Review of Sleepwalker in a Fog by Tatyana Tolstaya

This second collection by Tolstaya is a brief, inconsequential, but enchanting volume, reminiscent of Cat Valente’s Deathless, or similar quirky, literary, bold tales, congealed together by the old fashioned setting and the unfixed narration. 

On the whole, it was not focussed enough to move me, but entertained me all the way through. Extremely naive characters create a pervasive humorous absurdity, but the stories seemed to conceal very few larger truths, rather recounting mysterious encounters with details of daily life. The vibrant prose and scintillating imagery are comparable to Kelly Link, and Tolstaya does not appear to be overly concerned with politics or satire, except in a broad sense, as in satire of the human race as a whole. The stories are fairly universal, rather than distinctly Russian. Not straightforward at all, in fact the convolutions are both intriguing and aggravating. Apropos of nothing, she will fly off on wild tangents.

Ridiculous concepts briefly explored, characters constantly interrupting the author’s train of thought with their darned socks or sauce pans or samovars. A real chaotic mess without plot or logic to stick in the memory. However, it is sprinkled with poetry and gems of enjoyable montage. Rereadable but inimitable. Nothing really to summarize that would sound coherent. I struggle to put my finger on what makes these stories tick. Like Andrey Bely, the small events represent larger premises, but the author is careful not to draw too much attention to any one thing. It is a potpourri of ideas, likely to induce spontaneous combustion of your expectations.

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