LITTLE FAILURE by Gary Shteyngart
Kirkus Star

LITTLE FAILURE

A Memoir

KIRKUS REVIEW

An immigrant’s memoir like few others, with as sharp an edge and as much stylistic audacity as the author’s well-received novels.

The Russian-American novelist writes that after completing this memoir, he reread his three novels (Super Sad True Love Story, 2010, etc.) and was “shocked by the overlaps between fiction and reality....On many occasions in my novels I have approached a certain truth only to turn away from it, only to point my finger and laugh at it and then scurry back to safety. In this book I promised myself I would not point the finger. My laughter would be intermittent. There would be no safety.” That observation minimizes just how funny this memoir frequently is, but it suggests that the richest, most complex character the author has ever rendered on the page is the one once known to his family as “Little Igor” and later tagged with “Scary Gary” by his Oberlin College classmates, with whom he recalls an incident, likely among many, in which he was “the drunkest, the stonedest, and, naturally, the scariest.” Fueled by “the rage and humor that are our chief inheritance,” Shteyngart traces his family history from the atrocities suffered in Stalinist Russia, through his difficulties assimilating as the “Red Nerd” of schoolboy America, through the asthma and panic attacks, alcoholism and psychoanalysis that preceded his literary breakthrough. He writes of the patronage of Korean-American novelist Chang-Rae Lee, who recruited him for a new creative writing program at Hunter College, helped him get a book deal for a novel he’d despaired over ever publishing and had “severely shaken my perception of what fiction about immigrants can get away with.” Ever since, he's been getting away with as much as he dares.

Though fans of the author’s fiction will find illumination, a memoir this compelling and entertaining—one that frequently collapses the distinction between comedy and tragedy—should expand his readership beyond those who have loved his novels.

Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-679-64375-3
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2013




THIS WINTER'S BEST BETS:

Fiction THE SECRET OF MAGIC by Deborah Johnson
by Deborah Johnson
Fiction AN OFFICER AND A SPY by Robert Harris
by Robert Harris
Fiction THE INVENTION OF WINGS by Sue Monk Kidd
by Sue Monk Kidd
Nonfiction LOVE & WAR by Mary Matalin
by James Carville

OUR CRITICS' TAKES ON MORE BESTSELLERS

See full list >
Cover art for I'VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN
VERDICT:
BORROW IT
Cover art for A CALL TO ACTION
VERDICT:
SKIP IT
Cover art for CREATIVITY, INC.
VERDICT:
BUY IT
Cover art for BLOSSOM STREET BRIDES
VERDICT:
BORROW IT

MORE BY GARY SHTEYNGART

FictionSUPER SAD TRUE LOVE STORY by Gary Shteyngart
by Gary Shteyngart
FictionABSURDISTAN by Gary Shteyngart
by Gary Shteyngart
FictionTHE RUSSIAN DEBUTANTE’S HANDBOOK by Gary Shteyngart
by Gary Shteyngart

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

FictionTHE BROTHERS K by David James Duncan
by David James Duncan
IndieFIRST GENERATION by David La Piana
by David La Piana
IndieTHREE FOR SHIP by Crispus Knight
by Crispus Knight