A visceral, graphic report from dystopia.

STALKING THE ATOMIC CITY

LIFE AMONG THE DECADENT AND THE DEPRAVED OF CHORNOBYL

Confessions of a Zoneaholic.

Ukrainian writer Kamysh makes his book debut with a raw account of his journeys as an illegal tourist—“a stalker, a walker, a tracker, an idiot”—in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone, the bleak area surrounding the site of the 1986 disaster at a nuclear power plant in Ukraine. His father, a civil engineer, had been a liquidator at the site for six weeks, “when you could still get fried by radiation.” Now Kamysh, and those he guides, see the Zone as a destination for grungy adventures. In abandoned towns “overtaken by desolation and death,” they go to “guzzle down cheap vodka, smash windows with empty bottles, curse way too loudly and do other things that distinguish living towns from dead ones.” Kamysh paints a picture—and includes his own photographs—of a stark, surreal landscape: empty apartments where he finds syringes and dead animals (including the rotting corpse of a wolf); crumbling houses with moss-covered roofs; and bars “where smugglers, looters, and border guards all booze together.” Although he repeatedly vows never to step foot in the Zone again, he cannot resist its allure. He has gone to the Zone in the dead of winter, stomping into an endless blizzard, freezing through the night. “We know how stupid our escapades are,” Kamysh writes, but his own motivation is not merely to experience extreme tourism. He revels in a feeling of “true alienation: treading unfamiliar paths and sinking into swamps without a compass or a map, looking up at the stars you know nothing about.” In sparsely repopulated villages and secluded borderlands, following the paths of smugglers looking for scrap metal, Kamysh admits he is looking for “something unattainable”—an antidote, perhaps, to complacency and consumerism. Illegal tourists revive dead cities. “They breathe life into the empty shells of fragile houses” and make the Zone “a place worth living for.” Translators Leliv and Costigan-Humes capture Kamysh’s angry, sometimes hauntingly rueful prose.

A visceral, graphic report from dystopia.

Pub Date: April 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66260-127-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Astra House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

Did you like this book?

more