INVISIBLE OLIGARCHS by Bill Berkson
Bill Berkson’s Invisible Oligarchs is like a book jotted on the back of a poet’s hand—a hand that picks up everything that sings to it, from gold-leaf proverb to chopstick sheath, on its quick trip through a few places in urban Russia, 2006. Across faintly ruled Japanese paper, many pages reproduced here in facsimile, snapshots change hands, new poems blink, and poetry politics meet political gossip over lunch in St. Petersburg. Berkson’s educated guesswork about that elusive quality once known “the Great Russian Soul,” is framed here by letters from his friend Kate Sutton and encompassing encounters with poets and cab drivers, Moscow conceptualists and a White Night at the Mariinsky Ballet. As a sharply observant poet and the most soulful art critic alive, Berkson knows how to get us behind the set, and reading this book is as nice as taking a high dive with him into a perfectly mixed white russian.