Emily Otis, February 16, 2011 (view all comments by Emily Otis)
Looking for a flat out FUN read? Here it is! Shteyngart gets started with an ex-Russian naval officer who talks to his fans (yes, the ones that blow cool air around the room), and doesn't let up for a single page after that. But, although this novel will have you laughing out loud, it still has substance. The relationship and personality quirks feel incredibly true to life.
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stoutout, September 15, 2006 (view all comments by stoutout)
Fans of Michael Chabon, Jonathan Lethem and Jeffrey Eugenides?not to mention Philip Roth and Saul Bellow?will find much to admire in Gary Shteyngart?s hyperactive debut novel. Simply put, Shteyngart is a natural, with a rambunctious prose style that alone is worth the price of admission. Add to that a hilarious story and one of the most appealing protagonists to come along in years?Vladimir Girshkin, ?part P.T. Barnum, part V.I. Lenin, the man who would conquer half of Europe (albeit the wrong half)??and the result is one exhilirating read. Sentence for sentence, Shteyngart is one of the best prose stylists working today.
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"Review A Day"
by Adrienne Miller, Esquire,
"The hardest thing to do in a novel, it seems to me, especially a first novel, is to get your characters moving. (Note to first novelists: Beckett is not so great to imitate early on.) But The Russian Debutante's Handbook succeeds on this score and just about every other one I can think of right now. So let's call this superb debut the real thing — an acute, accurate, intelligent look at America in the nineties." (read the entire Esquire review)
by Laura Miller, Salon.com,
"The Russian Debutante's Handbook is a blisteringly funny, almost frighteningly energetic novel of adventure, perfidy and even a car chase or two....[There is an] irresistible blend of the grandiose and the crass in Shteyngart's post-Soviet characters....Unlike the immigrants in more genteel literary fiction, [Vladimir] won't find this to be a subdued and poignant struggle. Before this dilemma is resolved, there will be tragic moments, yes, and violence, and, heaven knows, lots of exclamation points. These are Russians, after all."
by Publishers Weekly,
"[A] smart debut novel....Although the satire on the expatriate American community is a little too easy, Shteyngart's Vladimir remains an impressive piece of work, an amoral buffoon who energizes this remarkably mature work."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"Though slightly chilly toward its large cast of characters, the novel is redeemed by its thematic sweep and Vladimir's engaging brio. Ambitious, funny, intelligent, in love with irony and literary allusions, as if by a lighter Nabokov."
by Washington Post,
"Gary Shteyngart...has produced a sardonic, moving and ingeniously crafted update of earlier sagas of upward-struggling American newcomers."
"The rampaging narrative is festooned on every page with glittering one-liners, improbably apt similes and other miniature pleasures."
by Harper's Bazaar,
"A brilliant, funny debut describing the vicissitudes of immigration today, as experienced by the hero, a young Russian-American."
by Frank Caso, Booklist,
"[An] entertaining, satirical first novel..."
The Russian Debutante's Handbook introduces Vladimir Girshkin, one of the most original and unlikely heroes of recent times. The twenty-five-year-old unhappy lover to a fat dungeon mistress, affectionately nicknamed "Little Failure" by his high-achieving mother, Vladimir toils his days away as a lowly clerk at the bureaucratic Emma Lazarus Immigrant Absorption Society. When a wealthy but psychotic old Russian war hero appears, Vladimir embarks on an adventure of unrelenting lunacy that takes us from New York's Lower East Side to the hip frontier wilderness of Prava--the Eastern European Paris of the nineties. With the help of a murderous but fun-loving Russian mafioso, Vladimir infiltrates the Prava expat community and launches a scheme as ridiculous as it is brilliant.
Bursting with wit, humor, and rare insight, The Russian Debutante's Handbook is both a highly imaginative romp and a serious exploration of what it means to be an immigrant in America.
"Vladimir Girshkintwenty-five-year-old Russian immigrant, 'Little Failure' according to his high-achieving mother, unhappy lover to fat dungeon mistress Challah (his 'little Challah bread'), and lowly clerk at the bureaucratic Emma Lazarus Immigrant Absorption Societyis about to have his first break. When the unlikely figure of a wealthy but psychotic old Russian war hero appears and introduces Vladimir to his best friend, who just happens to be a small electric fan, Vladimir has little inkling that he is about to embark on an adventure of unrelenting lunacyone that overturns his assumptions about what it means to be an immigrant in America."
The Russian Debutante's Handbook takes us from New York City's Lower East Side to the hip frontier wilderness of Pravathe Eastern European Paris of the '90swhose grand and glorious beauty is marred only by the shadow of the looming statue of Stalin's foot. There, with the encouragement of the Groundhog, a murderous (but fun-loving) Russian mafioso, Vladimir infiltrates the American ex-pat community with the hope of defrauding his young middle-class compatriots by launching a pyramid scheme that's as stupid as it is brilliant. Things go swimmingly at first, but nothing is quite as it seems in Prava, and Vladimir learns that in order to reinvent himself, he must first discover who he really is.
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