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Bun's Books

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All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation
Rebecca Traister
The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov, Diana Burgin, Katherine Tiernan O'Connor Hmmm, well. This book took me forever to read. One reason is that its just a dense book, lots of plots and sub plots and a pretty big cast of characters. Another is that Russia of the 20's and 30's is a sufficiently alien world to me that it often took extra effort and attention to figure out what was going on. There is a whole subplot involving foreign currency, another recurring motif of primus stoves- I can tell these things are important but then I have to go to the afterward or check a history text to figure out why. Additionally in places Bulgakov was writing to evade the censors so he is often oblique - for example he refers to one character having no buttons on his coat, by which we are to understand that he has recently been released from prison because apparently in Russia in the 20's prisoners had the buttons cut off their coats.

It is funny in spots, passionate in spots, and some of the descriptions - of the witches ride for example, are weirdly magical. The book was not completed before the author's death and I think there are places where he would have edited the manuscript if he had lived to do so - some of the early scenes when the devil is making everything go awry in Moscow get a little repetitive, and could probably stand some tightening up. But still, its complicated challenging and interesting.

I also appreciate having read it because it helps me to understand more about the history and development of magical realism and fantasy and political satire in the 20th century. It seems to connect up in my head in ways that I'm still figuring out with Kafka and Borges and Isabel Allende and Alice Walker; something about how things that can't be told flat can be told more effectively through the lens of myth and the fantastical... still pondering, but there's something there some influence or through line.

So its a bit of a chewy hunk of beef, but there's nourishment in it if you just keep on chewing. ;)