Estonia: A Ramble Through the Periphery

Estonia: A Ramble Through the Periphery

by Alexander Theroux

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Overview

“Seeing Estonia — disrobing her — was my focus.”


Any journey with Alexander Theroux is an education. Possessed of a razor-sharp and hyperliterate mind, he stands beside Thomas Pynchon as one of the sharpest cultural commentators of our time. So when he decided to accompany his wife — the artist Sarah Son-Theroux — on her Fulbright Scholarship to Estonia, it occasioned this penetrating examination of a country that, for many, seems alien and distanced from the modern world.


For Theroux, the country and its people become a puzzle. His fascination with their language, manners, and legacy of occupation and subordination lead him to a revelatory examination of Estonia’s peculiar place in European history. All the while, his trademark acrobatic allusions, quotations, and digressions — which take us from Hamlet through Jean Cocteau to Married… with Children — render his travels as much internal and psychical as they are external and physical. Through these obsessive references to Western culture, we come to appreciate how insular the country has become, yet also marvel at its fierce individuality and preternatural beauty — such is the skill of Theroux’s gaze.


This travelogue of his nine months abroad also brims with anecdotes of Theroux’s encounters with Estonian people and — in some of its most bitterly comedic episodes — his fellow Americans whom he at times feels more alienated from than the frosty, humorless Europeans.

Estonia: A Ramble Through the Periphery is as biting and satirical as it is witty and urbane; as curious and lyrical as it is brash and irreverent. It marks a new highlight in an already stellar career and a book that continues Fantagraphics’ exceptional line of prose works.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781606994658
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Publication date: 11/21/2011
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 16 Years

About the Author

Alexander Theroux is an award-winning novelist, poet, and teacher whose prose works include Laura Warholic or, The Sexual Intellectual, Estonia, and the two artist monographs The Strange Case of Edward Gorey and The Enigma of Al Capp. His novel Darconville’s Cat was chosen by Anthony Burgess as one of the 99 greatest post-war novels. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife and children.

Table of Contents

Overture 9

Poking Around the Periphery 16

A Little History 19

Brown Shirts or Red Shirts? 30

Unhappiness is Indecent 37

The Iron Hotel 43

I Spy 49

"Who Dem? 56

At Home Abroad 60

That's Entertainment? 63

Anomalyville 66

Antiques 79

What About Negroes in Estonia? 86

Xenophobia 86

My Name is Rumplestiltskin 89

You Fish On Your Side, I'll Fish On Mine 93

The Law of Diminishing Returns 100

Vichyssoise! Rhubarb! 101

Five Sides To A Square 104

Ithy Oonts and Long-Haired Plomets 113

Words, Words, Words 119

Some Reflections on Feet-Folk 126

Scrap Irony 132

Watchman, What of the Night? 138

The Russian Footprint 143

We Matter, We Count, We Belong 155

Younger Than The USA 159

Robots Look Straight Ahead 161

And Something Phrenological 164

Greyhoundesque Beauties 168

Photographs 173

Paintings 182

Men in Sun Helmets (Not) 190

Hornets with Squints 192

The Whole Squalid Crew 200

Stone-faced 221

"May Your Face Be As Ice!" 225

Rumble Strips On The Road 230

Pass Me the Crayon! 243

Carmen Secularae 252

Songfests and Suicide 267

Heidegger in A Paper Hat 273

Weather Or Not 277

The Giant Kalevipoeg 284

Where the Fugawi? 287

Cold Pork 295

They Love Knob Food 301

Live From the Grill-O-Mat Snack Bar 308

Name Your Poison 313

What Did I Hate About Estonia? 319

Katabasis 323

Valedictory 327

Endnotes 331

Index 345

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