At a Yeti release party not long ago, I picked up a copy of Jana Martin’s collection Russian Lover. Fine blurbs from Lydia Millet and Sam Lipsyte didn’t hurt, and neither did a striking cover design. I got around to reading it last weekend, and was impressed. Martin is comfortable in a variety of milieus, from the fringes of academia to a procession of gentlemen’s clubs. She can be righteously angry at injustice, and painfully funny when dissecting a layered set of awkward situations (as in the title story, structured as a series of letters of apology, each one revising its predecessor).
Two stories read almost like prologues, with a much deeper history and action implied, even as we only see the beginning of it. Several stories focus on the aftermath of trauma, and Martin’s explorations of unsettled thoughts and words make for some of the collection’s most resonant moments. Her blog mentions that she is “writing a novel about saving wolves,” and that an an excerpt from said novel appears in the newest issue of Spork. Given the work on display in this collection, I’m definitely intrigued to see what that entails.