Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Absurdistan - Gary Shteyngart

Another glorious exploitation of the NYPL, I borrowed this in the same Shteyngart batch to read in 20 days. At this point I must profess I am somewhat saturated by satire, Russian culture, and the author.

A large portion of this book the author devoted to himself, or his literary incarnation of Jerry Steynfarb author of the the Russian Arriviste's Hand Job. Amusing, yes. Noteworthy literary achievement, no.

Half of this book is a discussion of food, which is to my liking. The author crams sturgeon, vodka, and whatever else restaurants can conjure to feed a 325lb man. Shteyngart shows some breadth here, creating completely different character from V.Grishkin of the last book.

Amidst the absurdity of Abusrdistan, mockery of Hunter College (who's students are poor and impressionable), and the nativity of the protagonist, the book two punchlines:
1. It's all a sham: There is no oil and everything is a corporate machination.
2. The bigger punchline is that of Jewish-Russian parental love and attachment. This seems to be a recurring theme in Shteyngart's work and servers as its main redeeming feature. While this invokes embarrassment (Sixty-Nine Cents, short story in the New Yorker 'Food' issue) or annoyance (D├ębutante's Handbook), it's ultimately heart warming. While it's possible to explain slang, gangsters, and soviet life, unconditional parental love seems to be out of scope.

All I have to say:
Humongous G ... bitches!

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