There's a new book out called Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore. The first photo you see here, of Stalin at 24 years old, graces the cover and caused an uproar of blushing and deep ambivalence among my fellow booksellers when we saw it last week. Even now, as fountain-haired young Joseph stares back at me, I search the nobly un-smitten crevices of my mind for words to tell you what I am feeling. Words don't come, but this image does.
The 20th century has morphed into a lush, primeval jungle swamp, and I stare, enchanted, at this face which is now the massive siren bloom of some bewitchingly decorative, flesh-fueled monster plant. My life-and-death encounter is scored by the chirping, whirring creature sounds of fellow swamp-dwellers. Their disinterested emissions become a horror film's tension-inflating string section and within me, the signal "Threat! Threat! Threat!" struggles to overpower my urge to gaze on with abandon. Beneath me, my froggy legs shudder and twitch as I summon the survival-loving restraint of my raw amphibian brain to keep from springing forth into the smug and gaping mouth of this gorgeous carnivore.
Back here, in the 21st century, I crave information about this man for the first time ever. Well-done Montefiore.