Thursday, August 30, 2012

Vladimir’s Mustache by Stephan Eirik Clark

Book cover: Vladimir's Mustache by Stephan Eirik Clark
Vladimir’s Mustache is published
by Russian Life Books
Vladimir’s Mustache by Stephan Eirik Clark (Russian Life Books, 2012) has accompanied me on my daily Lake Transit commute this week.

Lake County readers may remember the author, who reported under the byline Stephan Clark for the Lake County Record-Bee.

Vladimir’s Mustache is a collection of short stories set against various eras of Russian History. Jacket copy sets the timeline “from the time of Peter the Great to the years of the post-soviet collapse.”

I am not familar with Russian history, but I don’t think a reader has to be, to find these stories accessible. First and foremost, Clark’s stories are about people who live and strive against the larger backdrop of history.

One story that particularly resonated with me for the familiar society it depicts, was “The Secret Meeting of the Secret Police.” The characters discuss a coming innovation called “the Internet” that will put surrveilance workers out of a job:

“And people will use it?” the narrator asks President Gorbachev.

The president answers, “People will use it, and they will even pay as much as fifteen-hundred rubles per month for the privilege. ... The state will be able to police its citizens for kopeks on the ruble what it costs today.”

I thought the description of our web-accelerated society to be very apt, phrased in a way that people do not often think about. The situation was plausible and I thought about Twitter updates in which the user proclaimed he had ousted someone else as “mayor” of a physical location.

Each check-in or geolocated post is a form of opt-in surveillance.

Other stories in the collection introduce the reader to men and women in diverse places in life. In each story, Clark offers an intimate glimpse at the lives and feelings of his characters.

Clark’s collection was an enjoyable read that I would recommend. I will offer my copy as an addition to the stacks of our Lake, Mendocino and Sonoma County libraries.

Disclosure of material connection: I received a review copy of this book.

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