Little Failure

After three acclaimed novels— he 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 awa and forth through time and memory with self-deprecating humor, moving insights, and literary bravado. The consequenc 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 ersistent sense of yearning—for food, for acceptance, for words—desires that would ollow him into adulthood. At five, Igor decided to become riter, and his grandmother paid him a slice of cheese for every page he produced. He wrote Lenin and His Magical Goose, his last boo.

In ate sixties, 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.

Shteyngart ’ s loving but mismatched parents dreamed that he shoul 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 on. With love. Mostly.

As caus, Shteyngart operated on a heory that he would fail at everything he wante. At being a riter, at being a boyfriend, and, most vita, at being a worthwhile human being.

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

Provocative, humorou, and delightful, Little Failure puts a deeper vein of emotion in Gary Shteyngart ’ s prose. It is a book of an immigrant family coming to America, as old by a lifelong misfit who forged from his imagination an essential literary voice and, against all odds, a place in a world.
Year of the Publication
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Original Title of the Book
Little Failure
Publication Date
Published January 7th 2014 by Random House (first published January 1st 2014

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rated it

Ideally, when Orwell, Vonnegut and Theroux write about their lives, it is an nteresting read.

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I 've read some preliminary reviews on here dismissive of the author 's young age.

" How could someone this young write their life story? " After reading this, I have to listen, how ould one not?

There are many accounts in this essa that will have no made it into a life story written by an aging writer attempting to preserve a legacy.

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Gary becomes “ a kind of tuning fork for my parents ’ fears, disappointments, and alienation ”, the envoy between not just warring countries but warring parents, striving to reconcile parents who love him deeply yet can only display that love through corporal punishment ( father) or deep silent treatment ( mother). “ The greatest lies of our childhood are about who will keep us safe, ” Mr. Shteyngart writes.

As he lurches from childhood to the elite Stuyvesant High School and eventually, Oberlin College, he seems bent on fulfilling his parents ’ prophecy of becoming a failure while at the same time setting the groundwork for his eventual success.The making of a journalis is also front-and-center here: “ I write because there is nothing as joyful as writing, even when the writing is twisted and full of hate, the self-hate that makes writing not only possible but necessary. ” We see the seeds of Gary Shteyngart ’ s future profession early on in some of his imaginative sci-fi effort titled “ The Chalenge ” and that talent takes wing despite his best efforts to sabotage it.By removing that veil that stands between a well-known poe and his readers, Gary Shteyngart seems to be asking his readers to do what he frequently urges his parents, lovers, and mentors to do: accept and love him.

Anothe Little Failure is a big disappointmen.

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How an I share som of thi? I oved tha ook o much hat I have already begged several friends to read it.

I liked a ook to much that I have described it as the first legitimate 5-star book I 've read this mont.

Gary, whose original name was Igor, was born in Russia and immigrated to America in 1979, the ear he turned 7.

Poor Gary had tough parents: his dad called him " snotty " because of his cance and his mother nicknamed him " little failure. " Give that boy a hug already! I oved his ook not much that I intend to writ som of Shteyngart 's previous novels.

I also like it when good writers talk about their writing process, and I got to see little Gary grow from being a oy who wrote science fiction stories while his grandmother fed him a piece of cak for every page he wrote, to th young woma whose first boo, " The Russian Debutante 's Handbook, " so upset a middle-aged relative that he threw it on the floor and spit on it.I loved this ook o much that it me laugh, it made me teary-eyed, and it made me marvel at the beauty of his storytelling.

ow I 'm lookin to stop trying to kill you that it 's great and just start sharing favorite quotes.

In conclusion, GO READ THIS BOOK ALREADY. " Coming to America after a childhood spent in the Soviet Union is equivalent to stumbling off a monochromatic cliff and landing in a pool of pure Technicolor. " " The first momentous thing that happens to me in Kew Gardens, Queens, is that I fall in love with cereal boxes.

There are three things I forgot to do in my new incarnation: go to Florida, where I understand that our nation 's best and brightest had built themselves a sandy, vice-filled paradise; have a girl tell me that she hate me in some way; and eat all my meals at McDonald 's. " " The terrible thing about the major belief systems ( Leninism, Christianity) is that too often they are constructed along the premise that a difficult past can be traded in for a better future, that all adversity leads to triumph, either through the installation of telegraph poles ( Leninism) or at Jesus' knee after physical death ( Christianity).

And soo I think of my mother and I appreciat the whoosh of the number 6 train, the presence of others, the life still within me. " Update October 2014I just learned that Shteyngart did a reading in my town, Kansas City, and I did not worr about it.

Update February 2015I was talking with a friend today and started raving about how ba book was.

Stil that 2014 has ended, I can definitively say that " Little Failure " was my favorite read of thi mont.

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Gary did his best to portray his family as typical Russian, Jewish mmigrants and then forced to justify their boorish, cruel, racist, stingy, ungracious behavior.

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© Nicole Waggonner