Monday, May 18, 2009

STRANGE TELESCOPES

Truth be told, when this book popped up on a list of availabilities for prospective reviewers and I read the synopsis, I began thinking William Least Heat Moon or John Steinbeck and Travels with Charley.

A literary travelogue, Strange Telescopes is not. In fact, while it is no doubt creative nonfiction, the author seems less than fully present in the story. He is an observer, true, but he isn't a catalyst, a characterization that might fit Least Heat Moon or Steinbeck and a state that arises in many power creative nonfiction works. Kalder comes across as a reporter, although the book jacket classifies him as an "anti-tourist."

STRANGE TELESCOPES:
Following the Apocalypse from Moscow to Siberia

By Daniel Kalder
401 pp. Overlook Press $26.95

Strange Telescopes actually began with the idea for a magazine article, according to its author, but then serendipitously he began to stumble across off-beat icons illustrating aspects of his beloved Russia and learned enough to fill a book. The book, in the hands of someone who knows only a little about the land, reads as a social study in the form of four odd characters, an examination of a society fractured and repaired by the incoherent teamwork of democrats, demagogues, and the decadently rich.
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