Everything Has Its Limits
I've never visited your former country, though my grandparents did manage to escape the sour smell of its herring and poverty for the streets of America which smelled of ___________ [fill in your own description, you're better at it than I am]. Still, I've spent the last twenty-six years working with other, newer escapees. You've definitely got your thumb (or some other part) on the pulse of Russian Jews and no doubt on the Russian new rich class too. I'd like to congratulate you for having a great way with words. You're never at a loss for a metaphor or a rich phrase that shoots into my brain like an unwanted pop-up. Dark humor, pessimism, and depression are Russian specialties and though you write satire and you dig American humor and wit, you haven't fallen far from the tree. The number of ecstatic reviews and exuberant phrases displayed on my copy of your book must be too good to be true. But hey, that's the book biz. You know how we Americans handle praise. We're ready to spread it out of a bottomless jar of Skippy, but doesn't it raise a few suspicions ? Everybody jumps on the bandwagon, wants to look 'with it', progressive, or hip. I mean, I bet plenty of those reviewers think Turgenev used to play third base for the Tigers back in the '50s. I definitely think you've got talent. But then, so does Quentin Tarantino whose violence-porn movies I really dislike, especially "Pulp Fiction". In some way I find this book ABSURDISTAN equally disgusting, cynical, and commercial. I think you could be one of the great writers of our day, but this is flash in the pan kind of stuff. Your eye was firmly on the dollar. OK, I don't blame you too much. Everybody has to look out for Number One. Venality is part of modern life, like it or not. But everything in your book is corrupted, rotten, betrayed, excessive, and disgusting, if not totally self-centered, materialistic and crass. The obesity of the character reflects the grossness of the times. Yeah, I know it's a satire, it's tongue-in-cheek, but it all left me with a bad taste in my mouth like a cold french fry soaked in crisco. I wouldn't debate the skillfulness of your writing or the cleverness of your ideas, but it's the context or maybe the form that I'm talking about. If you want to be a great writer, lift your sights a bit, develop beyond the stomach and the crotch. I spoke with Gary Shteyngart the other day and he said you wouldn't be able to do it. But I'm bettin on you.