LET'S PUT THE FUTURE BEHIND US by Jack Womack
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LET'S PUT THE FUTURE BEHIND US

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The author of the Elvis-as-Messiah Elvissey (1993) and various dystopias of a near-future Manhattan (Random Acts of Senseless Violence, 1994, etc.) stays in the present in his latest--a portrait of Russia devouring itself in a frenzy of primitive capitalism. Imagine 1984 as told by Alex of a Clockwork Orange. Our unheroic narrator, Max Borodin, is a likable, rather elegant counterfeiter: not of rubles or dollars, but of history. For instance, his corporation produces irrefutable evidence that the KGB's attempts to brainwash Oswald were foiled by the CIA--and the precise opposite, depending on which American scholar is in the market. Max has a feisty young mistress who's married to his sometime business partner, and an entrepreneurial-minded wife who nags him but retains enough energy to negotiate the corruptions and decay of Moscow, where nothing can be accomplished without a bribe and everything's for sale. Max, a clever dog in this dog-eat-dog society, is a happy man, so much so that he pragmatically wants to put the future as envisioned by reformists behind; it simply won't work, he thinks. But trouble's on the horizon. There's Max's feckless brother, who tries to involve him in a theme park called Sovietland that will invoke nostalgia for the gulag and in which American tourists will be spirited away for interrogation by park employees posing as secret police. There's a powerful mafia trying to muscle in on Max's sweet operation. Finally, there's a sentimental, paranoid, right-wing politician who seems modeled on Vladimir Zhirinovsky; he has the kind of quirky vision that might get clever fellows such as Max killed. Womack succeeds mightily with his gleeful, sly black humor and with inspired atmospherics, such as an aside on poshlaia, the Russian variety of kitsch. If you're heading to Moscow, take this instead of Fodor's.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
ISBN: 080213503X
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly