Shteyngart's aptly titled story of Absurdistan is told from the perspective of a morbidly obese pig-man who possesses the intellect of a lobotomized chihuahua. This vacuous ogre of a protagonist, Misha Vainberg, dawdles away life by lavishing ove...more
At its best "Absurdistan" is clever to the nth degree. Misha sees the world as it is, stripped of marketing gimmicks to the often ugly misogynis...more
jerry shteynfarb and the russian arriviste's hand job? this is your second novel dude. you are way too young to get all vonnegut and come up with a kilgore trout alter ego, with a self-deprecatingly mocking title for a novel.
okay, so the entire book predates september 11, and deals with america muddling foreign affairs. but terrorism, not really. i'm not sure that it works, or makes sense, and almost seems like a cheap way to give the novel more weight. with the laziness of not even...more
(Or Heart of Darkness, for that matter.)
Don't get me wrong, I can see what The New York Times is gushing about. Unfortunately, seeing it and feeling it are two different things. Sadly, for me, it is very rarely when I am in the mood to read a satire that is as dedicated to its cleverness as Absurdistan. Although I r...more
For the life of me, I can't figure out why this book got such critical acclaim. The humor was cheap and obvious (although sometimes actually funny) and I couldn't help feeling like Shteyngart robbed his main character from A Confederacy of Dunces, only without the keen ability to actually develop the character like Toole had (RIP).
The most annoying part was that Shtey...more
Vainberg, a rotund, melancholic Russian man, lives a life of misadventure. Haunted by his bygone days as an American college student, he frequently recalls attending "Accidental College" (aka Oberlin) where he studied Multiculturalism. The main character from "The Russian Debutante's Handbook" makes a cameo appearance, shared with the author himself - ("Shteynfarb"). But Vainberg wastes no love on either, for he is trapped in the former USSR while his countrymen remain in the west,...more
Shteyngart skewers just about every ethnic group and political ideology in this whirlwind farce, and it's impossible to put down. A great airplane read, and the short chapters also make it suitable for a subway commute.
I will say this, though -- I love to read about food, and the gourmand on these page...more
Somehow I finished the book, despite being equally repulsed and bored by it. I really did appreciate Shteyngart's use of language, which is why I have opted for two stars rather than one. I know that this is classified as a satire, but I felt that Shteyngart was making his characters such irritating cliches that I wanted to commit violent acts against...more
To me, it progressed as follows:
Bizarre, and difficult to get into ->
Engaging and funny ->
Very weird (drug trip) ->
The dramatic irony building up throughout (the implication t...more
I wanted very much to like this, and there were moments when I smiled at a phrase or passage or even a bit of biting satire, but over-all this was nothing more than literary masturbation ... an author trying to show off how clever he is rather than actually engaging a reader in a story. And, quite frankly, the story doesn't even begin until nearly a third of the way into the bo...more
I thoroughly enjoyed this tongue-in-cheek, satirical coming of age tale, though it was good for different reasons than I had expected. The political satire in the book deals with the nature of geopolitics in the age of oil addiction, terrorism and a vacuum in the sort of global stability that existed in the stalemate of the cold war. I was expecting this book to be a send up of the logic of nation building, war for oil and the related issues that are so deadly important in the world now. Howeve...more
Good thing I waited, as I had to force myself to finish the first four chapters. I like to give a book a chance, give it 50 pages or so before I give up on it, but honestly I started skimming around page 35 or so. The tone is so forced, so self-consciously modern and hip, the narrator so annoying, that I had to check the cover to make sure I hadn...more
howevs, like the other book, this book had some lines that were so great that i had to transcribe them:
Who cared about literature, anyway? Petroleum and hip-hop were the topics of my generation.
She looked up and down my well-fed profile and brush...more
Shteyngart teeters the line between vulgar and funny, often landing on the more-vulgar-than-funny side. I also have beef with the author's self-satire, which comes in the form of an often referenced nemesis in America who...more
I never actually finished it. I tried, really! Everyone was telling me how funny and great it is, so I made a concerted effort to read it. Alas, I couldn't do it. Finally someone I knew really wanted to give it a try and I relented. I gave it to them and I'm sure they are loving it.
I did think it was getting better right about the point I gave up but up until then I found the narrative too disjointed and the humor kind of mediocre. Its a shame too, because normally books about humongous Russian...more
The characters are well-defined, and likable when they're supposed to be, and horrible when they're supposed to be. The author does...more
His first novel, The Russian Debutante's Handbook (2002), received the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction and the National Jewish Book Award.