Wartime Rations

From The New York Times:

Fishman-190I want to hate David Benioff. He’s annoyingly handsome. He’s already written a pair of unputdownable books, one of which was made into Spike Lee’s most heartbreaking film, “The 25th Hour” — for which Benioff was asked to write the screenplay, leading to a second career in Hollywood. (They should just get it over with and put the man in the movies already.) He takes his morning orange juice next to Amanda Peet. And he’s still in his 30s. See what I mean?

Benioff’s new novel reveals why there are so many Russians — not oligarchs or prostitutes, but soldiers and old babushkas — in this nice American boy’s fiction. “City of Thieves” follows a character named Lev Beniov, the son of a revered Soviet Jewish poet who was “disappeared” in the Stalinist purges, as Lev and an accomplice carry out an impossible assignment during the Nazi blockade of Leningrad. Before Lev begins to tell his story, however, a young Los Angeles screenwriter named David visits his grandfather in Florida, pleading for his memories of the siege. But this is no postmodern coquetry. In fact, the novel tells a refreshingly traditional tale, driven by an often ingenious plot. And after that first chapter Benioff is humble enough to get out of its way. For some writers, Russia inspires extravagant lamentations uttered into the eternity of those implacable winters. Happily, Benioff’s prose doesn’t draw that kind of attention to itself.

More here. (Note: Old review but, thanks to Abbas and Margit, I just read the book now and recommend it strongly).