The great thing about the New Yorker
recently is that no matter what the subject-- whether it's a breezy shopping article
by Patricia Marx or a multi-part essay about Ian Frazier's travels in Siberia
-- it's really fun to read. Even when a story is hugely informative, reading it rarely feels like I'm eating my vegetables.
And that wasn't a hypothetical thing, the long Siberia travel essay. I actually read Part I
last week. I especially liked Frazier's antecdote about how Siberia and America are similar in that they "both exist as constructs, expressions of the mind" to each other. You know how someone might say he parked "out in Siberia" if the only spot he could find was, say, four blocks from his apartment? It turns out being "in America" has a very definite connotation in Siberia, as well:
"The time was late evening; darkness had fallen. [An acquaintance and native of Siberia] led us from room to room, throwing on all the lights and pointing out the amenities. When we got to the kitchen, he flipped the switch but the light did not go on. This seemed to upset him. He fooled with the switch, then hurried off and came back with a stepladder. Mounting it, he removed the glass globe from the overhead light and unscrewed the bulb. He climbed down, put globe and bulb on the counter, took a fresh bulb, and ascended again. He reached up and screwed the new bulb into the socket. After a few twists, the light came on.
He turned to us and spread his arms wide, indicating the beams brightly filling the room. 'Ahhh,' he said, triumphantly. 'Amerika!'"