Oct 242011

The Queen of England, nearing the age of 80, and bored with the routine of the Royal Wave, Royal Art opening, and Royal Ship inauguration discovers reading when a gay scullery employee delivers a book from the traveling library cart.  As the queen devours one book after another, she learns about a world outside the Royal Bubble, about feelings and compassion, and her tolerance for Royal Drivel diminishes much to the chagrin of those that depend on the Queen for their authority.   Alan Bennett, a British dramatist, captures British upper crust society with piercing accuracy in this short novella that made me laugh aloud.

Oct 162011

A paean to the Russian virtue to endure.  This set of Russians are Jewish emigres, among the first to be granted permission to escape the crumbling, anti-Semitic,  communist Soviet Union of the 1970s.  A three-generation family takes all their worldly belongings in suitcases and valises to Rome where they wait for permission to move on to the U.S., Canada, Australia, or as a last resort, Israel.  And they wait.  Like a Chekhov play, nothing happens and everything happens.  Characters run on and off stage, great drama accompanied by wild Russian curses, befall them, and like the lives they left behind they wait on lines, drink vodka, endure hardships, laugh, engage in romance, traffic with other Russians, are buffeted by global attempts to politicize their plight, and remain rooted and stateless in Rome.  Bezmozgis overlays a contemporary Jewish twist on an ancient Russian fable and so so with charm, respect, and wit.