"Give Me (Songs for Lovers)"
(Reviewed by Olivia Boler JUN 12, 2005)
The eleven pieces in this debut fiction collection range from a novella to snippets that portray the lives of young, 21st century Russians looking for things like love and good music, with very little concern for what the future may bring. Some of the characters are quite young—children really—and some are university students, although they seem pretty unconcerned as to their grades or what doors a degree will open for them. In one story, we encounter a ghost, and in another, flesh-eating monsters. The tropes that unify the book are the themes of unrequited love and a specific obsession with pop music.
The first story, “Give Me!” sets the tone for the collection. It’s the first-person account of a young, unnamed woman, who confesses right off that she’s “three inches taller than Lyapa, with long dark hair, brown eyes, an immensely high opinion of myself and the figure of a model.” She immediately adds that, “that’s what one guy told me,” as if she needs to clarify the validity of this assessment. Lyapa happens to be her husband, an 18-year-old she agrees to marry, and does, on the Internet, sight unseen. Why? It’s never made quite clear, and such is the way of these stories—the motivations of the characters are ephemeral at best. These kids seem to make decisions based upon no more than a passing fancy, and Denezhkina’s goddess-like hand seems to guide them from above (or, from her laptop). Even when we enter the characters’ interior worlds, there’s a sense that only certain rudimentary emotions exist and only in the simplest forms: a yearning to be loved; the instinct to survive everyday, mundane dangers; and a basic pursuit of physical pleasures.
The yearning for love is evident in the novella, “A Song for the Lovers,” which follows a group of university friends centered around four members of a band. It’s a portrait of characters that embody the dysfunctional traits of Generation-Y. They pursue unrequited love; they embrace drug addiction like it’s a right; they obsess about music and the meaning behind the lyrics of love songs. They go to school, but almost as an afterthought. There is no future, only the here and now, and they drift from one bacchanal to another, hooking up (the basic pursuit of physical pleasures) in that search for a love that is never defined—if it were, they might actually find it.
"Vasya and the Green Men” is a disturbing, macabre tale, to put it mildly, of flesh-eating monsters—these would be the Green Men—that prey upon vagrants and rape elderly women. Vasya is a young boy, much maligned and abused, who stumbles across a way to save his impoverished community from the Men. Even though he triumphs over them, he continues to suffer at the hands of the true monsters that are his physically abusive family and the kids at school. Despite the story’s graphic details, it has something that most of Denezhkina’s stories do not, which is plot. No matter. What appeals to this young writer’s fan base is not the traditional beginning, middle, and end, but her honed understanding of a generation’s angst and habits.
- Amazon readers rating: from 5 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Give Me at SimonSays.com
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Give Me: (Songs for Lovers) (2002; February 2005 in US)
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About the Author:
Irina Denezhkina was born in 1981 and lives in Yekaterinburg, where she studies journalism. Since the publication in 2002 of Give Me (Songs for Lovers), she has become a celebrated literary star in Russia and her book has become an international sensation.