Morticians, Purloined Diaries, and Other Theatrics of Exile
Morticians, Purloined Diaries,
and Other Theatrics of Exile
by Maxim D. Shrayer
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From a bilingual master of the literary memoir comes this moving and humorous story of losing immigrant baggage and trying to reclaim it for his American future.
In this poignant literary memoir, internationally acclaimed author and Boston College professor Maxim D. Shrayer explores both material and immaterial aspects of immigrant baggage. Through a combination of dispassionate reportage, gentle irony, and confessional remembrance, Shrayer writes about traversing the borders and boundaries of the three cultures that have nourished him—Russian, Jewish, and American. The spirit of nonconformism and the power of laughter come to the rescue of Shrayer's autobiographical protagonist when he faces existential calamities and life's misadventures.
The aftermath of a dangerous ski accident in Italy reminds the memoirist of history's black holes. A haunting, Soviet-era theatrical affair pushes the emigre protagonist to the brink of a disaster in a provincial Russian town. Attempting to collect overdue royalties from a Moscow publisher, the expatriate writer tips his hat to Kafka. The book's six interconnected tales are held together by the memorist's imperative to make the ordinary absurd and the absurd ordinary. Shrayer parses a translingual literary life filled with travel, politics, and discovery—and sustained by family love and faith in art's transcendence.
Praise for Immigrant Baggage
"In Maxim D. Shrayer's extraordinary Immigrant Baggage…, he claims place through movement, expression through translingualism, all while inscribing history onto our collective present consciousness."
—Jessica Lang, Dean, Weissman School of Arts and Sciences, Baruch College, CUNY and author of Textual Silence: Unreadability and the Holocaust
"Maxim D. Shrayer writes like Nabokov's long lost cousin. Funny, poignant, elegant and light on his feet, Shrayer serves up a banquet of emigre pleasures and sorrows, in the new world as well as the old. Immigrant Baggage is a compact, pang-filled, hilarious marvel."
—David Mikics, Moores Professor of Honors and English, University of Houston, and author of Stanley Kubrick: American Filmmaker
"The lively stories that comprise Maxim D. Shrayer's Immigrant Baggage burst with a passionate devotion to literature… The past is present, and made alive again, in this most engaging memoir."
—Elizabeth Poliner, author of As Close to Us as Breathing and Mutual Life & Casualty
"Maxim D. Shrayer is a faithful student of the great masters of Russian literature. And he is also top-of-the-class as a literary Russian emigre in his own right. This is a charming and breezy book, written by a wordsmith from two worlds..."
—Thane Rosenbaum, author of How Sweet It Is! and The Golems of Gotham.
"Maxim D. Shrayer has the sharp humor of a Russian literary outsider, the longings of a Jewish emigre, and the artistic discipline to examine his experiences without sentiment or shtick. Nabokov would have read this book with pleasure."
—David Samuels, literary editor of Tablet Magazine and author of Only Love Can Break Your Heart
"Maxim D. Shrayer is a precious object: a kind of living Rosetta Stone who embodies multiple literary cultures. Shrayer's wry, witty, wise and nuanced writing weaves together strands of Soviet, Russian, Jewish and American culture in moments of translingual epiphany."
—Marcel Theroux, author of The Sorcerer of Pyongyang and Far North