The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight
Other Editions of This Title:
Mariner Books, 9780547394558, 384pp.
Publication Date: February 15, 2011
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References to the title abound in the story. “Without a dream we are dead” (p. 29) Olga says. Why are dreams so important to these characters? “At the end of her human self and wishing nothing more than for a few moments of flight, misery turned her leaden bones to hollow ones. And then her mother wasn’t a woman anymore but a bird . . . ‘This is how she flies away’” (p. 70). Where else do you see flights in the novel?
“Tanya rolled her eyes heavenward. She took another swallow of air, of cloud” (p. 137). How does Tanya’s notebook sustain her? What is her relationship to clouds and to color?
Discuss the role tradition plays in the lives of so many of these characters. Where does each of the families in the building come from and how do their heritages either free or hamper them from pursuing their dreams? Gina Ochsner has said, “What draws me to Eastern Europe is the knotted nature of the past with the present. I used to think that history was a mere plot line of events that happened in the past. I’m beginning to think that history is a state of being, a collectively constructed, shared, and carried creature that is not only constantly being rewritten and revised, but is at all times rewriting us.” How do you see this expressed in the book?
Ochsner has also said, “Dreambook is also a story about stories: our need to keep certain fictions alive; our need to have certain stories told in particular ways; our insistence on and faith in these stories, which are more than superstitions wearing words, more than lucky talismans—they are the substance of hope and life itself.” How do stories sustain these characters? How are stories important to you? What are the stories that sustain you individually and culturally?
“I’ll tell you what’s down there. It’s an old story” (p. 333) Olga says about the gaping hole in the courtyard of the apartment building. What do you think the hole is?
Why does Yuri hear a ticking in his head? Why does he love fishing so much?
Why do the application questions from the Americans of Russian Extraction for the Causes of Beautification so confound Tanya and the others? How do they show the differences between American and Russian cultures? When the Americans arrive, how do their reactions to the museum, the city, and the apartment building’s environs further demonstrate these differences?
Why does Mircha haunt the living after he’s died? What other fantastical elements did you find in the novel? Why do you think the author used magical realism in her story? How do these elements enhance our understanding of these characters and their lives?
“And where do people go to get rid of what they don’t need? The toilet, of course” (p. 193). Where do you see the struggle to dispose of things in this novel, both physical and emotional?
How does Olga reconcile herself to telling or not telling the truth? Do you think there are varying degrees of truth? When do you think it might be okay to not tell the truth?
Why do so many of the characters in the novel avoid love?