Unbearable lightness of dating

Slavoliciousness: Akhmatova should be approached with the same caution as Frieda Kahlo—she is unconventionally attractive and you can get in huge trouble for calling her anything less than gorgeous.

I happen to like prominent noses, but if you are having real difficulties then fall back on the drawings by her buddy Modigliani. Venedikt Erofeef A first-person celebration of the Russian national pasttime, alcoholism, as narrated by an inebriated passenger riding a rickety suburban train to see his girlfriend and her young son.

The narrator gets progressively more plastered with each station—think of it as Dante on Thunderbird—and the book grows progressively darker and more phantasmagorical.

There are cameo appearances from the angelic hosts (who give the narrator advice on where to find booze) and God himself, interspersed with reflections on philosophy, literature, and the narrator's days as a cable layer, which came to an abrupt end when he was fired for making charts of employee productivity versus alcohol consumption.

It doesn't hurt, either, that Milan Kundera's craggy, intellectual face with the thunderbolt eyebrows is staring from the back cover.

Akhmatova's first husband was the great poet Gumilev, who discounted her talent and then got himself killed. It's usually a risk reading a poet in translation, but this one is worth taking; the collection is worth the price just for the sheer caliber of the critical apparatus.

Later in life, she had to confront the siege of Leningrad, a vicious set of attacks by Stalinist critics, a twenty-five year embargo on her work, and her son's incarceration in the Gulag. And with so many early poems about getting all fluttery over men, there's a lot of potential here for the young swain.

At any rate, given that Christmas is coming, given that a Google search for "Kundera sucks" unconscionably returns only a single (albeit highly interesting) result, and given that I could use a few referral bucks, I present the following books, optimized for seduction, a thoughtful and romantic gift for the long-term lover, or ideal for marriage bed, when you have all the time in the world to get your reading done. Read Kevin Moss's excellent site to get invaluable background material and steal ideas.

Clicking on any image will whisk you to Amazon: Mikhail Bulgakov The world heavyweight champion of dating books. Picking the right translation is always a big deal, but it's unusually important with this book—there are several versions in print, and most are either too sloppy or done from a censored 1967 version of the text. And no Russian writer fires a heavier broadside than Pushkin, still melting panties from beyond the grave nearly two hundred years after his death.

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