In This Review

Waking the Tempests: Ordinary Life in the New Russia
Waking the Tempests: Ordinary Life in the New Russia
By Eleanor Randolph
Simon & Schuster, 1996, 448 pp

Far from the clash of politics and the confusion of economics, Randolph, a journalist for the Los Angeles Times, moves in the often seamy, decayed world of the average Russian. During her two years in Russia, the author did a lot of poking about. Through vivid firsthand experiences, friendships, and conversations, woven together in absorbing, sometimes darkly funny prose, Randolph describes what being in a hospital was like, how arranged-marriage shops work, what makes existence in the school of the Bolshoi Ballet anything but glamorous, how a courtroom functions, and what gives a role to faith healers, misery to homosexuals, excitement to teenagers, and, of course, opportunity to criminals. Her years in Moscow ran from 1991 to 1993, when the rot of the old reinforced the chaos and tawdriness of the new, but even so Randolph’s eye seems excessively drawn to the hardest and most vulgar aspects of ‘ordinary life.’