The Magazine

Love and Beauty

A dreamscape of Soviet life and art.

Jun 19, 2006, Vol. 11, No. 38 • By DAVID SKINNER
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Grushin's word choice, too, occasionally tends to fussy terms (lacunae, velveteen) one sees only in dictionaries and pretentious poetry. The upside of her writing style is a powerful intrusion of imagery into an idiom and form both energized by the sudden appearance of demanding word pictures and arresting visual details. Both qualities, the visual and the overdone, can be seen in a sentence such as this: "The sun, about to glide below the stubble of antennas on neighboring roofs, suffused the air, the trees, the peeling stucco facades, with a vespertine lucidity."

One feels grateful for the clarifying humor of stubble and put off by the heavyhanded vespertine.

But these are mere tics in a writing style one can imagine expanding in a hundred different ways. In the meantime, it proves perfectly effective for realizing the self-collapsing dream novel of a Soviet artist searching for the soul he traded in for a beautiful wife, a tony apartment, and a chauffeured car.

David Skinner is an assistant managing editor at The Weekly Standard.