Los Angeles district.
Dr. Kent Mattson is juggling two jobs, one in LAPD as a police officer and a forensic psychologist, another as a shrink in order to have a ‘healthy bank account’ and to be able to support his family estate in Chimeya; he lost his wife Susan seven years ago to an accident and still hasn’t moved on with his life.
Melanie Harris is a Hollywood actress attending Dr. Mattson to keep a promise to her best friend, Stephanie Hawke, in receiveing help from a professional. This should help her forgive her sister for what the latter had done to her in the past, thus releasing her demons. She won’t forgive her sister Ariel for hiding her past-affair with her fiancé until the very last moment.
The events of the past linger in Melanie’s’ mindas she seats herself comfortably in Kent’s office. The session’s drawing to a close, and she still hadn’t uttered a single word. However what lingers on the Doctor’s mind isn’t a way to help her either: his mind keeps returning to the crime scene he had witnessed that morning. As Melanie continues to insist on paying for the session in full, Kent receives a phone call from his LAPD boss, Carolyn Murphy, — there’s another crime scene yet to observe.
He rushes to the spot, but it turns out that his car had been stolen, and luckily there’s Melanie to give him a ride. As her car’s stuck in the parking lot, she follows Kent to the hotel, and there, in a two-bedroom suite, she discovers a dead body… of her friend Stephanie… Her sister Ariel who checked in last night under the surname Harris was with an infant, and they are both missing… and this is just the beginning… of this truly captivating story. — That will take your breath away, leaving you literally… gasping… for air.
There are two main lines of relationships in the book: the first is the developing relationship between the main characters — Melanie and Kent — themselves; the second — Melanie’s relationship with her family — the one that’s present and missing, and that which has passed and is now in her past. Confronting the demons of her past does, indeed, mean saving her sister.
As they’re struggling to unpuzzle the mystery of Ariel’s disappearing, the relationship between the two main characters is constantly developing and transforming. As they go exploring each other throughout the whole story — during and after the investigation of the case.
What is more, the story gives an exclusive insight into the adrenaline-filled life of an LAPD officer and the whole department he’s working for, which alone, being the proverbial-and-everyday antonym of boring, is beyond the ordinary, on a daily basis.
The main characters are most likeable, convincing and believable…
What is it that makes them so?
Apparently, the author’s literary talent: the narration shifts from one character’s point of view to that of another — providing an insight into their inner worlds. You simply dive into the diverse, controversial worlds of the main characters, thus exploring them from the inside.
The description of the events taking place in the story is woven eloquently into the narrative. Such an exquisitely involving literary technique adds a certain flair to the overall writing style.
Plus, it’s an exceptionally emotional read, appealing to a wide range of human emotion. Exploring the deep and complicated relationships between characters, complex in themselves, with each other as well as with their own selves, a reader (no matter how wordly) can always find something to relate to.
One of the best things about this book yet is undoubtedly the way the author unfolds the story, unveiling the characters before us, bringing in new details on their lives and the case as they are being uncovered by the main characters themselves, — holding the intrigue of ‘her sister’s keeper’ up to the last page, up to the very last minute, up to the last awe-striking moment, up until the final breathtaken sigh…
Truly, the book leaves you feeling overwhelmed; the twists of the plot — breathless. It manages to successfully combine love drama and detective story.
Surely, after reading this, you will be longing for more of Julia Penney.
What comes to this book,I personally enjoyed it to the fullest and would recommend it to anyone fond of exploring a detective story and a novel with an enormously compelling love line, all melted into one great piece of literary art…..
Now, sit back and relax, letting the whirlwinding world unfold before you, swallow and enthrall you, inviting you for an exhilarating read of a lifetime.
Fasten your seatbelts.
— And finally —
Prepare to be blown away by Julia Penney’s compelling novel…
Patricia Duncker is the author of three novels, Hallucinating Foucalt (1996), James Miranda Barry (1999), and The Deadly Space Between (2002), and a collection of short fiction, Monsieur Shoushana’s Lemon Trees (1997). She has also published a collection of essays on writing and contemporary literature, Writing on the Wall (2002). She is a professor of creative writing at the University of East Anglia.
‘THE DEADLY SPACE BETWEEN’
by P a t r i c i a D u n c k e r
‘Combines intellectual playfulness with the deadly suspense of a thriller’
I laid my hands on this book by Patricia Duncker by sheer accident — mainly because of Stacey who praised it such a lot. So I waited for something spectacular, extravagant, something, which would blow me off my bed (where I usually read my books). Yet the beginning was rather unpromising. Short, sharply cut sentences, despite their unquestionable potency, didn’t grasp me as much as I hoped they would.
‘She came home smelling of cigarettes. She didn’t smoke… She must be going out with someone who smokes’
— this isn’t really my kind of favorite prose. But I gave the book a chance, I let it unfold before me, capture me, bewitch me. I submitted to Duncker’s writing powers, which held me mesmerized for hours on end while I was reading the book and still long after I’d turned the last page.
ROEHM THE ROAMING
‘I only hope that Roehm doesn’t come back to haunt me in my nightmares’
Scotland on Sunday
‘The deadly space between’ tells the disturbing tale of an 18 year-old boy, Toby Hawk, whose life changes radically after the appearance of his mother’s lover, Roehm.
This book in many ways is a coming of age story: the reader becomes the silent witness of the transformations that occur to the main character, Toby, — the striking boost of his intellectual and creative powers, the dramatic shift in his perception of himself and the world around him.
Sex, especially, plays a crucial role in this — it is woven into the narrative, easily and eloquently, without the unhealthy flush of chastity or the perverse grin of exhibitionism.
Even though, the issues tackled in The deadly space between can be found extremely disturbing and even repulsive.
‘Duncker is a mesmerizing stylist’
‘Disturbingly haunting. . . the descriptions linger in the mind’
Times Literary Supplement
Imagery is stunning. Throughout the book, the reader is haunted by the ever-present images of ice and cold. Duncker’s Alps are as breathtaking as they could have been had I stood on the edge of the precipice myself and seen everything with my own eyes.
‘With sparkling locations and Duncker’s seamless, almost hypnotic prose. . . The Deadly Space Between is proof that the ghost story is back, and with a shocking twist‘
It should also be said that towards the end I couldn’t find even a trace of those crudely crafted sentences of the beginning.
The language develops along with the main character; and finally Duncker lets herself go — she no longer restrains herself but uses every tool in her vast language inventory to the full. The result is amazing; no doubt, it brings the author of The deadly space between to the fore of today’s literary world.
All in all, I can confess that I enjoyed this book immensely; I was absolutely taken in by the decadent, slightly disconcerting and highly seductive feel of The deadly space between.
I recommend it highly.
‘Freud would have loved to have placed these characters on his couch; the general reader should rush to add them to his bookshelf’
‘A psychological thriller-cum-ghost story in the great neogothic European tradition, steeped with references to Frankenstein, Faust and Freud. With sparkling locations and Duncker’s seamless, almost hypnotic prose… The Deadly Space Between is proof that the ghost story is back, and with a shocking twist’
‘Patricia Duncker writes beatifully with a flamboyant immediacy… Her plot is complex, her characters’ motives persuasively ambigiuous and the encounters between Toby and the inexplicable Roehm have the requisite purtenances of a creepy horror story’
‘The Deadly Space Between confirms Patricia Duncker’s reputation as a writer who brilliantly realises ambitious themes… [her] ability to combine intellectual rigour with flamboyant storytelling is perfectly showcased in this powerfully imagined and most impressive novel’
‘Such a compelling read that your really don’t want to put it down. I only hope that Roehm doesn’t come back to haunt me in my nightmares’
Scotland on Sunday
‘Disturbingly haunting. . . the descriptions linger in the mind’
Times Literary Supplement
‘An elegant, psychologically astute exploration of the way in which jealousy, love and fear combine to shape identity’
‘The tale wins you over through its sheer eloquence and nerve. . . Holds the reader’s attention to the last’