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Little Failure: A Memoir

by

Little Failure: A Memoir Cover

ISBN13: 9780679643753
ISBN10: 0679643753
All Product Details

 

Staff Pick

Gary Shteyngart is just as funny, lacerating, and intelligent in his memoir as he is in his novels. Little Failure is one of the first must-reads of the new year.
Recommended by Tessa, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

After three acclaimed novels, Gary Shteyngart turns to memoir in a candid, witty, deeply poignant account of his life so far. Shteyngart shares his American immigrant experience, moving back and forth through time and memory with self-deprecating humor, moving insights, and literary bravado. The result 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 persistent sense of yearning — for food, for acceptance, for words — desires that would follow him into adulthood. At five, Igor wrote his first novel, Lenin and His Magical Goose, and his grandmother paid him a slice of cheese for every page.

In the late 1970s, world events changed Igor’s life. Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev made a deal: exchange 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 would 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 son. With love. Mostly.

As a result, Shteyngart operated on a theory that he would fail at everything he tried. At being a writer, at being a boyfriend, and, most important, 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 could find a real home in one. And somebody to love him. And somebody to lend him sixty-nine cents for a McDonald’s hamburger.

Provocative, hilarious, and inventive, Little Failure reveals a deeper vein of emotion in Gary Shteyngart’s prose. It is a memoir of an immigrant family coming to America, as told by a lifelong misfit who forged from his imagination an essential literary voice and, against all odds, a place in the world.

Review:

“A surefire hit.” Library Journal

Review:

“Many, many people in this world have received blurbs from Gary Shteyngart, but I happen not to be one of them. So you can trust me when I say: Little Failure is a delight. You ask me if it’s funny? Naturally it’s funny — he’s always funny. But alongside the jokes and the (frankly unbelievable) photos, you’ll find deep feeling on display, and shimmering sentences, and a marvel of a story.” Zadie Smith, New York Times bestselling author of NW and White Teeth

Review:

“A memoir for the ages...I spat laughter on the first page and closed the last with wet eyes. Unputdownable in the day and a half I spent reading it, Little Failure is a window into immigrant agony and ambition, Jewish angst, and anybody’s desperate need for a tribe.” Mary Karr, bestselling author of Lit and The Liars’ Club

Review:

“I’m always wary when a young writer offers up a memoir, but Gary Shteyngart delivers big-time with Little Failure.” Carl Hiaasen, New York Times bestselling author of Bad Monkey

Review:

“I fully expected Gary Shteyngart’s memoir of his search for love and sex in a Russian-Jewish-Queens-Oberlin upbringing to be as hilarious and indecorous and exact as it turns out to be; what I wasn’t entirely prepared for was a book so soulful and pained in its recounting of the feints and false starts and, well, little failures of family love. Portnoy meets Chekhov meets Shteyngart! What could be better?” Adam Gopnik, New York Times bestselling author of The Table Comes First and Paris to the Moon

Review:

“If you, like me, have often wondered, ‘How did Gary Shteyngart get like that?,’ Little Failure is the heartfelt, moving, and truly engaging memoir that explains it all. Dr. Freud would be proud.” Nathan Englander, author of What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

Synopsis:

In his critically acclaimed novels, Super Sad True Love Story, Absurdistan, and The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, Gary Shteyngart won over readers with his blistering humor and fearless vision of contemporary society. Now, in Little Failure, he tells his most heartfelt and unlikely story yet: his own. With writing that is ruthlessly honest and brave, striking a deeper vein of emotion, this is a memoir of failing superpowers, of the big-haired ’80s and the flannelled ’90s, of limitless yearning and sidesplitting mistakes, and of an immigrant family coming to America, as told by a lifelong misfit who forged from his imagination an essential literary voice and a place in the world.

About the Author

Gary Shteyngart was born in Leningrad in 1972 and came to the United States seven years later. He is the author of the novels Super Sad True Love Story (2010), Absurdistan (2006), and The Russian Debutante’s Handbook (2002). Super Sad True Love Story won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize and was selected as one of the best books of the year by more than forty news journals and magazines around the world. Absurdistan was chosen as one of the ten best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review and Time magazine. The Russian Debutante’s Handbook won the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction and the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction. His fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Esquire, GQ, Travel + Leisure, The New York Times Magazine, and many other publications. His work has been translated into twenty-eight languages. Shteyngart lives in New York City.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

cblaker, November 7, 2014 (view all comments by cblaker)
Unfortunately my familiarity with Gary Shteyngart's writing is limited. I've read a few pages of Super Sad Love Story (I didn't stop reading because it was bad) and an interview with him in Modern Drunkard (yes, this is a real magazine and I recommend picking up one if you can find a copy). The fact that I remember the interview ten years later speaks to its hilarity.
And this memoir, Little Failure, is funny too. But the humor is weighed down by the banality of the events he describes. Okay, you smoked (pot) and drank too much in high school and college, you're awkward around girls, and you had a toxic relationship, welcome to the club Gary.
The first 100 pages deal with his childhood in St. Petersburg (till age seven). There is a lot of seemingly unnecessary flash backs and forwards in this 1st third of the book. Gary has to spend most of his childhood reading and writing on the family couch so as not to aggravate his asthma by running around. I was glad when his family moved to the West and Gary could get inhalers, because at the risk of sounding insensitive the frequent parts about his asthma came off as whiny.
An intriguing aspect of his memoir is his relationship with an older writer named John. Gary latches onto John who becomes his mentor and benefactor. At times Gary is admittedly parasitic and ungrateful. John eventually ends up convincing Gary to seek therapy, which according to the author helped a great deal. I was curious if Gary paid back the loans to John and if they're still friends.
There is a traumatic childhood event that the author frequently alludes to and is revealed in the last few pages. I felt like the event was built up way too much and when it's revealed, it's anti-climatic.
As a general comment I hope this memoir craze is reaching its peak. Not everyone should write a memoir. Adopting a dog or smoking pot in college are not compelling reasons to write memoirs. I felt like this book was written to help the author exorcise some personal demons (and the author should be commended for his bracing honest about his personal failings) and maybe pressure from the publisher to write another book.
Reading this book has encouraged me to pick up Shteyngart's fiction and New Yorker pieces. I'd recommend this book to people who already like the author or love memoirs.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No

Product Details

ISBN:
9780679643753
Subtitle:
A Memoir
Author:
Shteyngart, Gary
Publisher:
Random House
Subject:
Biography - General
Publication Date:
20140107
Binding:
Hardback
Language:
English
Pages:
368

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Little Failure: A Memoir New Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$27.00 In Stock
Product details 368 pages Random House - English 9780679643753 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Gary Shteyngart is just as funny, lacerating, and intelligent in his memoir as he is in his novels. Little Failure is one of the first must-reads of the new year.

"Review" by , “A surefire hit.”
"Review" by , “Many, many people in this world have received blurbs from Gary Shteyngart, but I happen not to be one of them. So you can trust me when I say: Little Failure is a delight. You ask me if it’s funny? Naturally it’s funny — he’s always funny. But alongside the jokes and the (frankly unbelievable) photos, you’ll find deep feeling on display, and shimmering sentences, and a marvel of a story.”
"Review" by , “A memoir for the ages...I spat laughter on the first page and closed the last with wet eyes. Unputdownable in the day and a half I spent reading it, Little Failure is a window into immigrant agony and ambition, Jewish angst, and anybody’s desperate need for a tribe.”
"Review" by , “I’m always wary when a young writer offers up a memoir, but Gary Shteyngart delivers big-time with Little Failure.”
"Review" by , “I fully expected Gary Shteyngart’s memoir of his search for love and sex in a Russian-Jewish-Queens-Oberlin upbringing to be as hilarious and indecorous and exact as it turns out to be; what I wasn’t entirely prepared for was a book so soulful and pained in its recounting of the feints and false starts and, well, little failures of family love. Portnoy meets Chekhov meets Shteyngart! What could be better?”
"Review" by , “If you, like me, have often wondered, ‘How did Gary Shteyngart get like that?,’ Little Failure is the heartfelt, moving, and truly engaging memoir that explains it all. Dr. Freud would be proud.”
"Synopsis" by , In his critically acclaimed novels, Super Sad True Love Story, Absurdistan, and The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, Gary Shteyngart won over readers with his blistering humor and fearless vision of contemporary society. Now, in Little Failure, he tells his most heartfelt and unlikely story yet: his own. With writing that is ruthlessly honest and brave, striking a deeper vein of emotion, this is a memoir of failing superpowers, of the big-haired ’80s and the flannelled ’90s, of limitless yearning and sidesplitting mistakes, and of an immigrant family coming to America, as told by a lifelong misfit who forged from his imagination an essential literary voice and a place in the world.
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