Not that I'm overly well grounded in Eastern European history (I'm really, really not - especially for someone who likes to think of herself as educated). But "Boris Godunov" the opera makes regular appearances in the crossword, and Boris Badenov was a favorite villain of my early cartoon-watching years. I'm just surprised the link didn't jump out at me sooner.
Recently finished Matter, Iain M. Bank's new novel, and S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders. The former was excellent, everything I love about his Culture novels, and a compelling story as well. It's getting some decent press (review in/at Time magazine/website, a mention on slashdot) so I am hoping Banks will start to get more recognition here in the US.
I checked out The Outsiders as a result of reading John Barrowman's autobiography Anything Goes. He talks about it being a defining influence in his life, and it was something I could have read in high school but didn't (our class did A Separate Peace instead, iirc). So I was curious - I have to count Hesse's Steppenwolf as my defining novel of the time, and I thought it might be interesting to compare since Barrowman and I are in the same cohort for a number of factors.
I enjoyed reading it, it is a powerful novel. The only negative aspect was finding out Hinton wrote it while she was still in high school herself. Between that and the awe I always feel toward Iain Banks craftwork and storytelling, I find myself somewhat intimidated and disinclined to write much of anything, fiction-wise. It will pass, I'm sure, and I have to remind myself that while what I write may not excel in the exact ways Hinton and Banks work does, it can still be valuable and good, worth doing.