In Marin / READING LIST
MM: There are so many unique
elements to The Tsar of Love and
Techno: Stories — the narration
style; the landscape, both political and literal; and the linked story
structure. Which came first?
AM: They were originally all
separate short stories, and I got
to thinking of how I might try
to weave them all together, how
I might try to leverage the very
aspects of a short story collection that people tend to resist, as
a means to tell a story that’s much
bigger and more ambitious than I
could ever fit into a novel. I tried
to use these stories as individual
chapters that told this overarching
story that lasts about a century and
spans thousands of miles.
MM: How do you play with time
and history in this book?
AM: I was looking at time through
objects. One of the main “charac-
ters” is an oil painting from the
19th century. When we walk into
a museum, how many hands has a
particular painting moved through?
How many eyes have seen it? How
many people have worked on it?
How can you look at one object and
use it as a time machine to move
through different people’s lives?
The painting appears in every single
story, and we begin to see how the
stories surrounding this painting
are in fact more interesting and dramatic than the art itself.
MM: Russia plays a huge part in
your novel. What is it about post-Soviet Russia that fascinates you?
AM: It’s a place, in many ways, of
extremes: extremes of climate,
of geography, of history, of politics. I think that it allows you to
pose questions that would be difficult otherwise. Above all, it’s
an environment that magnifies
moral choice. What are the moral
dimensions of citizenship? How
do we try to understand political
decisions, and how do they touch
down in the lives of those furthest
from the source of political power,
yet closest to the repercussions?
Russia is a place that allows those
questions to grow to monumental
scales. CALIN VAN PARIS
Author Talk The Tsar of Love & Techno: Stories by
Anthony Marra (Palo Alto), Hogarth, $16. In vibrant
prose, with rich character portraits and a sense of
history reverberating into the present, The Tsar of
Love and Techno is a captivating work from one of
literature’s greatest new talents (Anthony Marra’s
debut novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena,
was long-listed for the National Book Award). This stunning,
exquisitely written new collection introduces a cast of remarkable
characters whose lives intersect in ways both life-affirming and
heartbreaking. Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera February 1,
7 p.m., as part of the One Book One Marin 2017 launch program.
Whole World Vegetarian by Marie Simmons
(San Francisco), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $23.
In Whole World Vegetarian, Marie Simmons follows
her culinary wanderlust, bringing together a col-
lection of bold, imaginative dishes and seamlessly
adapting them to contemporary tables. Cooks
can expect a wealth of sumptuous options — even the homiest of
dishes deliver rich rewards. The winner of a Julia Child Award and
two James Beard Foundation Awards, Simmons is to be trusted
on all culinary matters, and this book is no exception. Appearing at
Greens in San Francisco February 3, 12 p.m.
Fatal by John Lescroart (San Francisco), Atria Books,
$26.99. From New York Times best-selling author
John Lescroart, a riveting novel about the unex-
pected, shattering and lethal effects of a one-night
stand on a seemingly happily married couple. Fatal
follows Kate, as an innocent crush soon develops
into a dangerous obsession. An explosive story of
infidelity, danger and moral ambiguity, John Lescroart’s latest thriller
will excite and satisfy both his current and new fans. Appearing at
Book Passage Corte Madera with K. J. Howe February 18, 4 p.m.
Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to
You in Your Life by Yiyun Li (Oakland), Random
House, $27. In her first nonfiction book, award-winning novelist Yiyun Li explores the questions
we ask ourselves as readers and writers, as citizens
and solitary travelers, as parents and children:
how does one make life livable? How do writing and reading bring
us solace and help us embrace the conflicts of our daily reality?
Tracing the course of her life from China to America, and from
biologist to writer, Li reflects with startling generosity and humanity on the writers who have shaped her. Appearing at Book Passage
Corte Madera February 21, 7 p.m.
Local Page Turners
Reviews by Book Passage Marketing Manager Zack Ruskin.
We sat down with
Palo Alto’s Anthony
Marra to discuss
his new book, The
Tsar of Love and
2017’s One Book,
One Marin pick.