The Tsar of Love and Techno (Marra)

If an author’s first book has been successful, the second book always makes me nervous. Has it been rushed out to capitalize on the publicity? Was it, in fact, the failed first book?

And when the second book is a collection of short stories, I am extremely wary. Were these the stories with which the writer sought to establish himself (and failed to do so), but now rushed to print to capitalize on the success of the first book?

Marra’s novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, is amazing. Marra, Anisfield-Wolf award winner, combines tragedy and comedy in sentences that make you think he has access to a different alphabet.

This collection of stories affirms his greatness. There’s no sophomore slump here. These interrelated stories explore questions about memory, family and art with both poignancy and humor. When I finished “The Grozny Tourist Bureau,” I had to stop for a moment of silence in appreciation. It is one of the finest stories I’ve ever read.

After two amazing books, I am prepared to pay Marra the highest compliment I have. When his next book comes out, not only will all of my apprehensiveness be gone, I will buy it in hardback, an honor I bestow on only my favorite authors.


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