cover image Good Citizens Need Not Fear: Stories

Good Citizens Need Not Fear: Stories

Maria Reva. Doubleday, $25.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-385-54529-7

Reva’s hilarious, absurdist debut collection lampoons the crumbling bureaucracy leading up to the fall of the Soviet Union. In “Novostroïka,” a young man discovers that, due to a clerical error, his entire building doesn’t exist in the eyes of the government, and he follows a vertiginous, Kafkaesque course to get his heat turned on. The vicious and vulnerable Zaya, born with a cleft lip and left to an orphanage, and a poet-turned-government official named Konstantyn Illych, are indelible recurring characters. In “Little Rabbit,” four-year-old Zaya manages to escape the orphanage after discovering the mummified corpse of another orphan who was buried under the linoleum, which she takes for a saint sent to guide her out. “Miss USSR” picks up with Zaya as a teenager, having been returned to the orphanage. Konstantyn recruits her to take part in a national beauty pageant, and she disappears after spitting on the judges during the show, leaving Konstantyn with the orphan corpse that she’d kept after her escape. Later, in “Lucky Toss,” the disgraced Konstantyn makes money by charging religious fanatics to see the corpse, or “saint.” Reva delights in the strange situations caused by political dysfunction, while offering surprising notes of tenderness as ordinary people learn to get by. The riotous set pieces and intelligent gaze make this an auspicious debut. [em](Mar.) [/em]