With the grim determination of an unrepentant rocker, Larry Frolick sets off on a 12,000-mile trek across Central Asia, brooding over the fate of its lost civilizations. From Kiev, Crimean Tartary, and Moscow, through the nomadic homelands of Uzbekistan, Kyrgizstan, Tien-Shan, and finally into distant Mongolia and Siberia, he explores a continent on the brink of a meltdown, a strange world lit harshly by the red afterglow of the Soviet collapse.
His vivid account opens the door to a crowd of unlikely strangers: Mafiosi flatheads, salt-mine campers, fractious archaeologists, a conceptual artist who uses fresh corpses in his window displays, the very last of three Romanov princesses, an inept Chinese secret agent, a relentless Uzbek glottal probologist, disgruntled e-mail swains – and above all, Larissa, the moody Eurasian beauty who “just stepped out of a novel in her impossibly pointy Italian shoes.” With gleeful wit and a steely eye for detail, Frolick transports the reader to a world inhabited by a people burning with desire for something new to happen.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Muzhik
Circle Against the Square:
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
Crime and Disorder (Repeat)
She Called Me a Romantic, the Bitch!
The Interpenetration of Light with Sorrow
Elektro-Shock Lady in La-La Land
To the Dacha with Two Monsters
Is This Yours?
Everyone’s Dandy in Goon City
The Two-Centimetre Question
The Styx Is a River That Runs from the Heart
Flatheads at Twelve O’Clock High
Crocodile Shaslyk, Anyone?
The Square Is the Icon of Our Age
Beyond the Urals:
The Choice Between Italian Shoes and the Exotic
Pahlavan Makhmud: Poet, Champion Wrestler, and Occasional Hat-Maker
Three Girls Named Star
At the Sign of the Blue Tongue
Who Was Natalie Wood?
Notes from the Underground
To the Summer Pastures
Lonely Penitent’s Guide to the World’s Worst Trips
Welcome to Kashgar City, Big Noses
The House of Stones and Earth
The Yellow King’s Kids
The Gods of Cloud, Rain, Wind, and Thunder
Life as a Horse:
Midnight Border Crossing
The Bare Texts of Its Boundaries
So What Is Your National Pride?
Twenty-One Taras, or, I Married a Mongolian Train-Trader
About the Dress They Sold the Cow For
Epilogue: The Joke
Some Classic Works for Further Reading
About Larry Frolick
Larry Frolick is the author of Splitting Up: Divorce, Culture, and the Search for a Real Life, Ten Thousand Scorpions, and Grand Centaur Station. He lives in Toronto.