Tag Archives: vladimir sorokin

Popular Amazon Purchases, January – April 2011

As I do every so often on this site, time to run down popular purchases made on Amazon by readers of Conversational Reading. (For previous reader faves, see here.)

Here we go, in order to sales rank:

Life A User’s Manual by Georges Perec

No surprises that, by far, the most popular item purchased in the past few months has been the subject of the current Big Read. Thanks to everyone who is participating!

A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava

Self-published phenom A Naked Singularity continues to be a popular book with readers of this site. And with The Quarterly Conversation previewing an excerpt from his new book, Personae, perhaps we’ll have another favorite.

The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

Wallace fans are die-hards. Despite my reservations about this book, readers of this site are still snapping up Wallace’s final offering.

Zone by Mathias Enard

My endorsement of this massive, challenging French novel (and my interview with its translator) seems to have spurred some readers of this site. Good for them!

The Ice Trilogy by Vladimir Sorokin

This is one of the books I’ve featured on my Interesting New Books in 2011 page. Plus Sorokin is a pretty big deal, and this is probably his biggest and best book.

The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco

Chalk up another one to a combination of a big author and a listing on the Interesting Books page. But how ugly is this cover?

“A” by Louis Zukofsky

This one pretty clearly goes back to this post I did about “the Ulysses of poetry.”

The Preparation of the Novel by Roland Barthes

I would attribute this to my interview with the book’s translator, and this blog’s great following among Barthesians everywhere.

Otherwise Known as the Human Condition by Geoff Dyer

Some recent discussion of this book plus a listing on the Interesting New Books page probably did the trick.

For previous reader faves, see here.

Vladimir Sorokin at B&N Review

Despite finding a lot to like in Ice and Day of the Oprichnik, I’ve never really managed to have a favorable opinion of Vladimir Sorokin’s fiction. It just seems like too much mayhem for mayhem’s sake, and too little substance and character.

Paul Di Filippo at the B&N Review has a different opinion. If you’re new to The Ice Trilogy and Oprichnik, this is definitely worth a read.

Sorokin’s Ice Trilogy, here translated piquantly by Jamey Gambrell, who also handled Oprichnik, was originally published in three parts from 2002 to 2005. It’s a Cossack of a different regiment entirely, with each installment displaying a contrasting storm of weirdness that add up to a cumulative gonzo hurricane.

Part 1, Bro, starts out like an old-fashioned Tolstoyan bildungsroman. We are introduced to Alexander Snegirev, born in the year 1908 to a well-off family. From birth he’s an oddball, not fitting in, although he tries to play a part in the tumultuous history of the next twenty years. The naturalistic gravitas of this early section convinces you you’re reading a straight historical novel, and grounds the subsequent fantasy with deep roots. For when Snegirev tracks down the Tunguska meteorite that fell coincident with his birth (on an expedition that plays out like Kurosawa’s Dersu Uzala), his life veers off the rails. Touching the alien “ice,” he receives a revelation: he is one of an elite cohort, some 23,000 souls, nescient fallen angels trapped in mortal clay. His real name is “Bro,” and his mission is to reassemble his tribe prior to Armageddon.

The rest of Bro reads as if Kurt Vonnegut, Doris Lessing and Thomas Pynchon had re-scripted Hammer Film’s cult classic Five Million Years to Earth, after mainlining Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. It’s a Gnostic odyssey down familiar twentieth-century history rendered utterly Martian by Bro’s perspective and insider knowledge. His death by natural causes at the end of WWII culminates the first book.


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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