Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Cute Tombstone, by Zarina Zabrisky: Review by nadine Sellers

Fifty two pages, no room to spare, crammed full of delicious and capricious detail; the subject matter propels stark comparison between modes of funerary customs and national traditions. The style, clearly inimitable, the author is indomitable. Zarina Zabrisky has proven herself a formidable descriptor, again!

She is strong, lean and well toned; this is exactly what the literary tone of A Cute Tombstone expresses. She concentrates the essence of cultural disparities into an intriguing vessel.

Zabrisky lends a rare sense of irony with pitch perfect timing, her voice cuts sharply through verbal nonsense to reach the reader with mordant humor. No dictionary necessary to translate traditions here, Russian spirit is served cold and colorful on a platter of family relationships.

Imagine a trip to a well known big box store, there you are at the beginning of the story, chewing cashews in front of a mega-stack of recycled paper products. Surrounded by signs, infused by cultural optimism. Now move on to a placard reading “my death, my funeral, my way”. This, is America.. you' re on your way to a fast moving experience to culture shock, put seat belts on the lazy boy..

“ Nostalgia is an illusionist” claims the author, then she drags your eyeballs through tasty, smelly, vivid sensations. “The hallway reeked of vodka, pickles and mothballs”; you follow, wrinkling nose and stirring tongue after each pictorial tidbit, you travel behind those high heels, breathless.

Alive with gestures, the text portrays entire emotional biomes; “uncle Aaron chopped the air with his right hand when agitated”. With the economy of a modern lyricist, she slaps truth across bare facts. She could have played with words and produced a Dostoyevsky on vellum. She could have bitten our ears with indescribable mysticism, but no, she keeps straight and up through a funeral ordeal with universal meaning and local context.

Fearless description drives the plot with spare dialogue: “ dying on April 30th was a terrible idea”, she goes on to describe the interim bureaucratic mayhem into Soviet scenes of sharp contrast. “May tenth is national hangover day”--“don't die in Russia!”. I promise, I won't, but I've enjoyed the armchair trip.