When I read a book that is truly excellent, it comes to me as a colorful painting. I can picture the characters in my head, and the landscape is so real, I think I could, if I had the artistic talent, create a photographic likeness of the author’s words.
Anthony Marra's new book of interconnected short stories, The Tsar of Love and Techno, is such a book. Russia, especially in the winters of Stalin and the Communist Era, is often described as a bleak, white-washed landscape. I had imagined it as cold and barren for miles.
After reading The Tsar, I still think of northern Asia as bleak, but now I imagine so many bright spots. The leopard print, on the bathing suits at Lake Mercury, is as clear and bright as that animal in a rain forest. The hand, purposely left visible in the otherwise doctored photograph of a ballerina, is pink and healthy in my mind’s eye. Marra turns the dark, cold setting into a full technicolor home movie. His characters are so three-dimensional, they pop right off the pages.
There are so many things I want to ask Marra about these people and places. I can't wait to see him again. If you received this book for Christmas, or if you bought it as a gift for yourself, get right into it, and then get yourself a ticket to our party.
Anthony Marra will be "in conversation" with CapRadio’s Donna Apidone on Tuesday, January 26 at 6 p.m. The wine will flow and the talk will be smart, so don't miss this event. We'll see you there.