Thursday, December 11, 2003

Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet #13

I wouldn't feel right reviewing this issue, since I'm in it. (I'm the lead story, in fact--how cool is that?) But I would feel right listing the worthies who contributed the many wonderful pieces that are also in the issue, and linking to their websites (if they have them). So: there's Eliot Fintushel, Leslie What, Richard Polney, M. Thomas, Tim Pratt, E.L. Chen, Philip Brewer, F. Brett Cox, Veronica Schanoes, Karina Sumner-Smith, Hannah Bowen, Gavin J. Grant (with an editorial-type piece, seeing as how he's one of the editors), Gwenda Bond, Lucy Snyder, Mario Milosevic, Jason Stewart, and David Blair. Trust me folks, this is good company to be in. Plus, there is a cartoon by James Campbell, and a lovely cover photo by Mieke Zuiderweg. LCRW's editors are Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant, and I have to thank them for giving "The Ichthyomancer Writes His Friend with an Account of the Yeti's Birthday Party" such a wonderful home!

Monday, December 08, 2003

Lenin: A New Biography, by Dmitri Volkogonov

This bio is billed as "The First Account Using All the Secret Soviet Archives," but since it's the only biography of Lenin I've read I can't say whether that makes a substantial difference. I did find the excerpts from, for example, Politburo proceedings fascinating, and some of the evidence of Lenin's long affair with Inessa Armand seems to have been suppressed until recently, so Volkogonov's "unprecedented access" seems to have served him well.

There is a lot here about what Lenin did, and that's both interesting and important. But there's not much about who he was, really, or why. It could be argued, I suppose, that a biography can't really answer those questions and therefore shouldn't try. It could be argued, but I'd disagree. Maybe it's my inner story whore, but I want to see a progression, with at least some rudimentary cause and effect. It bothered me that Volkogonov (and try typing that five times fast!) arranged his chapters by topics and not chronologically, because I'm not well-versed in the historical details of the Russian Revolution and at times found it difficult to follow. That may be a function of audience--I got the impression that this book was written for scholars and students of Lenin and his times, of which I am neither. I think I learned something from the book, but I'd have learned more if the facts had been presented as part of an overarching narrative rather than as a series of topics.