Meet the Bermans - Bella, Roman and their son Mark - Russian Jews who have fled the Riga of Brezhnev for Toronto, the city of their dreams. Natasha brings the Bermans - and the Russian Jewish enclaves of Toronto - to life in stories full of big, desperate, utterly believable consequence. In 'Tapka', six-year-old Mark's first experiments in English bring ruin and near tragedy to the neighbours upstairs. In 'Roman Berman, Massage Therapist', Roman and Bella stake all their hopes for Roman's business on their first, humiliating dinner with a North American family. In the title story, a stark, funny anatomy of first love, we witness Mark's sexual awakening at the hands of his fourteen-year-old cousin, a new immigrant from the New Russia.
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David Bezmozgis became an overnight star when he published stories in the holy trinity of American magazines for fiction lovers: The New Yorker, Harper's, and Zoetrope. With the publication of his first book, Natasha, he has been compared to Chekhov and Philip Roth, and the comparison is more than just promotional copy. Natasha follows the experiences of a family of Russian Jews who settle in Toronto and set about reinventing themselves. The loosely connected stories are narrated by the son, Mark, who attempts to understand not only his new world but also his parents. As the book progresses, his growth into the frustrations of adolescence mirrors his family's disappointments as they attempt to escape their old lives in the immigrant ghetto and create new identities. Bezmozgis calls the stories "autobiographical fiction," as they are largely inspired by his own family's past, but make no mistake, these are fully realized works of literature, complete with an attention to language and an eye for detail that invoke the best of minimalist writing. Bezmozgis doesn't reinvent the form here--he sticks to traditional themes such as the search for self and cultural dislocation--but he tells his stories with a grace and quiet sensitivity that's so rare these days it's practically an endangered species.
And there are a couple of literary masterpieces in Natasha. The title story, which relates Mark's sexual experimentation with a cousin by marriage during a summer spent dealing drugs, manages to be both a touching coming-of-age tale and one of the freshest inversions of the suburban dream in years. "The Second Strongest Man," a story of the reunion of Mark's family with a Russian weightlifter, manages to conflate the decline of the Russia with the emptiness of North American life in its tale of aging men whose time has passed them by. Bezmozgis divides his time between Canada and the U.S., but Natasha is international in the scope of its subjects--modern Russia, Toronto's immigrant communities, Judaism, various translations of the American dream. It's the literature of globalization, and Bezmozgis has proven himself to be a global writer. --Peter Darbyshire, Amazon.caFrom the Back Cover:
A New York Times Notable Book, 2004
"Scary good...Not a line or note in the book rings false."--"Esquire
One of the 25 Best Books of the Year, Los Angeles Times
Winner, Reform Judaism Prize for Jewish Fiction
Shortlist, Guardian First Book Award
Shortlist, Governor-General's Award
Meet the Bermans-Bella, Roman and their son, Mark-who have fled the Riga of Brezhnev for Toronto, the city of their dreams. Told through Mark's eyes, the stories in Natasha possess serious wit, in a solid literary debut from one of the freshest Jewish voices since Saul Bellow-or Lenny Bruce.
"An authority one usually finds only in more seasoned writers." --Meghan O'Rourke," The New York Times Book Review
"An effervescent debut...A familiar tale of dislocation and assimilation with enough humor, honesty, and courage to make it new again...If the last page of 'Tapka' doesn't stop your heart, maybe it was never really beating."--"O Magazine
"Deft...humane but unblinkingly unsentimental...Bezmozgis'...fine stories...are thick with memorable characters." --John Biguenet," Chicago Tribune
"Dazzling, hilarious and hugely compassionate narratives [written with] freshness and precision...Readers will find themselves laughing out loud, then gasping as Bezmozgis brings these fictions to the searing, startling and perfectly pitched conclusions that remind us that, as Babel said, 'no iron can stab the heart so powerfully as a period put in exactly the right place.'" --Francine Prose, "People Magazine
"Passionately full of life . . . Often ebullient and warmly comic...[Bezmozgis has] considerable talents." --James Wood, "London Review of Books
David Bezmozgis was born in Riga, Latvia, in 1973. In 1980 he immigrated with his parents to Toronto, where he lives today. This is his first book.
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Book Description Vintage Books USA, 2005. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0099461161