Us Conductors, Sean Michaels


I wonder how often people call Sean Michaels the Heartbreak Kid. Or Mr. Wrestlemania. I am thinking of this because I’m writing this as I watch NXT Takeover: R(Evolution), which is a silly name for a wrestling show, but that’s okay. As long as I get to see Sami Zayn wrestle, I’m okay with a silly name for the show.

This book won the Giller Prize this year. And I was puzzled by that at first, because Miriam Toews wrote a perfect book. But I understand it now, because in this book Sean Michaels told a hell of a story, which is no less an important thing.

The woven narrative of this book explores the life of Lev Termen, Dr. Leon Theremin. It takes the reader from Jazz-age New York to the work camps of the Soviet Union, telling the story of Dr. Theremin’s love for Clara Rockwell. It doesn’t try to make him seem like a hero, because he’s not, really. He’s a very flawed man who fell in love with a woman many years his junior, who was half-dedicated to the Motherland so long as his dedication paid his bills. The book’s language is beautiful, and it reminded me of a theremin in its cadences. Weaving together global politics, espionage, jazz, and real-life facts into a story that pulls you along with it, Michaels accomplished a lot with his first novel.

And now I’m going to watch wrestling. Because Kevin Owens is a bad motherfucker.

Books read: 15


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