Journey to Virginland by Armen Melikian

Journey to Virginland
by Armen Melikian
(Two Harbors Press)

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I feel like a site called Short and Sweet is not the best place to try to describe a book with the scope of Journey to Virginland. I also feel like someone far smarter than myself should have taken on the task because most of the time I was confounded as to what I was reading. A character called Dog is describing his life to the reader (or to someone else who is describing it to us). In doing so he is also re-telling the history of the world. Countries and cities are renamed for comical effect (ex. Los Angelos becomes Los Babylonos). Things get confusing though when Paradise gets renamed Virginland and all along I assumed they were talking about Israel or possibly Armenia but then later they refer to both of those countries by name. “Doggish” texts are frequently quoted but I have trouble determining where these quotes begin and end. There is some funny satire, particularly with regard to morality and religion.

In one section Dog tells that Virginland got it’s name because all women are expected to be virgins at the time of their wedding. Divorced non-virgins find their place though as mistresses, whose numbers more or less equal those of wives. I also really liked a little section in which it is implied that there wouldn’t be any wars if the part in the bible about loving your neighbor came before the part about loving God. These moments are peppered sporadically though through perplexing paragraphs that are easy to get lost in.

Every once in a while Melikian will get surprisingly explicit. These are some of my favorite moments, mainly because at least I can follow what he’s talking about. He is clearly a very smart man and I have no doubt that there is an audience for this book. I read a lot of praise which made me interested in reading Journey to Virginland but in the end I just couldn’t connect to it.

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