Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hard Cover

Today I descended into the University of Chicago's Seminary Coop bookstore to check out new titles in Russian history and related subjects. Although I feel some guilt, I never buy much of anything at the bookstore: new books are just too expensive, and the plethora of choices overwhelms my decision-making faculties anyhow. I read outdated history--all in English--and even that task overtakes me. There's just too much out there. But looking at recent titles is even more intimidating. There are so many wonderful Russian history books being released each year, plus some classics that get re-translated or just re-published.

When I visit the Russian history collection at the Seminary bookstore, I feel very clandestine. All I really want to do is take a furtive photo of a few key shelves so I can remember what should go on my Christmas list next year. Feeling like a spy, I struggle to try to memorize everything before I leave the building but, sadly, I remember very little moments later. I do recall an entire row of Sheila Fitzpatrick books, Walter Benjamin's Moscow Diary, a relatively new Boym book called the Future of Nostalgia, books by gulag survivors, academic treatises on Soviet memoirs, Blum's book on Russian serfs and peasants, books on Soviet women, something on post-Soviet consumer fantasies, something else on the once-forbidden landscape of the Soviet Union, stuff on Herzen and Trotsky, a collection of Isaiah Berlin essays on the Soviet experiment, etc.

Somebody give me a cool thousand dollars and I'll carry that whole damned section of shiny new hard cover Soviet masterpieces up the cold, dank Seminary Coop steps to freedom.


  1. Я надеюсь, что Вам понравится наш блог:

    Это ирландский блог. Прошу Вас сообщить о нас своим друзьям. Прошу Вас Ссылайтесь на нас. Прошу следовать за нами.

    Май Спасителя и Его Святой Матери благословит вас Господь!

  2. Incognito

    It seems that your mission to obtain foreign intelligence has brought you deep behind the enemy lines of University of Chicago's Seminary bookstore. I too suffer from an unquenchable thirst for new knowledge on a weekly basis, yet the price of new books held captive by commercial emporiums is enough to suppress the most desperate my of cravings. Next time, have fun with it and your purchase may be a bit more amusing.

    Just imagine you are engaged in critical post-Cold War spy program. You are incognito, draped in a jet black trench coat with a complementary Braxton hat as you slyly peruse the Russian author section from behind your mysterious sunglasses, (mind you, this image must reel through your mind in a gritty, black and white like persona, think of the old, shaky 8-mm reel to reel film employed in all the classic spy pictures).

    Once you have found the titles you are seeking, circumspectly remove your cell phone and make as if you are receiving a phone call. Warily shift your eyes in all directions to survey who may be watching your dubious behavior ( if this were a movie, this is the moment the camera would rapidly zoom in towards your shifty eyes and beads of sweet would glisten as they as they descend from your brow to your chin).

    If there appears to be no sign on immediate threat, use your subminiature spy camera (cell phone) to snap pictures of the authors who hold your interest. Once the objective is complete, calmly remove yourself form the shop, slip out of the black spy attire and leave all evidence of your former self in the trash can outside of the store. Disappear down the wet Chicago streets still recovering from the night’s Autumn thunderstorm. Let the mist ascending from the cold concrete engulf you into its safety and away from the hot zone.

    Then, and only then, upload your data to and enjoy the discounted gems of your life-threatening expedition.

    Although the literature you seek may be gently used, marred with creases and annotated notes, every trip to the bookstore could truly be an epic episode of cold war espionage.

    Brian Blackburn

  3. Don't worry, Fur Coat. I am sure Santa will fill your stocking with lewd chastushka.