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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hypnotic
The book is comprised of snatches of conversations heard in a queue, held together by the main character who is also in the queue with his girlfriend (for a while anyway). To enjoy this book you need to have a good imagination to create the scenes around which the action happens as the only descriptions you get are from the snatches of conversation. I found myself having...
Published on 15 Jan 2010 by J. R. Atkinson

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps better suited for the stage?,
Jean Cocteau wrote that a line is life and that "[w]ith the writer, line takes precedence over form and content." In his first novel, "The Queue", Vladimir Sorokin, takes a different sort of line and manages to have the life of that line take precedence over the form and structure of a traditional novel. The result is a moderate success.

Set in Moscow during...
Published on 30 Mar 2011 by Leonard Fleisig


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hypnotic, 15 Jan 2010
By 
J. R. Atkinson "Jim Bob" (Brighton) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Queue (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)
The book is comprised of snatches of conversations heard in a queue, held together by the main character who is also in the queue with his girlfriend (for a while anyway). To enjoy this book you need to have a good imagination to create the scenes around which the action happens as the only descriptions you get are from the snatches of conversation. I found myself having to put the book down every 30 pages to re-cap what had happened and re-imagine the new surroundings the queue found themselves in - this is not a criticism as it was a very enjoyable book but make sure you take the time to immerse yourself in this book.

It also has a couple of different things that I had not seen before but which I rather liked - no chapters and when the main character sleeps there are just blank pages (about 10) until he wakes up again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps better suited for the stage?,, 30 Mar 2011
By 
Leonard Fleisig "Len" (Virginia Beach, Virginia) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Queue (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)
Jean Cocteau wrote that a line is life and that "[w]ith the writer, line takes precedence over form and content." In his first novel, "The Queue", Vladimir Sorokin, takes a different sort of line and manages to have the life of that line take precedence over the form and structure of a traditional novel. The result is a moderate success.

Set in Moscow during the Brezhnev era a random group of strangers form up in a line to purchase some unknown sort of consumer product and spend more than a day waiting in line to purchase the unknown product. The book plays out as a series of random conversations along the line. People come and go, they fight over their place, complain about the sales clerks and the apparatchiks who jump the queue, flirt, sleep, and complain some more. As noted by Sorokin in an afterward to this edition, "an era can be judged by street conversations", and that is exactly what he sets out to do.

The snippets of conversation are funny, ironic, and revealing. They reflect very well, in my opinion, an era in which the desire for consumer goods outweighed the ability of the USSR to produce and sell them. The result was a society in which lines were ubiquitous and an accepted (if grudgingly so) fact of life.

The concept and structure of the book was fascinating to me. The snippets of conversations sounded authentic and were often both humorous and subversive. However, the very structure which made the book sound so intriguing also served to diminish my enjoyment of it. The characters were anonymous and the ebb and flow of conversations were a bit hard for me to track. As often happens when you are on a line you often come into the middle of a conversation, or hear only snatches of it, and can only grasp at the whole meaning. That's not a bad thing and is a natural enough occurrence in `real life'. However, the disjointed nature of the text was a bit jarring to read. I could keep track of the various anonymous characters that pass along the line for the most part but I often found myself scrolling back to place some of the text in context.

I did enjoy reading "The Queue" but I kept thinking as I turned the pages that this is dialogue that would work better on a stage where it can be heard and seen. I think a staged production of this book could be excellent. Ultimately, I think of The Queue as an experiment in form that didn't quite work. However, the writing itself was witty and insightful and did paint a pretty evocative, satiric picture of life in Moscow during what Sorokin (and others) refer to as the period of stagnation. Sorokin's Afterword is a valuable addition to the text and I wonder if it wouldn't serve the reader to be read as a preface rather than an afterword.

I do recommend this book even though I think the work itself would be better performed than read. It does require some concentration but there are enough brilliantly written `snippets' to make the experience worthwhile. I think The Queue would be of particular interest to those with an interest in Soviet literature and history since I think they are more likely to `get' many of the asides and self-referential jokes made in the text.
L. Fleisig
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The Queue (New York Review Books Classics)
The Queue (New York Review Books Classics) by Vladimir Sorokin (Paperback - 23 Oct 2008)
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