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My Life at First Try
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My Life at First Try

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  62 ratings  ·  18 reviews
This semi-autobiographical debut novel chronicles the life of Alex, born in Siberia in 1950, and his dreams of becoming a writer and of meeting Annie, his distant American cousin. As a child, Alex observes a group of foreign tourists do something that non-drunk Soviet adults seldom do: they laugh. Alex yearns to become one of them—a free and happy foreigner. Those aspirati ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published November 28th 2008 by Counterpoint
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A poignant semi-autobiographical story of an immigrant, the story stark, funny and beautiful. I read this book in one sitting, anxious to see what happened, and was continually astounded by Budman's unique prose.
What was most stunning about this book is Mark Budman's ability to combine sparse language with wit and keen assessments of the world from an individual's point of view. The observations about American life were fresh and insightful, and something that is not easy to pull off. Within the recounting of the seemingly mundane, the most interesting and profound nuggets of wisdom are found.

I adore the structure of this book. Each short chapter begins with the first two sentences setting the reader in
Budman strings together moments in the life of a man who is born in Stalinist Russia, emigrates to the U.S. as a young adult, and builds up a career as an electronics engineer until he's laid off in the economic downturn in the early years of this century. The chapters feel disjointed at first, but bits of connective narrative tissue do emerge: concerns and obsessions that linger with Alex over the decades. Still, it felt like voice was one of the main priorities here, and Alex's first-person na ...more
In this semi-autobiographical debut novel, Mark Budman chronicles the story of Alex born in Siberia in 1950 and follows his dreams of becoming a writer to America where he wins a visa lottery is able to leave the Soviet Union. This book is unique, lol funny at times and genuinely tender. I look forward to other works by this author.
Truly enjoyed this book. The writing style is different and refreshing -minimal words, not many emotions and flowery language at all. Dry humor. And while tragic at times, you will not feel it. He humors the situation rather than dwelling on it. "Get up! Shame on you, private. You are a student, gonna be an engineer soon[...:]What kind of officer will you be? [...:]" I get up. When I am an officer, I'll order you to crawl from here to Moscow. with the full pack. On your eyebrows. That will teach ...more
I enjoyed reading this lovely book, a semi-autobiography. The Russian protagonist’s trip to the U.S. or rather, to his American cousin starts with dreams and ends with a struggle. The experiences are divided: each part counting ten years, and are told with a lot of wit and insight.
Like Natasha by David Bezmogis, this is a series of short stories about the same person aging, in this case, from 4 to 56. Rarely for me I couldn't finish it. Not so rarely, what kept me from being able to finish was the lack of narrative force. Bezmogis's stories were actual stories. These very short chapters are so slight as to be mere vignettes. They are like snapshots of a life at various times, weakly strung together on the premise of aging. Each chapter begins with the year and the age of ...more
Somewhere between a 3 and 4 for me. The writing in this semi-autobiographical Russian immigrant tale was beautiful. I tend to prefer simpler prose, the "why use two words when you can use one" adage (as is referenced in this book), and this style is definitely stark, though very poignant and unique as well. The progression of the story didn't nab me, though, which is why I didn't rate it higher. I just wasn't as emotionally invested as I expected to be. Nonetheless, a good, fast, enjoyable read ...more
Janieh Hermann
I wanted to love this book and I tried really hard to let it draw me in emotionally. The writing was beautiful and the story line had so much promise, but somehow I failed to connect emotionally to this book. The chapters were too short and often lacked a fluid connection. I kept reading and did make it to the end, but I actually felt a little relieved to get there. I debated between two and three stars for this and finally gave it a 3 based upon the writing, which no one will be able to argue i ...more
A fun read. As an online friend of the author, I expected a different book, altogether, so this was like reading someone I don't know at all. A series of short short stories strung together to be a novel in stories, it is semi autobiographical (although I didn't recognize the lead character as the author at all. ) It is light reading, and the journey of a Russian Jew who makes his way to America, though seemingly American from childhood.

This mildly amusing novel is told as sort of a memoir from early childhood in Siberia through emigration as an 30-year-old engineer, with wife (a doctor) and child to the U.S. It's told in very simple language as a series of short (mostly 2-5 pages) set pieces--scenes, if you will--in his life that somehow do give a sense of the shape of his life but don't really add up to a lot.
About a guy who grew up in the Soviet Union in the 60s/70s and emigrated to the U.S. in the late '80s. Much pessimistic observations of both communism and capitalism. Very witty, enjoyable. Several wonderfully written paragraphs throughout book that deserve a second reading.
A delightful fast and easy read about a modern-day Russian immigrant. With wry humor Budman pokes fun at himself, and both Russia and America. Never mean, realistic internal dialogue about Alex and the worlds he lives in.
This is a terrific book for those of us who think life is absurd, and that humor in the face of hardship is perhaps the most noble response imaginable.

Self-deprecation never felt so uplifting. Highly recommended.
nice book for a first novel. very funny, in a russian-gee-i-just-chopped-off-my-foot sort of a way. worth reading for insight of soviet, then russian life then life in the good ol' usa.
May 13, 2008 Melanie marked it as to-read
How to resist something described as "Borat meets Interpreter of Maladies..."?
Nov 01, 2008 Mark rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  (Review from the author)
Shelves: finished-reading
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Nov 03, 2008 Marie added it
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My Life at First Try 1 16 Nov 01, 2008 05:21PM  
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Mark Budman was born and raised in the former Soviet Union in what now is the Republic of Moldova. He has been living in Vestal, NY since 1980.

He is the author of "You Have Time For This" (Ooligan Press)and "My Life at First Try" (Counterpoint Press)

A trailer for his anthology "You have Time for This."
Mark Budman’s "My Life at First Try," is smart and fun
More about Mark Budman...
You Have Time for This: Contemporary American Short-Short Stories Lady's Dress and Other Absurdly Lovable Stories Time Fighters: The Shifter Prince To My Love Condensed to Flash: World Classics

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