Give Me: songs for lovers by Irina Denezhkina
CHATTO & WINDUS £10.99 (180pp) | £10 (free p&p per order) from 0870 079 8897
10 September 2004
Irina Denezhkina, a student in Yekaterinburg, has become famous overnight with these stories about teenage life in Russia. Her evocation of post-Soviet youth is bleak, raising the question of a "lost" generation. The stories are evocations of subjectivity rather than character and have only a slight narrative impetus. They oscillate between humdrum violence outside, and occasional ecstasy within.
The latter has naught to do with sexual fumblings or love. Now and again, it's simply good to be alive when the sun shines or everyone is singing.
Neither the settings nor the content of Give Me needs to be specifically Russian. Vast housing estates, kids on benches, smoking, drinking, snogging, beating each other with chains; Doc Martens, low-slung jeans, nose rings: cataloguing a world glimpsed from all our doorsteps makes this reviewer feel ancient. Denezhkina manages to be both an insider and, at the same time, what none of her characters is: clear-headed.
It's not drink or drugs that make these kids fuzzy and wild. There's no meaning in their worlds. Fantasising about love is to imagine there must be meaning somewhere, though who gets chosen as a love object depends on power, clothes, music and all the things that drive a streetwise, computer-mad generation.
There's a startling scene at a summer camp when boy penetrates girl. It's miserable for the willing girl, and shocking and wildly exciting for the other boys. If you're a parent you will wonder where the parents are, and teachers and policemen, to set limits to the brutality. The language alone is so raucous - and to my ear authentically translated - that it poisons the atmosphere this generation breathes. It's the dirt under their fingernails, the hurt in their bodies, the contempt that clogs their pores. The parents either don't know, or can't imagine.
If there is something Russian about these stories, aside from the chewing of sunflower seeds, it is the shock of the rapacious Nineties: as the blurb says, the switch from Marx to MTV. Russian television used to cut from swanky shops and restaurants to beggars rummaging on rubbish tips. I kept thinking of those tips as the hinterland to the gruesome fantasy of a boy feeding his grandfather to the little green men who rape and eat old ladies. There's something of an Ian McEwan-style debut here, by a writer who could move in any direction.
Lesley Chamberlain's novel 'Girl in a Garden' is published by Atlantic
(Songs for Lovers).
By Irina Denezhkina. Translated by Andrew Bromfield.
214 pp. Simon & Schuster. $19.95.
By LIESL SCHILLINGER
In 1993, if you happened to be strolling through the city of St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad), you might have stumbled into a grubby studio along the snowy Fontanka embankment and found yourself huddling for warmth among a dozen young artists and dancers, eating potato vareniki (because the markets had no meat) and canned Siberian grass (no vegetables either), and singing by candlelight (no electricity). The drinks on offer were vodka and rusty-tasting tea, and except for the bottles of Soviet-era Pepsi (in which bits of crud appeared, floating atop the fizz), it might as well have been 1893. The city was trapped in time.
Fast-forward to 2003: Russia, in a new age of oligarchs, has been on a spending spree, transforming at least some of the Evil Empire into the Magic Kingdom. St. Petersburg, a blinding sea of regilded onion domes, is celebrating its 300th anniversary, and heads of state from around the world coast down Nevsky Prospekt in chauffeur-driven motorcades past freshly painted buildings. (Who cares if kitchen garbage chokes the courtyards behind the pastel facades?) After grabbing a chicken dinner at KFC, you can duck into an Internet cafe to check messages from home. And there you will find dozens of hypersexy, hip teenagers -- infinitely cooler than both their parents and you, and about as Slavic-seeming as Ryan Phillippe or Kate Bosworth.
Improbably (or probably, considering the warp speed at which this crowd has come of age), they already have a spokeswoman: Irina Denezhkina, a fetching young journalism major from Yekaterinburg who began to publish her fictionalized memoirs when she was 19, on (where else?) the Internet. In 2002, her semiautobiographical stories were collected in a book, ''Dai Mne!'' or ''Give Me!'' (the phrase is just as loaded in Russian), which was nominated for Russia's National Best Seller Prize, similar to England's Booker, and has now been translated by the sure-handed Andrew Bromfield. Denezhkina is not so much a voice as an eye: her imagination is visual, her work reminiscent of Christopher Isherwood's ''Berlin Stories.''
The scenes Denezhkina paints are vividly hued, juicy and mouthwateringly acid -- literary Sour Patch Kids. These are stories of misfiring love: love that fails because her characters are too proud to reveal their feelings or too weak to resist meddling from their friends, or because they're so oversexed, underloved and overintoxicated that they've never paused to ask themselves what love really means. Like the Grand Theft Auto games they pop into their PlayStations, love consists of smashups and illicit getaways that aren't quite real, and everyone pretends the outcome doesn't matter. Parents are mostly absent, out of touch and irrelevant. In the new Russian never-never land, the nursery is running itself.
The title story (the collection's best) presents the author's alter ego, nicknamed Liudochka, who pals around with her friend Volkova, a gold-digging good-time girl who thinks men under 26 without cars are useless juveniles. Going from gig to gig, from party to party, they want to believe they're hard-boiled -- ''We're standing there drop-dead gorgeous in the metro. . . . When we're together, it's like the end of the world'' -- but they're infinitely breakable. Their vulnerability leaks from every pore.
Liudochka and Volkova are on the prowl not for men but for validation. Liudochka spends time with an aimless group of toughs who cultivate a bad-boy aura to convince her they're more mature than her high school boyfriends. It works, more or less: a young warrior with glazed eyes, a veteran of the fighting in Chechnya, lures her by reminiscing about friends he saw ''ripped into mincemeat'' beside him. But Liudochka kisses someone else instead, a rapper whom she first encountered while he was beating up a thug with a heavy chain.
What makes this more than just a tawdry journal of a New Russian rake-ette's progress is that by this point we already know Liudochka is in love with a young rocker named Lyapa -- whom she found on the Internet and met cute on the subway: ''Pepsi, pager, MTV, spiky hair, fruit-drop lips, really cocky look. Gorgeous like a picture in a magazine.'' Liudochka has fallen hard, but pretends she hasn't. Too wary to ask him how he feels about her, she feigns insouciance, and so does he:
''All the time it's like I don't exist for him. Then why does he ask me to call? Why did he take me to Peterhof with Volkova and Kres? We had a great time there, climbed in all the fountains, and a militiaman even tried to chase us. And in the last fountain it was slippery, and Lyapa took hold of my hand. Or I took hold of his. I don't remember. And we stood there under the clear streams of water, squeezing each other's hands, and all around us everything was bright and happy. Lyapa's spikes ran and his whole head was covered in gel.''
It's a revelatory confession: for Liudochka, holding hands is more compromising than sex, because tenderness isn't a pose.
Denezhkina's other substantial stories -- ''Valerochka,'' a dark and disturbingly violent tale of semiprivileged kids who turn a summer holiday into a ''Lord of the Flies'' rampage, and ''A Song for the Lovers'' and ''Remote Feelings,'' both moody jumbles in which young couples struggle to get together as their spiteful peers undermine them -- have distinctive characters but murky plotting. The characters' emotions, which Denezhkina sparely telegraphs in the story ''Give Me!,'' aren't explored. And yet, the question arises: can you show the inner lives of people who aren't sufficiently reflective to have inner lives?
The collection includes a peculiar fable and a handful of reveries that seem to have been fueled by one too many Starbucks grandes. Still, this is a promising start from a very young writer. It's exhilarating to think of what lies ahead: Denezhkina will be joining her contemporaries as they teeter along on their journey into postmodern Russian adulthood, taking mental snapshots all the way.
Liesl Schillinger is an arts editor at The New Yorker and a regular contributor to the Book World.
Tales of disappearing fathers and young adults drunk on capitalism.
By Andrew Ervin
Sunday, February 27, 2005; Page BW13
Finally, one more debut, Give Me (Songs for Lovers) (Simon & Schuster, $19.95; translated from the Russian by Andrew Bromfield), by Russian author Irina Denezhkina. She began composing these stories a few years ago, as a 19-year-old college student. In posting them online, she unleashed a new strain of samizdat literature, but not much of value stays underground for long. Like some of the better bloggers in this country, Denezhkina quickly gained attention and ended up with a book deal. The popularity of Give Me earned it a nomination for Russia's 2002 National Bestseller prize.
The many characters here -- mostly teenagers drunk on capitalism and cheap vodka -- quickly become indistinguishable in a haze of unmotivated sex and punk music and school examinations. Giving Denezhkina the benefit of the doubt, maybe that's the point here: When Western clothes and music videos finally arrived, the teens didn't become less conformist but perhaps more so, in the face of that so-called freedom.
At times the author seems content to sit back and report on her generation's sarcasm and ennui. "Anton and his friends got drunk, smoked grass, then someone would shoot up and they'd use the same needle to pierce another hole in Anton's ear. And not only Anton's, of course. Then Gesha, a master tattoo artist, would get involved. A great life, really. Lots of fun." Denezhkina fully understands the disenfranchisement of her generation, and she has enough talent and sense at her disposal to act as its ambassador. •
Andrew Ervin is a frequent reviewer for Book World.
and Other Stories
By David Bezmozgis
Jonathan Cape, £10.99; 147pp
ISBN 0 224 07125 4
(Songs for Lovers)
By Irina Denezhkina
Translated by Andrew Bromfield
Chatto & Windus, £10.99; 180pp
ISBN 0 701 17674 1
David Bezmozgis, born to a Jewish family in Riga in 1973, emigrated from the Soviet Union to Toronto with his parents in 1980. His first collection of stories exposes the fracture lines left by this upheaval, and explores the immigrant experience. While there are echoes of Isaac Bashevis Singer, Ann Michaels, Chekhov and others, Bezmozgis absorbs his influences and writes with distinction and originality.
Young Mark Berman, the narrator of these stories, is the family’s talisman of survival and hope of success in the new society. Mark is a quick, able learner. The thousand little tricks of behaviour that define an insider will soon be his, along with the English language, a Western liberal education, and the proud uniform of Levi’s and sneakers. But an insider, he realises, he will never be. Relaxed, thoughtless inhabiting of a native space is not an option for the Berman family. In Riga they faced daily anti-Semitism, Latvians in a Soviet Union dedicated to erasing national difference, and now they are foreigners in a new land.
Despite the freedoms they possess in Canada, they continue to walk a tightrope between assimilation and the risk of disowning culture, history and identity, and thereby destroying themselves from within. These are fine stories. Bezmozgis’s prose possesses a subtle, layered candour that is as rewarding on a third reading as on a first.
Many of them are about the abrasions that result when the Bermans’ past collides with their present. In the title story, Mark’s uncle marries a Russian woman who comes over to Toronto as a “mailorder bride” with her daughter Natasha. At 14, Natasha has lived through experiences which put her in a strange, parallel universe to Mark’s suburban rebellions. Brutally neglected by her mother, she gained money and a paradoxical sense of security in the dacha of a Soviet porn film director. Aged 12, Natasha concluded that “doing it or not doing it was not a serious consideration. In the end, everyone did it.”
Mark soon realises that his mother’s tales of Latvian girlhood appeal to Natasha precisely because her own childhood “couldn’t have been more different from my mother’s if she had been raised by Peruvian cannibals”. But Natasha has fierce standards of loyalty, and Mark cannot meet them. The characterisation, economy and force of this story makes it outstanding.
Irina Denezhkina wrote most of the stories in Give Me before she was 21. Their best qualities are energy, honesty and ruthlessness about cramming the experiences and voices of her contemporaries into fiction. Mutated, desperate idealism plunges into cynicism, the dream of “the collective” becomes a nightmare, and only vodka and drugs dull the pain. Her characters drink whatever will get them drunk, long for love but settle for the clumsiest of sex, blunder about creating heroes who dissolve at a touch, and want something that they don’t know how to get. So far, so standard for a truthful account of life between the ages of 13 and 20.
What is unusual about Denezhkina’s work is her insight into how the ideals of Soviet existence are parodied in the lives of post-Soviet youth. One of her best stories is set in a children’s summer camp. Parents choose to send their children there because they have a misplaced nostalgia for the ideals of the collective, and seek the moral and social values that they imagine will accrue from the experience. The children trash the experience, drinking too much, engaging in sex that they don’t enjoy, and beating each other up. Adrift as they are, the children are packed with unfocused, vibrant life and hope, but these have already begun to sour.
Denezhkina’s translator, Andrew Bromfield, has had to work hard to create a readable text out of these highly idiomatic stories, packed with obscenities, insults, braggadocio, nihilistic impulses and moments of lyricism. But some things in Russia never change: “. . . the drink glugged out of the bottle. As usual, I felt drawn to unburden my heart.”
REVIEWS IN BRIEF
Reviewed by Jami Attenberg
Sunday, February 20, 2005
(Songs for Lovers)
By Irina Denezhkina; translated by Andrew Bromfield
SIMON & SCHUSTER; 214 PAGES; $19.95
Most fiction written for the Web -- whether consciously or not -- reads differently than fiction written for print. The stories tend to be shorter (who willingly reads more than 2,000 words at a time online?), and the drama lives closer to the beginning of the story to grab the reader's attention immediately. It's difficult to find a slow-burning story online; everything is ready for immediate consumption. It doesn't mean the stories are any less valuable or enjoyable, but pacing in general is much quicker. And because of the ease of publication, less care is taken at times, the flipside being the original enthusiasm, energy and perhaps authenticity is undiminished by countless rounds of editing.
So what happens when you take stories written exclusively for the Web and bind them in print? You get a messy, sexy little collection like "Give Me" by 22-year-old Russian ingenue Irina Denezhkina. Highly autobiographical, the stories are rife with sex, drugs and Internet obsessions, Russian kids getting into trouble at an exhausting, decidedly Western pace. Story after story, beat after beat, Denezhkina puts her characters through the wringer, forcing her cynical sisters into messy romances with low-level rappers, or into star- struck crushes on local band members and bad boys, and offers drunken, superficial analyses of aforementioned relationships. Schoolwork is ignored. Parents are peripheral at best. What's most important is the next potentially heartbreaking situation.
But what a ride! It's a scintillating, fascinating look at the life of Russian youth in the late '90s, even if it won't stick with you beyond one reading. Hopefully Denezhkina will put a little less action and a lot more contemplation into the next book. Sometimes it's necessary to let your readers -- and yourself -- take a breath.
The give-me generation
By Heather Kristin
SPECIAL TO THE ST. PETERSBURG TIMES
He whispered the songs in my ear like poems. And it felt good, safe, like being in a bomb shelter," writes Irina Denezhkina in her intriguing collection of short stories "Give Me" to be published in the U.S. in February. Already an acclaimed international bestselling author at just 23 years old, Denezhkina latest book chronicles contemporary Russian adolescent life.
Before Denezhkina, a native of Yekaterinburg, was nominated for Russia's National Bestseller prize, she shared her stories with fellow journalism students at Urals Region State University. Her stories were discovered by Stanislav Zelvensky, an art critic in St. Petersburg, on the literary web site www.prosa.ru, and later picked up for publication in English by publishing giant Simon and Schuster.
The semi-autobiographical stories are set in Russia and are about the hedonistic lifestyles of the country's urban youth. Her complex characters include punks, rappers, drunken hooligans, and students. They attend parties, listen to hip hop, use drugs, have random sex, and are violent. The confessional prose of this post-Socialist, capitalist, MTV-craving society is immaculately stylized. Slang turns into poetry; chat-room abbreviations become romantic; and lines taken from lyrics of popular songs prove the resilience of youth.
Denezhkina's teenage characters' troubles revolve around their sexual desires, describing their everyday lives with no judgment, and employing a language all their own.
"Rabbit pulled his raincoat tighter around him and looked up. He knew he would never forgive his girl. That was why he was crying. He couldn't help himself. He was a romantic idiot and a man with principles," says the narrator in "My Beautiful Ann."
The first story in the collection, "Give Me," is told in the first person and chronicles a female university student's romantic adventure. She dates a punk rocker who wants to be on MTV and a rapper who calls himself "Nigger." Only one young man stands out: a young Chechen war veteran who is haunted by the deaths of his friends. Men are washed up or drift close to shore as the main character sits on the beach never quite certain of what she truly wants.
"Vasya and the Green Men" is a darkly humored, grim, and violent exercise in magical realism. It is about Vasya, a young boy with a shaved head (due to lice), teeth knocked out, and a tennis ball for one eye, who challenges the evil green men. They live out by the rubbish tip, eating tramps and raping tramp-women. Vasya, dressed in his father's baggy trousers and a pair of Nazi underpants, takes on the green monsters. It is a tale of abuse from the green men and a reminder of a bleak, oppressive world.
"Lyoka the Rottweiler" is about a suicidal teenager on New Year's Eve. She is interrupted from jumping out the window by a security guard and his dog who spot her from downstairs. It is a wry tale of fate, secret crushes, and life affirming parties.
In "Remote Feelings" the author changes point of view toward the end. This adds a unique mood to the piece which deals with unrequited feelings. The shift serves to distance the audience.
The best and longest story in the collection is "Song for Lovers." The yearning, romantic characters are quite believable with all their faults. The author captures the attitudes of various characters by switching perspective and jumping between different characters. This style is perhaps used to evoke the abrupt cuts and fragmentary story lines of music videos.
Denezhkina's narrative ends with an awkward self- awareness of modern post-Marxist courtship dances and heartbreaks. Perspective shifts among so many different characters throughout the collection leaves the reader wanting more from the ambitious young writer.
Denezhkina's meteoric rise to fame mirrors young American novelist J.T. Leroy. Both novelists choose to ally themselves with a subset of their audience by their unconventional styles and universal themes of desperate longing.
Denezhkina's liberating reflections, enthusiastic prose, and cynical humor is thoroughly engaging. Despite having no central theme to connect the stories, "Give Me" leaves no doubt that Denezhikina is a talent to be taken seriously. Her stories tell it like it is for Russia's new give me generation.
Heather Kristin is an writer based in New York.
Girl Goes Global With Tales of Teenage Life
December 5, 2003
By Alexander Osipovich
For most writers, the road to success involves years -- or even decades -- of unrecognized hard work. That was not the case for 22-year-old Irina Denezhkina.
A native of Yekaterinburg, Denezhkina burst onto the Russian literary scene with her 2002 short story collection "Give Me! (Song for Lovers)." She originally wrote the stories as a 19-year-old journalism student at Ural State University. Encouraged by her friends, Denezhkina posted the stories on the web, where they began to attract widespread attention. This led to her nomination for the 2002 National Bestseller prize -- a benchmark of the fiction that's all the rage -- which she narrowly lost. The St. Petersburg-based publisher Limbus Press released the first printed edition of "Give Me! (Song for Lovers)," and now, Denezhkina stands on the verge of being sold to the world.
"Without my book, I never would have been to Germany or Italy," said Denezhkina in a recent interview. The young author has spent much of this year promoting her short story collection in Europe. After being highly touted at the Frankfurt Book Fair, "Give Me!" sold 20,000 copies during its first three weeks on sale in Germany. The English version hits U.S. and British bookstores in the second half of 2004; the translator is Andrew Bromfield, who has also anglicized the works of Victor Pelevin.
So what's Denezhkina's secret? Her autobiographical stories tap the lives of modern teenagers in Russia. Denezhkina has a grasp on contemporary culture that can only come from an insider -- her characters include rappers, punks and drunken hooligans, as well as university students. Surrounded by sex, drugs and alcohol, they lie to their parents, listen to their favorite music and fall in love. In Denezh-kina's title story, the female narrator drifts through a series of boyfriends, never quite certain what she wants. She dates a punk rocker who dreams of being on MTV, an ex-soldier haunted by the deaths of his friends in Chechnya, and a burly rapper who calls himself "Nigger."
Denezhkina makes no secret of the fact that she writes about herself. The story "Give Me!", for example, is frankly autobiographical -- Denezhkina even left the names unchanged from her real-life experiences. Naturally, this has caused some problems for the author. At first, Denezhkina said, her best friend took offense at her portrayal in the story. Now, however, she is writing her own book to cash in on her accidental celebrity.
Critics usually place Denezhkina in the box of "popular" -- rather than "high" -- literature, but, in general, they have been warm. A Cosmopolitan reviewer called her "the Hamlet of the younger generation." Many critics have praised her skillful use of teenage slang, often incomprehensible to readers over 40. Like the sharp-dressing gangsters of Quentin Tarantino, Denezhkina's characters toss around obscenities, discuss vulgar subjects and make pop-culture references with abandon.
Denezhkina has a universal outlook on what it's like to be a teenager. Her youthful characters are highly globalized -- they listen to Eminem, watch "The Simpsons" and play Grand Theft Auto 2. When asked what separates teenagers in Russia from those in the West, Denezhkina said, "Nothing." In terms of the things most important to them -- which Denezhkina identified as "clothing, music and food, to put it bluntly" -- they have the same tastes.
Despite her meteoric rise to fame, Denezhkina has remained surprisingly down-to-earth. But promoting her book in Europe opened her eyes to a world she had never witnessed before. In Germany, she met the rappers Public Enemy, who gave her free tickets to their concert. So far, her favorite city has been London, where her publisher sent her for a crash course in English. She enjoyed London's pubs, nightlife, and above all, its people. "When I came back to Russia, it seemed like people had such bad-tempered faces," she said.
Currently, Denezhkina is promoting Limbus Press' new anthology of young writers, entitled "Denezhkina & Co." Soon, however, she will have to deal with a more prosaic concern -- graduating from college. The young author is in her fifth and final year at university in Yekaterinburg. Luckily, the president of the university has struck a deal with her publisher, allowing her to submit a novel for her degree. The novel will also be published by Limbus Press, but as to what it's about -- Denezhkina won't breathe a word.
LOS ANGELES TIMES; The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Co. newspaper.
March 6, 2005
GIVE ME: Songs for Lovers, by
Irina Denezhkina. Translated from the Russian by Andrew Bromfield. Simon &
Schuster, 224 pp., $19.95.
At 24, Irina Denezhkina looks to be the It Girl of contemporary Russian letters. She was first discovered nearly three years ago, when she contributed some stories to an obscure Webzine, and since then her debut, "Give Me," has made a splash both at home and abroad. The collection has finally reached America in a fluent, funny translation. Is it worth all the fuss?
For the most part, yes. Denezhkina's voice is gritty, sometimes graphic. When it comes to sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll (and there's plenty of the latter, complete with dopey lyrics), she seldom pulls a punch. Yet she also manages small feats of figurative magic. A typical character has "transparent ears that looked like baby's hands set on the sides of his head." Even the weather displays an almost Nabokovian friskiness: "Outside the window the rain was pouring down gaily and the trees were swaying their branches in confusion under the bombardment."
What "Give Me" lacks is maturity - and range. The author was still a teenager when she began these stories, and many are essentially elongated riffs on puppy love (and lust). There are exceptions: "Valerochka," one of the highlights, is set in a ferociously Hobbesian version of summer camp. But most of the tales revolve around the mating habits of older boys and girls, who seem to follow the same rules of attraction as their U.S. counterparts.
This shouldn't come as a surprise. We no longer expect to open a Russian novel and find the characters musing over tractor production and the Five-Year Plan. Still, what's fascinating about Denezhkina's slackers is their paradoxical familiarity. They talk about "the Beatles and Hands Up!, about Pelevin and Tokareva, about the Internet, about dogs, sex, space ... about their relatives and vodka. ..." Substitute Dave Eggers for Viktor Pelevin, beer for vodka, and they could be in Minneapolis. Come to think of it, even with the vodka they could be in Minneapolis.
SEX, DRUGS, & RUSSIA
All hail the enfant terrible du jour: Irina Denezhkina, whose tales of a lost generation of Russian youth drinking, screwing, and smoking while gazing contemplatively out of windows have caused a stir in Europe. The stories, written when Denezhkina was a 19-year-old student in the grimy heartland industrial hub of Yekaterinburg, were posted on the Internet, snatched up by a publisher, and nominated for a Russian literary prize. Now Give Me (Songs for Lovers) (Simon & Schuster) is available here in English.
Denezhkina's peers are pretty much like kids in Cairo or Columbus; far more compelling than her Gen Y snapshots is her evocation of another universal truth: the casual brutality of unattended children. In “Valerochka,” set in a summer camp overrun by thuggery, there's a scene in which two youthful bunkmates engage in depressingly mechanical sex, bewildering their more innocent bunkmates. There's an honesty and a compassion here that could turn Denezhkina into a talent to be reckoned with.—Carlene Bauer
Sunday, March 13, 2005
By JOANNE WEINTRAUB
MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL
GIVE ME (Songs for Lovers), by Irina Denezhkina; Simon & Schuster, 224 pages, $19.95.
The title of Irina Denezhkina's literary debut, "Give Me (Songs for Lovers)," sounds peculiar indeed. Then you begin reading these startling, funny, poignant, eccentric stories, and the title makes perfect sense.
Denezhkina's young Russian urbanites have little and want a great deal, including Benetton clothing, Wu-Tang Clan CDs, steak, strawberries, BMWs, fancy electronic equipment, big houses, nice vacations, recreational drugs and, as one of them puts it, "beer and sex in unlimited quantities."
Even when they lust after each other, which they frequently do, they tend to express that lust in the language of consumption.
Of two young men, only one of whom turns her on, the narrator of the title story observes: "The one who's not so tasty is like a Soviet soft toy dog. The other's Pepsi, pager, MTV, spiky hair, fruit-drop lips, really cocky look. Gorgeous like a picture in a magazine."
Denezhkina was born in 1981, just a decade before the Soviet Union dissolved. With communism in ruins and capitalism off to a creaky start, her generation is grasping for something, anything, everything.
This militant neediness might be offputting if not for the bounce and brio Denezhkina gives it.
A girl who's besotted with her boyfriend doesn't just grin at him, she "smile[s] like some American tourist."
Another young woman, not sure her feelings are returned, confesses them to the object of her affection "like she was diving into a whirlpool."
When Denezhkina makes up a fairy tale, the monsters, too, are not your everyday ogres.
After the title meanies of "Vasya and the Green Men" commit their unspeakable acts - which Denezhkina describes with comically gruesome relish - they break into houses to feast on "jam and tomatoes, cucumbers and potted plants." Devouring human flesh is fairly conventional in this genre, but chowing down on a philodendron is an inspired touch.
Published in Russia in 2002, "Give Me" has been translated into 12 languages, and the English version, by Andrew Bromfield, has an almost unfailing colloquial verve.
Even some of us American literary tourists, smiling our ridiculous smiles, can relate to that.