Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-x

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For Single Mothers Working as Train Conductors

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pp. 1-10

When I was a very young woman, I spent many months working and traveling in the Soviet Union. The end of the Cold War would soon take many people by surprise. I was far from my mother and from everyone else who mattered. In the Soviet hinterlands...

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The Husband Method

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pp. 11-18

When I left that marriage, various tactless people asked if our marriage had run aground on the shoals of cultural difference—had my American habits and culture and his Soviet ones clashed, ultimately proving incompatible? How I wanted to believe that...

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Climbing Montmartre

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pp. 19-28

I’m recently post-op, having just risen after over a month on my back, and nearly every day my steps turn toward Montmartre. I’m living in Paris for some months, while my boyfriend (I’ll call him Tristan) does graduate work at one of the Universities of...

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Proust at Rush Hour

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pp. 29-38

My job is a drag—like most nine-to- five gigs, I imagine. But, oh, the commute! The commute is a golden border at the beginning and end of each workday that sheds some of its shimmer onto the leaden expanse in between.
I’m a New Yorker, so taking...

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Fait Accompli

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pp. 39-46

I wore my flannel nightgown with the tiny lavender flowers. Aleksandr had on his beige briefs with the blue pinstripe, he said. I filled in the rest—ruddy hair, hazel eyes, slim form. He murmured to me over thousands of kilometers of telephone wire from...

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The Bagels in the Snowflake

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pp. 47-54

Outside, there were lots. Block after block. Deserted. Some had been parking lots and were now home to abandoned wrecks, as if people had parked, shoved their car keys into a pocket, and wandered off. Then years had passed, years of entropy...

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Haunting Synagogues

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pp. 55-66

Strolling along in the West Seventies near Riverside Park recently, I passed the building where Aleksandr and I lived awhile before we were married. This was some twenty-one years ago.
The mover brought our things up. We didn’t have much; one...

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The Book of Disaster

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pp. 67-104

Everything began in Lithuania, of course. But where to begin in Lithuania? I could start with my grandfather, who was born there in 1888 and left for the West when he was about seventeen. His story colors everything I’ll ever say about the place, it’s true, but...

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Russian Afternoons

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pp. 105-116

“Carpets cleaned, any size,” read one of the glossy slips. “Best airport car service in the city, excellent rates to JFK and LaGuardia,” promised another. The packets from the neighborhood merchants association came regularly in the mail. “Hot...

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Dark Green and Velvety, with a Dusting of Cat Fur

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pp. 117-120

One week and three days. That’s how long my manuscript has been with the agent.
I came to the agent through a friend, who said that I should expect to hear back in six to seven weeks at the earliest. That, she explained, is about normal for agents...

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Infelicities of Style

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pp. 121-138

Last night, I dreamed I saw Lloyd Geduldig. Dusk was falling. Alongside a grain silo just outside the town, his broad, pale face hovered low, like an early moon.
The silo stood near a T-junction, and just behind it, tread marks cut across a field. Clumps...

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Losing the Nobel

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pp. 139-160

I’d been earning my living as a Russian-English interpreter for a decade and a half when I was hired to give English voice to one Svetlana Alexievich, an author slated to appear at the 2005 PEN World Voices Festival in New York City, where I live. I’d...

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Other Incidents in the Precinct

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pp. 161-180

That spring, I went to my fourth dentist in three years.
Why did I change dentists so frequently and so frivolously? My formative years gave no indication that I would engage in such behavior. I was a model of stomatological stability in my youth...