cover image Rubble of Rubles

Rubble of Rubles

Josip Novakovich. Dzanc, $16.95 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-1-950539-64-2

In this dizzying, darkly comic novel, Novakovich (April Fool’s Day) explores Putin’s Russia through the eyes of a Jewish New Yorker arrested on trumped-up charges in 2006 St. Petersburg. David Mariner, a divorced ex-banker who was disgraced after investing nearly all his clients’ money and his own in Enron stocks, hopes to start over by importing Georgian wines. In St. Petersburg, his taxi driver deliberately strikes and kills a pedestrian, and the victim turns out to be a Georgian wine exporter. Nobody calls the police—“I am the police,” declares the cab driver—and the body stays on the street for days before being incinerated in a literal dumpster fire. A few days later, David is caught urinating on the outside of a building he didn’t realize was a church, and is arrested. While in jail, the cops pin the murder of two Georgian wine merchants on him. Novakovich’s outrageous humor breathes life into the bleak proceedings (while booking David on the charges of sacrilege, insult to the state, and more, the cop learns David went to Yale and assumes that means he’s had sex with George W. Bush and John Kerry), as do such lighthearted elements as David’s relationship with the kitten he rescued before his arrest. Later, in vertiginous scenes that evoke Kafka, Dostoyevsky, and Alice in Wonderland, the police and prison officials subject David to extortion, drugging, and interrogation, and even Putin himself gets a cartoonish and nightmarish cameo. Not only is this sickeningly surreal, it’s a hell of a ride. (Dec.)