GIVE ME (SONGS FOR LOVERS)
When Russian student Denezhkina initially published this brash, frenetic collection (her first effort) on the Internet, she was 19, and her partially autobiographical stories are unvarnished portrayals of teenage life in Russia. Breezily grim episodes—two young teenagers having bewildered first-time sex at summer camp; a suicide attempt on a lonely New Year's Eve; numerous drug and alcohol-blurred house parties—are recounted with the candor and indifference of adolescence. The intended edginess is dulled by the indistinct characters, most of whom suffer from indistinguishable angst and are casually dismissive of anyone uncool ("Natashka doesn't like anyone much on principle.... She only likes musicians, stars"). The best stories are short and simple, like "Remote Feelings," a focused, thoughtful tale about two university students who exchange love notes. Elsewhere, brutal beatings alternate with empty (or unsubstantiated) "I love you"s. The collection undeniably evokes the disorienting and melodramatic world of young adulthood, though the tonally underdeveloped and thematically fuzzy writing prevents Denezhkina's subjects from ever quite coming into sharp focus. Agent, Sally Wofford-Girand. (Feb.)
Forecast: It's unlikely that Denezhkina will be the hit here that she is in Russia—at home, she is already promoting a new anthology of writers, called Denezhkina & Co.—but her association with respected translator Bromfield (who has also translated Victor Pelevin) should help assure review coverage .