“These essayistic short stories, penned over a thirty-year period, follow Fabian, Mihkel Mutt’s strange and self-indulgent alter ego, and his adventures in newly independent Estonia. The inner monologues of the chronically indecisive, worrying, apathetic, self-conscious and skeptical Fabian long serve as the author’s voice for delivering ironic observations of the world. These stories highlight the lingering absurdities of the previous Soviet regime, at the same time taking ironic aim at the triumphs and defeats, the virtues and vices of the Estonian intelligentsia.”
"Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in the category of Criticism.
Over the past three decades, Ugresic has established herself as one of Europe's greatest—and most entertaining—thinkers and creators, and it's in her essays that Ugresic is at her sharpest. With laser focus, she pierces our pop culture, dissecting the absurdity of daily life with a wit and style that's all her own.
Whether it's commentary on jaded youth, the ways technology has made us soft in the head, or how wrestling a hotel minibar into a bathtub is the best way to stick it to The Man, Ugresic writes with unmatched honesty and panache. Karaoke Culture is full of candid, personal, and opinionated accounts of topics ranging from the baffling worldwide-pop-culture phenomena to the detriments of conformist nationalism. Sarcastic, biting, and, at times, even heartbreaking, this new collection of essays fully captures the outspoken brilliance of Ugresic's insights into our modern world's culture and conformism, the many ways in which it is ridiculous, and how (deep, deep down) we are all true suckers for it."
A special thank you to book club member, Neha Mehta for the suggestion.
"'Beautifully written — a glimpse into a rarely seen African reality.' -Weekly Journal
Throughout southern Africa, shebeens are where jokes are born, news is embellished and exchanged. They are unique vantage points where men go after a day's work, both to escape from the troubled world around them and to observe and comment on it. In Shebeen Tales, Zimbabwe's leading author offers a view of his country not from the privileged and insulated perspective of a well-heeled visitor, but that of the ordinary person who, with the help of dry wit and illegal beer, pokes fun at the rich and mighty. Struggling against madcap motorists, pompous bureaucrats and the other woes of life in the city, the man in the shebeen sees modern Africa as it really is, not as press releases or tourist brochures would have us believe. Hove looks straight in the eye of a society suffering from AIDS, drought and economic hardship, but does not succumb to despair. With a wry sense of humor, he celebrates a people who live life to the full, laugh and sing, tell tall tales – whatever is thrown at them. In new pieces written for this edition, he discusses the vexed issue of homosexuality in Zimbabwe and also casts an amused eye at President Mugabe's wedding."
(A special thank you to book club member, Ivor Watkins for the suggestion.)