(So this is just an in-depth opinion piece about a book I happened to have just read.)
The Tsar of Love and Techno – One of those books with a colorful cover and weird title that sits on your book pile, guilting you for purchasing another book you don’t need and can’t store, but then additionally for not actually reading it. (How can I possibly think with all this silent judgment from my mouthy books?!)
It was a random book sale purchase. No pretense. The cover promises something, the title could go either way… Modern love story? Dystopian future? Cheeky memoir? So you finally open it. Take that, procrastination! (Also, your book club is reading it so… you know… pressure)
The first story begins a narrative that feels clever. A time piece, you think. Interesting narrator. Metaphors on point. Russian culture. Even a pinch dystopian, as true Russian lit seems to go.
This recognition quickly unravels at the second story as you begin to navigate the book anew. Who is this new narrator? We’re in a different era, different city, different voice. Ok, multi-perspective, you think. I could be in the mood, you think. The one-liner wisdoms are pretty smart. You’re feeling the sad come on, as Russian lit seems to go. And there, right there, the Russian claws are in. Fasten your seatbelt. Or rather, don’t. Because the kind of sad that The Tsar of Love and Techno delivers is the kind you savor, not like chocolate, more like sore ab muscles. Productive pain. If sadness wasn’t soul-scratching, why are so many books laced with it?
Somewhere in the second story, a sentence catches your eye like a flirtatious glance from a stranger. Totally ignorable. Deniable. But definitely something. You don’t look back because you’re totally above that. But still… something.
The stories are connected, you think. By more than just taking place in (some form or former form of) Russia. You feel very clever. Any author who can make you feel clever for actually just seeing his own cleverness is #pulitzer.
You hop eras and cities. The Russian names mesh, even though the author limits the nicknaming, as Russian lit seems to go. But each story will take a little bite of your soul, chew it slowly and then put it back a little softer. Gross? Ok, maybe.
When the stories begin to overlap, you dare to hope. Maybe a happy ending? After all, it’s not toooo Russian. We don’t need a happy ending, you think. We actually hate when a story tidies into a bow, you remind yourself. But still… Maybe? A full circle? A magnificent redemption? This sad will be worth it, right?!
I will neither confirm nor deny any sort of ending because with Russian lit, it’s better navigated blind. But the soul itch does get scratched and the sad is savored (and then ruminated on for days) because Anthony Marra writes an amazing story, or rather a tapestry of them. Read this book. #NotAnAd #JustAFan
6 out of 5 stars.