corner of 9th St. and Second Ave., NYC
by Alexander Motyl
reviewed by Mykola (Mick) Dementiuk
Two very talkative gentlemen wander through the streets of the East Village and mostly through the Ukrainian neighborhood discussing Art, History, Creativity, and most importantly, where to get some good varenyky or pierogis. Their mouths water as they discuss the Orchidia, the famous Ukrainian/Italian restaurant which has served the Ukrainian community for years and years.
But the book, My Orchidia, really is a walk back in time, with historical figures making an appearance, Nikolai Gogol, Lenin, Mahkno, Simone De Beauvoir, TS Eliot, and a host of others. Alexander Motyl feels very much at home with these characters, as he surely should, they are his characters and this is his book, and an uproarious book at that, too.
I love the many different characters making an appearance as the two prime characters continue making their way to the Orchidia. One of the best and funniest, is the poet Allen Ginsberg complaining to his landlady and howling with rage, “What does she think we are--a beet generation?” The beet an intentional misspelling and this had me howling and laughing on the floor…plus there are many gems such as that one.
The low price of the paperback book, $10.00, is ideal for today’s almost non-existent book market and it is well worth the laughs you will get from it. I highly recommend it. You’ll laugh, you’ll chuckle, you’ll simply sigh with amazement at all the characters coming through the East Village of New York as Motyl’s characters make their way nearer and nearer to the Orchidia.
In all the years that the Orchidia was on that site I had the lucky fortune to at least be there just one time, stepping in from the Ukrainian Festival just a few blocks away and knowing the bartender who invited me in to have a drink on the house. I felt the mood of the place was comforting, merry but peaceful too, and the constant jabber of Ukrainian was like I was at home because for a moment I was at home…
There will never be a place like the Orchidia, that’s for sure. But at least this book will give you a peek at what was going on there. I’m sure that many characters sat at the Orchidia tables discussing Life, as it was pondered by the two vareneky hungry gentlemen. Sure hope they eat heartily.
Alexander Motyl is a writer, painter, and professor. He is the author of five novels, Whiskey Priest, Who Killed Andrei Warhol, Flippancy, The Jew Who Was Ukrainian, and The Taste of Snow (forthcoming); his poems have appeared in Mayday, Counterexample Poetics, Istanbul Literary Review, Orion Headless, The Battered Suitcase, Red River Review, and New York Quarterly; his artwork has been exhibited in solo and group shows in New York, Philadelphia, and Toronto and is on view at www.artsicle.com. Motyl teaches at Rutgers University-Newark and lives in New York.
See review for Motyl's Flippancy click here
order My Orchidia here