“Nine years. ‘Talk about a drinking binge that got out of control,’ I muttered to myself.”
– English Teacher X, Vodkaberg
Having loved To Travel Hopelessly, I’ve decided to review another of English Teacher X’s titles. Enjoy:
Vodkaberg: Nine Years in Russia
Vodkaberg is quite possibly the grittiest and most fun book that I’ve read all year. Set during English Teacher X’s nine year stay in Russia, Vodkaberg recounts the antics of a young man living in a city teeming with cheap booze and loose women. Despite the city’s portrayal as a rundown dump infested with thugs and low-level gangsters, the first half of this book had me desperately wanting to book a flight to The Motherland. The allure of super hot women, with a fetish for Western men, and non-stop partying had me overlooking the poor living conditions.
“Lord, do Russian women love high heels. At the supermarket, in a foot of snow, on ice, you name it. As a Russian girl once said to me, ‘I feel like I don’t have legs if I don’t have on high heels.’
As I walked around the city, beautiful high-cheekboned, thin, sexy women seemed to be everywhere, stalking around on high heels. My classes, on the trams, in the streets. Everywhere.”
Unfortunately, as time progresses and infrastructure improves, the party wears off. Women grow colder, drinks become pricier, and materialism begins to creep in.
“Culturally, it was now more like 1987 or 1988. Morning in Russia. A kind of blasé conservatism and shallowness. No longer were people excited about the great social changes – they just wanted to spend the money.”
During the second half of the book, a more melancholy tone sets in. The “English groupies” begin to fade away, and X starts to question some of the aspects of his life. There’s still plenty of debauchery: people get roofied, political assassinations are attempted, and copious amounts of vodka are consumed. Yet it becomes apparent that “the good old days” are over.
Despite the second act’s darker tone, Vodkaberg was still a highly entertaining read. If you’re interested in Russia, travel, or uncouth memoirs; I highly recommend this book.
P.S. English Teacher X is currently running a special offer: For the rest of March, all his titles are currently priced at only $2.99.