Gary Shteyngart

When author Gary Shteyngart was seven years old, he emigrated with his parents from St. Petersburg, Russia to Queens, New York. As a small boy with severe asthma, he recalls sitting alone in the school cafeteria talking to himself in Russian and wearing a giant fur hat. Even his own mother used to call him “Little Failure.” The author of “Absurdistan” and “Super Sad True Love Story” joins us to talk about his new memoir, which The New York Times has called “hilarious and moving.”

Gary Shteyngart, author of the new memoir "Little Failure" and three novels, including "Super Sad True Love Story"

  • geraldfnord

    Mr Steyngart should, if he has not yet, read Umberto Eco on Fascism, as I am reminded of Eco’s:

    In 1942, at the age of ten, I received the First Provincial Award of Ludi Juveniles (a voluntary, compulsory competition for young Italian Fascists—that is, for every young Italian). I elaborated with rhetorical skill on the subject “Should we die for the glory of Mussolini and the immortal destiny of Italy?” My answer was positive. I was a smart boy.

    I think the ‘Adventures of Lenin and His Goose’ was probably a better ‘read’, or at least made one hungrier.

  • geraldfnord

    Once, to see his reaction, I mentioned to an ex-refusenik that American children were being told (under Reagan’s D.A.R.E. programme and elsewhere) to turn in their parents to the authorities for using drugs.

    ‘But Gerry,’ he puzzled,’that’s Soviet!’,

    I replied, ‘Vova…you’re in the position of a child of abusive parents who doesn’t understand that some of the bad things he endured are things all parents do.’

  • Sarah

    I wonder if Mr. Styngart has seen the FX show “The Americans” about Reagan era Soviet Spies. Could be a fun avenue for his satire to explore…

  • Ehkzu

    After Mr. Steyngart’s NPR interview I emailed a review of his memoir to a bunch of friends who are Russian Jews who grew up in the Soviet Union, then emigrated here–one with a long detour through Israel, who responded with this comment:

    “I’ve listened to most of his interview on NPR. Yuck. He
    said there, repeatedly, that he is not a nice person. This was
    also my impression, and all his acknowledgement of it does not
    make it go away. His therapist (>10years in 4-times-a-week
    therapy, who has the money/time/self-obsession levels for
    that?!) is very probably responsible for this sanctimonious
    honest pose.

    “Yes, he does have a talent to tell a story, and he has some
    insight into the habitual anxieties of “our circle”, people
    with backgrounds similar to ours. But when that story is “no,
    not a hatchet job on my parents” and “finally came to terms
    with being Jewish” and of his abuse of and dishonesty towards
    his male and female lovers, I think I’ll pass.”


    I was surprised at getting such a negative response. It wasn’t my own impression of Mr. Steyngart from the NPR interview–or this one. But I pass it on FWIW.

  • Ken Firestein

    two things – one “minor’ is to simply note that Muslims get circumcisions at a much later age then is traditional for Jews. I am pro-circumcision, btw, and feel for the courage or whatever that Muslims exhibit when they are well aware of what is going on…

    TWO: and this may be what inspires me to begin regular blogging of stuff I have heard on which a comment needs making. Here goes:

    heard one of those “sayings” today —

    “it is often/always necessary to have someone/some group to look down on”.

    Was said by an immigrant to this country and many people really believe such. Because ???? Comment about why if you like.

    On the other hand, I rather hope we live and prosper and develop and grow when we look up to the best the world has to offer be it humanity or other fauna and flora. The majesty of a Giant Redwood is inspiring. The Grand Canyon (adding the mineral world) is inspiring….

    SO – look up!

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