From the author of The Steel Bird, The Island of Crimea, and The Burn: two povesti--novellas--and two shorter stories, all composed between 1968 and 1979. The title novella, outfitted with 13 pages (!) of generally warranted footnotes, makes one wonder how much English-speaking readers are missing--by way of literary in-jokes and cultural references--in a larger work like The Burn (1984). After all, Aksyonov is a miraculous and riffing encyclopedia of cultural self-consciousness, of both East and West, old and new: he'll refer to Gogol or Blok in one sentence, to a pack of Winstons or a bottle of Carlberg beer in the next. And, even with those plodding footnotes, ""Surplussed Barrelware"" remains baffling, difficult to decipher--nearly Joycean in its layers and mythologies. The splendid ""Rendezvous"" somewhat resembles The Burn in its multiple-persona protagonist (hockey player/poet/musician) and his search for a ""Beautiful Lady""; once again, Aksyonov provides an expressionistic, adventurous illustration of the Russian personality's all-consuming approach to both material and spiritual matters. And the collection is rounded off by ""Super-Deluxe,"" a suavely metafictional treatment of black marketeering--and by the allegorical, lyrical ""The Destruction of Pompeii."" In all, despite the stiff and unattractive English translations: lesser work that helps to fill out the picture of a genuine world-class writer--the corruscated yet effervescent Vassily Aksyonov.