Little Tenement on the Volga

C. S. Walton, Author Garrett County Press $12.95 (147p) ISBN 978-1-891053-78-8
""Number Four, Specialist Alley is a microcosm of provincial Russia--a depressed and impoverished world, shot through with moments of beauty and compassion,"" concludes Walton (Ivan Petrov: Russia Through a Shot Glass) of her 1993 stay in a communal apartment complex in Samara. This grim account of life in a small Russian city on the Volga details the spiritual and material poverty of the inhabitants. In chapters such as ""Male Infantilism and Alcoholic Disorder"" and ""The Idiocy of Everyday Life,"" Walton concentrates on the lowly status of women, girls whose ""`one hope in life... is to get married,'"" and the effects of Russia's pervasive, deep-set sexism. ""I indulged in my own form of snobbery,"" writes Walton of her stay in Samara, indulging now in understatement. Walton's constant complaints and disdain for her surroundings and neighbors does not always enlighten. Also, Walton often documents her generalizations with incidents and sources more than a decade old, and in some instances, from well before that. While history is key to understanding the present, Walton's strong opinions would benefit from more recent examples. Walton leaves plenty of space for her subjects to speak for themselves--from an elderly woman who expects to die with her alcoholic husband and seven cats in the same building in which she was born, to a local sage who lives without running water among her menagerie of stray animals. These tragic voices ring loud and clear, giving credence to Walton's disheartening conclusion that ""even those who have profited from the market economy are pessimistic"" and ""believe their good fortune is temporary, and that the country is heading for further chaos and possible civil war."" (Feb. 15)
Reviewed on: 05/01/2001
Release date: 02/01/2005
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