As we say in my country, get an idiot to pray and she will bruise her forehead (extra points for guessing what a forehead has to do with praying). I have many errands today and I like that because I haven’t had any time to get sad. One of the errands was to get N.’s former car towed to the car service. N. tried getting it towed in the morning but the towing company went someplace else and seems to have towed somebody else’s car. So I had to contact the only other towing service in town. That’s when it became clear that I know nothing about the car I have been riding for over 6 years.

“What is the make and model of the car?” the lady from the towing company asked.

“Erm. . . It’s a Honda?” I suggested, realizing that I was turning into one of those annoying folks who make every statement sound like a question.

“And the model?”

“Erm. . . And by model you mean. . .?”

“Is it a Civic, an Accord, or another model?”

Accord sounded like a nice name for a car, so I said it was an Accord.

“What year is it?” the lady kept torturing me.

“Two thousand something,” I said. “I think.”

“And the color?” she asked in a very patient tone.

“White!” I yelled, happy to be back in my straight-A student role. “It’s definitely white!”

Of course, when the towing truck came by there were exactly two cars parked next to each other. One was a Honda Civic and another one a Honda Accord. And as usual, I had guessed all wrong. Ours was a Civic. In six years, it had never occurred to me to find out.

I did manage to stop the towers before they tried to take away the neighbors’ car, though, so the story ended well.

Classics Club #13: Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind

One of the side effects of what happened is that I haven’t been able to read. I stare at a page and nothing happens, which is a great hardship for me. So I decided to read something completely unfamiliar to see if it brings me back into the reading mode. I promised people a long time ago I would venture into the fantasy genre, and now it made sense to engage in  some good, solid escapism.

Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind did serve its purpose in that it got me back into reading. It is entertaining, it reads easily, and it also confirmed my suspicion that fantasy is the genre for lazy authors. Writing fantasy liberates them from the need to do any research and, supposedly, offers an opportunity to write with complete freedom about anything they want, creating alternative universes and fashioning them according to their own will.

Rothfuss’s alternative universe is, however, more secondary and unoriginal than any strictly realist work of fiction I can think of. The parts of the book that are not based on an uninspired retelling of Christian mythology (a virgin birth, a God who is the son and the father at the same time and who sacrifices himself to save humanity, quotes lifted directly from the Bible, etc.) are based on Judaic mythology (kabbalah).

Of course, the most important myth that informs the novel is that of the American Dream. The protagonist overcomes enormous hardship, pulls himself up by the bootstraps from horrifying poverty, puts himself through college and even manages to achieve the impossible and gets a scholarship to attend University (can you get any more American than this?), accomplishes incredible feats of strength and resilience, and is finally rewarded with the most wonderful thing existence can give an individual – his own business. Of course, it isn’t a very successful business. Not even epic heroes end up owning multi-national corporations these days. All that the world’s savior can hope to acquire as a result of his heroism is a dinky little bar with no customers. Still, it’s a bar, and how cool is it to be in charge of dispensing alcohol?

Another problem with the novel is that the construction of the plot is extremely haphazard. As I said, the author is lazy and doesn’t even try to make things conform to some sort of an internal logic of the novel. Sometimes he makes a half-hearted attempt to explain the contradictions that crop up in every chapter but soon tires of the effort. It’s as if Rothfuss took excerpts from books that made an impression on him, changed the names of the characters, and arranged these often incompatible bits and parts of other books in a random pattern.

Reading this novel was comforting in the sense that it offered absolutely no surprises. One knows exactly how each scene will develop. This defeats the escapist goals one might have, but it’s not a bad way to pass the time when you are incapable of doing much else. I know people love this genre and I don’t want to hurt anybody’s sensibilities. Originality is not Rothfuss’s forte but it might be there in other books belonging to the genre.

One regret I have is that I didn’t have access to such books when I was 11. I would have really enjoyed them then.


There is this saying that is offensive to both Russians and Ukrainians: “While a Russian sleeps, a Ukrainian eats.” The message it conveys is that Russians are lazy and Ukrainians are greedy and crafty.

In our family, though, the saying has always been literally true. The only thing that turns N. from the gentle, sweet and kind person he always is into a scary, irate creature is waking him ten minutes earlier than planned. And the only time N. saw me freaking out – I don’t mean angry, sad, upset or experiencing any normal emotions but freaking out irrationally – is when we were moving to Baltimore and didn’t have dinner at the time I’m used to eating. N. eats a lot less than I do and I need less sleep not only than N. but than a regular person.

Now, however, the impossible has happened: I lost all interest in food and acquired an interest in sleep. I had already allowed the Russian pronunciation to substitute my heavy Ukrainian accent and now find it funny to hear my own parents talk. And I’m a convert to constant tea-drinking. Now all that is left for me to do is to buy a Russian flag and start quoting Pushkin at least 10 times a day. Of course, I will never become Russianized to the point where I will refer to borscht as “soup”, which, by the way, is the most offensive thing you can say to a Ukrainian.