one thing that i have realized over the past two weeks is that if you’re going to try and write some remarks about whatever dumb stuff you’ve been doing, then just don’t prep for that by reading Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago, which is the most depressing book (and i use this term “book” loosely for a three-volume, 1814-page opus) ever written. it’s even more depressing than books of poetry written by Jewel, which are mainly depressing because of the amount of copies they sold.
“In general, this war revealed to us that the worst thing in the world was to be a Russian.”
this is not an exaggeration.
i blame my father for this reading material because of his passion for, you guessed it, Russia, which has lead to such things as him learning to speak Russian and reading all kinds of books on Russia and also sometimes appearing in photos of us shooting stuff out here in ridiculous Soviet-era military gear. granted, this is a little ridiculous, but i can confirm that the horrors of Soviet communism DID at least produce some super-warm winter overcoats. i will personally vouch for them; wearing them is like wearing a tiny brown sun that really hates the bourgeoisie and warms you with its hate.
as a side note, he mostly uses his language skills for the following things:
-surprising Russian relatives of ours who a) didn’t know my father spoke their particular brand of foreign talk and b) have been subsequently ambushed talking secretly in Russian to each other at family events;
-when i was little, we had a Siberian husky with a Russian name (Misha) that my father used to give direction to in Russia;
-calling me a “capitalist dog” or something along those lines. which is less about him calling me that and more about me, while complaining about his “lack of Russia talk,” demanding that he insult me in Russian. the catch is that since i don’t speak Russian, i can’t confirm these insults;
-making me read books like the Gulag Archipelago and stuff about Khrushchev.
which brings up this point: Khrushchev is excellent because no matter how crazy HIS stories are–and be assured that he has crazy depressing ones as well–there are always some hilarious and endearing ones. good are ones about him hanging out in a hot tub with Mao (insert your favorite “what the fuck” term here); better are ones about hanging out with Stalin and other top Soviets post-war. there’s a big section in his memoirs where he talks about–and this just cracks me up to even write it–the various dancing abilities of Soviet leaders. Mikoyan? an “acknowledged dancer.” Kaganovich? “a dancer of not much higher class than myself.” Bulganin? “apparently had done some dancing in his youth.” Stalin? “it was evident he had never danced before.” Molotov? “he was the city dancer among us.” the crowning moment comes, however, with the best lines of this book, Khrushchev talking about his own dancing skills:
When I dance, I don’t move my feet. I dance like a cow on the ice.
also, it’s seriously my goal to use the phrase “he was the city dancer among us” in my own memoirs one day.
but i digress. here’s the point: Gulag Archipelago is beyond depressing; don’t read it if you want to run around telling jokes and NOT understanding why vodka is Russian for “that shit we have to drink to avoid killing ourselves.” i was going to read some Politkovskaya books about Chechnya i have lying around here, but even if they’re only half as bad as Solzhenitsyn, i’m not sure i can take it. thank god for Yakov Smirnoff putting a smile back on my face.
In America, we put “In God We Trust” on the money. In Soviet Russia, we have no money!
i admit that this was actually the joke that Bobby Hill sold Yakov on that sweet episode of King Of The Hill (though aren’t they all sweet?), but come on, that shit is a classic.