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Gary Shteyngart

Little Failure

Gary Shteyngart Little Failure
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Biographical note:

Gary Shteyngart was born in Leningrad in 1972 and came to the United States seven years later. He is the author of the novels Super Sad True Love Story (2010), Absurdistan (2006), and The Russian Debutante’s Handbook (2002). Super Sad True Love Story won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize and was selected as one of the best books of the year by more than forty news journals and magazines around the world. Absurdistan was chosen as one of the ten best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review and Time magazine. The Russian Debutante’s Handbook won the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction and the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction. His fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Esquire, GQ, Travel + Leisure, The New York Times Magazine, and many other publications. His work has been translated into twenty-eight languages. Shteyngart lives in New York City.

Country of final manufacture:

US

Main description:

After three acclaimed novels—The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, Absurdistan, and Super Sad True Love Story—Gary Shteyngart turns to memoir in a candid, witty, deeply poignant account of his life so far. Shteyngart shares his American immigrant experience, moving back and forth through time and memory with self-deprecating humor, moving insights, and literary bravado. The result is a resonant story of family and belonging that feels epic and intimate and distinctly his own.

Born Igor Shteyngart in Leningrad during the twilight of the Soviet Union, the curious, diminutive, asthmatic boy grew up with a persistent sense of yearning—for food, for acceptance, for words—desires that would follow him into adulthood. At five, Igor decided to become a writer, and his grandmother paid him a slice of cheese for every page he produced. He wrote Lenin and His Magical Goose, his first novel.

Shteyngart’s loving but mismatched parents dreamed that he would become a lawyer or at least a “conscientious toiler” on Wall Street, something their distracted son was simply not cut out to do. Fusing English and Russian, his mother created the term Failurchka—Little Failure—which she applied to her son. With love. Mostly.

As a result, Shteyngart operated on a theory that he would fail at everything he tried. At being a writer, at being a boyfriend, and, most important, at being a worthwhile human being.

In the late 1970s, world events changed Igor’s life. Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev made a deal: exchange tankers of grain for the safe passage of Soviet Jews to America—a country Igor viewed as the enemy. Along the way, Igor became Gary so that he would suffer one or two fewer beatings from other kids. Coming to the United States from the Soviet Union was equivalent to stumbling off a monochromatic cliff and landing in a pool of pure Technicolor.

Swinging between a Soviet home life and American aspirations, Shteyngart found himself living in two contradictory worlds, all the while wishing that he could find a real home in one. And somebody to love him. And somebody to lend him sixty-nine cents for a McDonald’s hamburger.

Provocative, hilarious, and inventive, Little Failure reveals a deeper vein of emotion in Gary Shteyngart’s prose. It is a memoir of an immigrant family coming to America, as told by a lifelong misfit who forged from his imagination an essential literary voice and, against all odds, a place in the world.

Advance praise for Little Failure

“Many, many people in this world have received blurbs from Gary Shteyngart, but I happen not to be one of them. So you can trust me when I say: Little Failure is a delight. You ask me if it’s funny? Naturally it’s funnAdvance praise for Little Failure

“Many, many people in this world have received blurbs from Gary Shteyngart, but I happen not to be one of them. So you can trust me when I say: Little Failure is a delight. You ask me if it’s funny? Naturally it’s funny—he’s always funny. But this book is also a super sad true love story: between Gary and Lenin, Gary and his parents, Gary and women, Gary and food, Gary and America, Gary and Russia, Gary and the English language itself. And alongside the jokes and the (frankly unbelievable) photos, you’ll find deep feeling on display, and shimmering sentences, and a marvel of a story. How did an asthmatic seven-year-old Jewish-Russian immigrant in a sailor suit become one of the most beloved of contemporary American writers? Not without struggle, both historical and personal, and with a great deal of humor and grit. But mostly through paying close attention: to the way people speak, move, love, and hurt each other. It’s what gives his novels their joyful energy and what makes this memoir, in the opinion of this reader, his finest book yet.”—Zadie Smith, New York Times bestselling author of NW
 
“Gary Shteyngart has written a memoir for the ages. I spat laughter on the first page and closed the last with wet eyes. Unputdownable in the day and a half I spent reading it, Little Failure is a window into immigrant agony and ambition, Jewish angst, and anybody’s desperate need for a tribe. Readers who’ve fallen for Shteyngart’s antics on the page will relish the trademark humor. But here it’s laden and leavened with a deep, consequential psychological journey. Brave and unflinching, Little Failure is his best book to date.”—Mary Karr, bestselling author of Lit and The Liars’ Club

“A surefire hit.”Library Journal

Praise for Gary Shteyngart
 
Super Sad True Love Story
 
“Wonderful . . . [combines] the tenderness of the Chekhovian tradition with the hormonal high jinks of a Judd Apatow movie.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
 
“An intoxicating brew of keen-edged satire, social prophecy, linguistic exuberance, and emotional wallop . . . The American novel is safe in Gary Shteyngart’s gifted hands.”—David Mitchell
 
“Exuberant and devastating . . . a wildly funny book that hums with the sheer vibrancy of Shteyngart’s prose . . . He can make you laugh and ache with a single line.”—San Francisco Chronicle
 
Absurdistan
 
“[Shteyngart] nails the tragicomedy of foreign relations. . . . Profoundly funny, genuinely moving and wholly lovable.”Time
 
“One of the funniest books in recent memory . . . Read Absurdistan for Shteyngart’s exuberant, wise, hilarious voice. . . . The novel is a long, funny, heartbreaking lament for home, whatever that means, and wherever that might be.”Los Angeles Times Book Review
 
The Russian Debutante’s Handbook
 
“Shteyngart has given us a literary symbol for this new immigrant age, much as Saul Bellow or Henry Roth did in theirs.”The Washington Post
 
“The rampaging narrative is festooned on every page with glittering one-liners, improbably apt similes, and other miniature pleasures.”Elle

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