Disappearing Earth

Disappearing Earth: A novel

I crowdsource my reading. It’s the same thing I do with my viewing. I’ve only got time for great, and when it requires a huge investment of my time…

I’m trying to make sense of the world. And I can’t. You see there’s too much input, too many stories. In the old days it was clear what was important and what wasn’t. Who was a star and who wasn’t. And most things weren’t important and most people weren’t stars. And you owned that. You didn’t have dreams, except for a few people, who moved to L.A. or New York and tried to make it. Some did, most didn’t. But most didn’t take the risk. They didn’t think they were talented enough, or they just didn’t want to make the effort. The people who win are rarely the most talented, it’s a weird elixir of talent, desire and luck that pushes you into the stratosphere, and it’s very hard to achieve.

But today everybody can play. Everybody is trying to be a star. And as a result, today’s stars have a fraction of the wattage they used to. You read about them, but it’s easy to ignore them. It’s easy to ignore everything these days, other than politics, because it comes and goes so quickly. Madonna and Bruce Springsteen released albums on Friday, you can listen to them for free, but you probably won’t. You’re busy doing something else, music is no longer the only thing in your life, there are so many options, and chances are these albums will be instantly forgotten. Almost everything is instantly forgotten. And the funny thing is, when you have easy access, when movies come to cable, you don’t watch then either, because there’s a whole slew of new stuff that you’re ignoring. You’re just trying to ride the wave. You’re so fearful of falling behind. And you think if you just hold on long enough, the beach will appear, the wave will crash and you’ll end up on dry land, to a bevy of applause. But the beach never appears and no one’s applauding other than your family and friends anyway, no one else is paying attention to you, they’re deep in their own hole. Hell, this even happens with Trump. On a regular basis the left, the media, is dumbfounded by his tweets or remarks. But no matter how much they’re outraged, life goes on and Trump’s behavior is forgotten.

What’s a poor boy to do in this situation?


Yes, we’re reading all day long, that’s what the internet is all about. But it’s mostly factoids, and it’s hard to go deep on a smartphone or computer screen anyway.

We’re addicted to story, which is why Netflix burgeons, why documentaries are at a peak, but most of the news we encounter, most of the experiences we have, are hit and run. That’s why the single triumphs, it’s enough. In order to be addicted to an album it must be great and we’ve got to care and those two rarely align, which is why modern day musicmakers focus on the track, they understand the new world, the oldsters are still waiting for the old world to come back, as if we’re gonna go back to three networks on television. Yes, we all watched “Laugh-In.” And then the aforementioned Springsteen claimed there were fifty seven channels and nothing on, and now there’s too much on.

So what we’re looking for is to be removed. Not exactly an escape, but a journey to an alternative universe.

I skim the book reviews. Read the first paragraph and the last to see if the book is any good. Otherwise, I’m gonna know the whole plot. And it’s rare that a review causes me to buy, to read, but if I keep on hearing the book mentioned elsewhere, I start to notice.

And then I dig deeper.

“Entertainment Weekly” declared “Disappearing Earth” to be one of the ten best books of the first half of 2019. So I dug deeper, it got four stars on Amazon. I won’t read anything with three stars or less, I’m always anxious when a book gets three and a half, but some great ones get that rating. And after a bit more research, I downloaded the sample chapter and got hooked.

I like to read when it’s dark out. When it’s only me and the book. When the world is asleep and there are no distractions.

It’s hard to tear ourselves away from the smartphone, like I said, we’re trying to keep up, be in the know, informed.

But after midnight I turn the ringer off, plug in the phone and do my best to ignore it. To go deep, into a book.

“Disappearing Earth” is about Kamchatka. I’m familiar with the vodka, but I couldn’t place it on a map of Russia. Turns out it’s the far-eastern peninsula, kinda near Alaska. It’s nine time zones from Moscow. To the point where it’s like another country, whenever you want to call and do business, you can’t. Not that Moscow cares about you anyway.

And Kamchatka has white people and natives. And the white people have contempt for the natives, who speak another language. But they’re all Russians. Except for the foreign construction workers, that’s a feature outside of the U.S., the temporary, sometimes permanent if the country is a member of the EU, workers from other nations, they’re always looked upon with suspicion, but they do the work the locals don’t want to.

And I’d say “Disappearing Earth” is linked short stories, but really they’re all tied together, by the plot and the intersecting characters.

Now that’s one of the downsides of this book. The Russian names, it’s hard to keep them straight. But life in Russia…I’m fascinated. What’s it like to live where it’s cold, you don’t have enough money and your future is limited? Where homosexuality has consequences and everybody’s a big drinker.

So what you’ve got in “Disappearing Earth” is a bunch of families, and some single adults, trying to get along. They’re not trying to be famous, they’re just looking for a little happiness.

But as Depeche Mode sang, people are people. We’re united by our humanity. Really, we’re the same all over the world. So, you resonate with the truth in this book, like “A person needs company.” You can’t live your life alone, you need other people, believe me, I was so broke I tried to hold on by myself, but I couldn’t.

And there’s wisdom too, “Masha looked sophisticated enough to have skipped childhood altogether.” You know people like this.

And when I tried to finish “Disappearing Earth” during daylight, I started to fall asleep, I wondered if it was getting worse or whether it needed to be dark. I’m one of those people who might be sleepy during the day, but is wide awake at night.

So at first I was gonna highly recommend “Disappearing Earth.” Now I’m not so sure.

So this book is not for the casual reader, the person who reads a book a year. But if you’re hungry for connection, if you don’t limit yourself to genres, like thrillers, mysteries, biographies and romance, if you’re more interested in people than plot…

You might want to check out “Disappearing Earth.”

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