Come out to hear Rodney King talk about his new book, The Riot Within at the Schomburg-Tuesday, April 24.
Baby, it’s cold outside! But we bet it’s even colder in Siberia, where former Cullman Center Fellow (and current New Yorker writer) Ian Frazier traveled to write his acclaimed book Travels In Siberia, which made The Times’ “100 Notable Books of 2010” list. Frazier was recently at NYPL for this season’s final “Conversations From The Cullman Center” discussion (don’t despair - check out next season’s lineup) to talk about his five trips to Siberia with NPR’s Bob Krulwich. Here are some highlights of the really funny and informative talk:
“Russia is the funniest country in the world. Russians view what has happened to them with humor.”
“Sylvester Stallone could be the president and boss of Russia for the rest of his life. He had a magazine in Russia called Stallone.”
Siberia smells like wet cement. All of it. Frazier talked quite a bit about how countries have distinguishable scents. Frazier attributes Siberia’s smell to the fact that Siberians don’t pour cement when it’s 55 degrees or higher.
“Cucumber is the basic vegetable.”
When Frazier was first figuring out Russian he learned how to say “I never know where my hat is” and used it as an icebreaker.
Siberia is not a province but the name for a geographical area; it comes from the Russian word “siber”, which means “marshy wilderness”.
Both Russia and America are continental countries, and to know America, you can’t just go to NY and LA, you have to go to the middle. Frazier says that it’s the same with Russia. So, he spent a lot of time in a car with his Russian guides, the only person wearing a seatbelt, the only person not drinking or smoking. He took his guides to places they didn’t want to go, including closed labor camps. When calling his wife, he would see a satellite, then call, and end the call when the satellite moved away. “I didn’t even have the right satellites, but I imagined that I did.”