Dubravka Ugresic, trans. from the Croatian by David Williams. Open Letter (Univ.
After her novel Baba Yaga Laid an Egg, Ugresic returns with a brilliant collection of timely essays. In the titular piece, she uses karaoke as a metaphor for a variety of modern phenomena in which every amateur gets his or her fifteen minutes of being (or imitating) a master. She posits the Internet as a form of %E2%80%9Cmega-karaoke,%E2%80%9D in which fans can rewrite their favorite stories, a Bulgarian singer covering a Mariah Carey song can become an international YouTube sensation, and gamers prefer virtual realities to their actual lives. The essays in the second chapter (%E2%80%9CBuy the Jellyfish that Stung You%E2%80%9D) continue Ugresic's examination of the post-postmodern world, particularly the consequences of the current global recession. In chapter three, Ugresic recalls being ostracized by the media for her anti-war stance in Croatia in the early 1990s, when she and four other female writers were declared %E2%80%9Cthe five Croatian witches,%E2%80%9D and she was blacklisted by her colleagues at the Institute for Literary Theory. The final chapter is devoted to literary analysis, including an enlightening essay examining a century of the Austro-Hungarian novel and its major themes. Ugresic moves nimbly from karaoke to Communism, from IKEA to the symbolism of insects in literature, providing smart and witty cultural insight alongside Eastern European history. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 01/23/2012