VODKA, TEARS, AND LENIN'S ANGEL by Jennifer Gould

VODKA, TEARS, AND LENIN'S ANGEL

My Adventures in the Wild and Woolly FSU
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A journalistic Perils of Pauline in what the author breezily terms the ``FSU'' (Former Soviet Union). After a year spent working for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Gould, a young Canadian journalist, decided (for reasons that are never made clear) to seek work in the FSU. She doesn't speak Russian and she knows no Russians, but she nevertheless overcomes all the obstacles. She hangs out with 15-year-old hoodlums, Mafia bosses, and YILGs (Young Ivy League Gangsters); she is hijacked, visits the scene of strife in Georgia and the front in Chechnya; and she interviews Vladimir Zhirinovsky on a trip down the Volga. Most chapters are preceded by a pretentious and often not very relevant quotation from Marcuse or some other intellectual luminary, but the book's political heft can be judged by her considered view that ``in practice, Russian Communism may have turned out to be a totalitarian tool for continued state-sanctioned oppression, imperialism and anti-Semitism, but in theory it wasn't so bad. There is a lot of good to found in reading Lenin.'' This may be why she was given the nickname (which delighted her) of Lenin's Ghost. As her experience of the FSU deepens, the quality of her reportage improves, and her assessments of the situation in Chechnya and Georgia, while not very profound, are vivid. So is her portrait of Zhirinovsky, whose emptiness, recklessness, and obsession with sex--he tried in the course of a taped interview with her, representing Playboy, to persuade her and her translator to engage in group sex with two of his bodyguards, in front of him- -come through clearly. A wild and woolly picture, indeed, but the main tension in Gould's gaudy, melodramatic narrative derives from the uncertainty as to whether or not she will suffer an FWTD (Fate Worse Than Death). (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: March 26th, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-15241-8
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1997