More Vacation Reading Notes

Aaron, aka Mr. Bookdwarf wrote some notes on things he read on our vacation to Costa Rica and asked me to share them.

Siberian Education by Nicolin Lilin: This was the disappointment of the bunch. It wasn’t bad, but it definitely didn’t stand up as well compared to the others. Perhaps it was the translation – it’s written by a Siberian-Ossetian living in Italy, working as a tattoo artist. It’s definitely got some amazing details about what it’s like to grow up in a society that’s somewhere between a cult and a crime family. But the author is digressive, and lacks insight into anything other than his own specific experience. We see little of the neighboring crime families, all of whom apparently have different traditions, and there’s little to no understanding of the role women play in the organization. Still, I expect this book will interest anyone who has paged through the Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia, or wanted a little more detail about the racketeering shown in movies like Eastern Promises.

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson: Absolutely fantastic. If you ever thought your parents were weird, and I know you have, then you need to read this book. Annie and Buster are the adult children of two performance artists, a key part of their work. After something of a failure to launch, the two return home, looking for solace, only to find themselves roped into yet another eccentric performance. The Family Fang is a compelling story of growing up and distinguishing yourself from your parents, and finding your own voice as an artist. It’s also wildly hilarious. Everyone knows love makes you dumb, but when Annie gets a mash note in the form of a sestina with key words like “locomotive,” we feel acutely both the foolishness we go to for love, and the awkwardness of being loved without loving in return. Everyone can say someone doesn’t get much play, but “can count the number of times… on one hand, and still have fingers left over for elaborate shadow puppets” is prize-winning. Four of us read this book, and read enough of it out loud to each other that the fifth has a good feel for it as well.

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