ANYHOW. What attracted me to this book is its curiously lovely conceit - it's a collection of letters written by a man to a woman who does not love him. He wants to write her love letters, and she, appreciating that the man is a genius, wants him to write her, but NOT about love. So he writes about other things - the life of a Russian exile in Berlin, ideas about literature, thoughts on exile, descriptions of people he knows, all of which are indeed quite fascinating - but of course, the letters are actually all about love. It's marvelous, how descriptions of the weather and the zoo can be so saturated with longing. Elaborate metaphors are constructed so as to write about love without writing about it - absolutely incredible. There's a nice touch, too, of a few included letters written by the lady herself (apparently she was "discovered" and went on to a somewhat successful literary career as a result). They have a subtle way of pointing to the arrogance of the unrequited lover that is an excellent counterpoint to Shklovsky's gorgeous anguish ("This book is being written for you, Alya; writing it is physically painful."), which would otherwise prove so persuasive that the reader might end up thinking of the beloved as a cold-hearted monster - to quote, "You write about me - for yourself; I write about myself - for you."
So while it would seem to be a rather esoteric book, it's actually more accessible than one might imagine. Like letter collections in general, the payoff is more minimal than what you'd get in a good novel, but it's also a pretty short book and worth the effort.