Quietly subversive works of imagination from a Ukraine-born Russian/Israeli writer who describes herself as an essayist.
In Putin’s Russia, is there such a thing as a Valley girl? To judge by some of the aperçus in this collection by pop-culture phenom Goralik, we might conclude that indeed there is: "How old is he? Probably pushing fifty. Gray hair, I always loved that type. You know, he did ballet as a kid, then worked for the KGB, so, like, basically a real inspired dude.” Well into her 40s, though, Goralik mostly writes with a mature distance. One story, in its entirety, is a flash-fiction masterpiece: "The wife comes home and the cat smells like someone else’s perfume.” It’s a few words more than Hemingway spent on baby shoes, but it’s a compressed gem all the same. Often as gritty as a Brassaï photograph, Goralik’s sketches, some originally published on the Web, center on ordinary scenes: American tourists gawk before the Kremlin, an Easter card curdles in a puddle of mud, a battered woman puts on makeup in a restaurant, unselfconscious and apparently unshaken. At times Goralik drifts into dreams—as with one fellow who, in the nightmare of missing a long-ago exam, discovers that he can no longer remember the Russian of the Soviet era—but seldom indulges in surrealism; her work is notable for its matter-of-factness, no matter how absurd the scenario. This anthology gathers work from across several genres, from those short works to some longer pieces such as the Bulgakov-worthy story “Agatha Goes Home” and the novella Valerii, as well as poems, plays, and even a sequence of cartoons that are somewhat reminiscent of Chris Ware’s, if much darker: in one, a bunny lists off all the vices he doesn’t indulge in, from smoking to drinking and gambling, “because all that might distract me from important suicidal thoughts.”
A welcome collection from a writer worth hearing more from—so translators, get busy.