Throughout much of the Cold War, Russians regarded the United States with both mistrust and admiration: America through Soviet eyes, it seems, could be a cold-hearted capitalist wasteland as well as a mythic destination of refuge and riches; it could be a sinister ideological foe as well as a beacon of freedom and hope. The collapse of Communism did not make Russia's picture of America any simpler. As this slim anthology reveals, Russians still perceive the United States in ways that are uncertain and contradictory. One contributor observes how the United States ""floats, shifts, drifts,"" and, like other essayists here, he has difficulty deciding what to say about the place. In a way, this indecision is the book's greatest asset-the opinions are meandering, raw and honest-but it is also the book's greatest shortcoming. Too many contributors strive for profundity only to fall very short, leaving the reader in a verbal muck that is sometimes incomprehensible, and sometimes just plain corny (""Tower Records-that bottomless pit of music and whispers""). In some cases, sharper editing would require doing away with entire submissions. This would have given greater prominence to the book's more promising items, such as Marina Boroditskaya's musings on Russian and English idioms, which are playful, witty and thought provoking, and Linor Goralik's prose poem, a biting monologue titled ""Real American Girl"" that is as astute as it is angry.