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Little Failure: A Memoir
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Little Failure: A Memoir [Format Kindle]

Gary Shteyngart
5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)

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Descriptions du produit

Revue de presse

A memoir for the ages ... Un-put-down-able ... Little Failure is his best book to date (Mary Karr, author of The Liars' Club)

One of America's most exciting writers (Guardian)

Shteyngart has carried the spirit of Russian literature into the iPhones, subways and suburbs of America (Financial Times)

A marvel of a story. His finest book yet. (Zadie Smith)

People who think Gary Shteyngart is a very funny man and a complete pervert are in for a shock by the time they finish this memoir: he turns out to be a very complete man and a funny pervert. Little Failure is a delight (Aravind Adiga)

I'm always wary when a young writer offers up a memoir, but Gary Shteyngart delivers big-time with Little Failure. His family's story is quite remarkable, and it's told with fearlessness, wisdom and the wit that you'd expect from one of America's funniest novelists (Carl Hiaasen)

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)

Portnoy meets Chekhov meets Shteyngart! What could be better? (Adam Gopnik)

Hilarious, moving, compelling . . . Thanks to Little Failure, the army of readers who love Gary Shteyngart is about to get bigger (The New York Times)

Little Failure finds the delicate balance between side-splitting and heart-breaking (Oprah Magazine)

Harrowing yet hilarious (Wall Street Journal)

Dazzling, highly enjoyable book. Little Failure is a rich, nuanced memoir. It's an immigrant story, a coming-of-age story, a becoming-a-writer story, and a becoming-a-mensch story, and in all these ways it is, unambivalently, a success (Meg Wolitzer NPR/All Things Considered)

An ecstatic depiction of survival, guilt and perseverance. . . . Russia gave birth to that master of English-language prose named Vladimir Nabokov. Half a century later, another writer who grew up with Cyrillic characters is gleefully writing American English as vivid, original and funny as any that contemporary U.S. literature has to offer. That writer is Gary Shteyngart (Los Angeles Times)

Nimbly achieves the noble Nabokovian goal of letting sentiment in without ever becoming sentimental (Washington Post)

If you thought his fiction was funny, read Shteyngart's memoir. [A] deeply moving, honest evocation of growing up (New York Magazine)

Mr Shteyngart's evocative new memoir, Little Failure, is as entertaining as it's moving. . . keenly observed tale of exile, coming-of-age and family love: It's raw, comic and deeply affecting, a testament to Mr Shteyngart's abilities to write with both self-mocking humor and introspective wisdom, sharp-edged sarcasm and aching - and yes, Chekhovian - tenderness (Michiko Kakutani The New York Times)

Deeply moving, big-hearted, meaningful and poignant. Mr Shteyngart is funny - and not just knowing-nod, wry-smile funny, but laugh-aloud, drink-no-liquids-while-reading funny. [And]] underlying his writing, always, is yearning, love and often deep sadness (Economist)

A near-perfect account of the churning state of one man's inner life . . . irresistibly funny . . . tinged with sadness (Sunday Times)

By turns naïve and cynical, hyper-intelligent and comically immature . . . a masterpiece of comic deprecation (Daily Telegraph)

A powerful and often moving portrait of a troubled man's creative origins. Little Failure is terrific . . . the author's funniest, saddest and most honest work to date (Guardian)

Wonderful, funny (Independent)

Painfully funny and haunting (Sunday Times)

Witty and heartbreaking (Observer)

Gary Shtengart uses his immigrant experience . . . to capture a generation of middle-class Americans and give us a beautifully rendered world of orange-coloured cheese puffs and Cold War menace (Times Literary Supplement)

Présentation de l'éditeur


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.

Praise for Little Failure

“[A] keenly observed tale of exile, coming-of-age and family love: It’s raw, comic and deeply affecting, a testament to Mr. Shteyngart’s abilities to write with both self-mocking humor and introspective wisdom, sharp-edged sarcasm and aching—and yes, Chekhovian—tenderness.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Dazzling . . . Little Failure is a rich, nuanced memoir. It’s an immigrant story, a coming-of-age story, a becoming-a-writer story, and a becoming-a-mensch story, and in all these ways it is, unambivalently, a success.”—Meg Wolitzer, NPR
“What a beautiful mess! . . . [Shteyngart has] not just his own distinct identity, but all the loose ends and unresolved contradictions out of which great literature is made.” —Charles Simic, The New York Review of Books

“An ecstatic depiction of survival, guilt and perseverance . . . as vivid, original and funny as [anything] contemporary U.S. literature has to offer.”Los Angeles Times
“Hilarious . . . an affectionate take on growing up in gray Leningrad and Technicolor Queens.”People

From the Hardcover edition.

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1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An insightful story 9 janvier 2014
Format:Format Kindle
Inspirational books that helps us have a positive outlook to life are my favorite reads. Though it is a memoir, Little Failure, is tremendously helpful s an inspirational book. It is a hard to put down book that easily captures your heart. Told in a strong voice, Gary Shteyngart rings his life story to life with alacrity, taking us into his world growing up as a Russian transplant youth in the USA whose immediate world or family has a harder time adapting to the way of life in their new country, resulting in uncomfortable situations for him, but whose love surmounts discomforting situations as he tried to embrace the wider world of America that he wanted to be a part of. Reminds me of the Hans, a transplant in the story Disciples of Fortune. A story to read again and again for its insightful nature.
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36 internautes sur 39 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 I could not put it down 17 janvier 2014
Par Julie H. Rose - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
This book took me by surprise. I started reading it on a Thursday night, commented to myself that I might not finish it because I generally can't read an entire book seemingly written in jest.*

On the next day, I continued reading while eating breakfast, didn't put away the dishes, and continued reading all day, putting everything else aside, until I was done.

I laughed and I cried. I cried throughout the last chapter and until I went to sleep.

Is that enough of a review? Perhaps.

A good book touches the reader. A good book either tells the reader something they do not know, or tells them something about themselves, or both.

*Ah, but then I realized this jest is not the snarky humor of many books these days. This humor is familiar and familial, and why? This book struck me to my core. Mr. Shteyngart and I have a few things in common, but they must run deep. I'm a fourth generation American Jew, but the humor and pathos at the heart of this book came so alive to me that I forgot my age, my gender, and that I didn't spend my first seven years in the Soviet Union. The cadence of the cutting remarks, the combination of suffocating love and open hostility, the expectations of both failure and great success. . .oh it was so achingly and heart breakingly familiar. I haven't the words to explain just what happened here as I read. I am not a writer, only an average reviewer. I thank Mr. Shteyngart for his words, bringing a pitch perfect rendering of coming of age in New York to life. I know no other honorific as fitting here as the Yiddish word mensch.
42 internautes sur 53 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A Memoir for the Ages Courtesy of America's 21st Century Mark Twain 1 décembre 2013
Par John Kwok - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
Years before he graduated from our high school alma mater, I met the likes of Gary Shteyngart in the narrow hallways and staircases of that aging, decrepit high school building on East 15th Street; other Garys spending hours smoking pot and drinking beer in the adjoining park named Stuyvesant Square, holding forth on philosophical discussions ranging from Freudian psychoanalysis to a potential nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. Yet none ever wrote memorable prose as graceful or as hilarious as his, blessed with ample wit, sensitivity and observation. Nor can I think of any published former student of acclaimed memoirist Frank McCourt - who had retired from teaching English and creative writing the semester before Shteyngart's arrival - writing anything as outrageously funny about their Stuyvesant High School years as he has done in "Little Failure: A Memoir". (His terse description of earth science teacher John Orna - whom I knew as the faculty advisor of my geology club - is both hilarious and true. Readers who may doubt his humorous affection for Stuyvesant High School should GOOGLE his commencement speech at the Class of 2011's graduation, seeking its YouTube videos.) With the possible exception of Frank McCourt, I can't think of anyone who has written a memoir on an emigrant's experience in the United States as profoundly moving, irresistibly hilarious, and surprisingly insightful; an engrossing saga warranting favorable comparisons not only with McCourt - who was born in Brooklyn, NY, left when he was very young, and didn't return to America until he was nineteen - but especially, Mark Twain, quite possibly American literature's greatest humorist and satirist. With "Little Failure: A Memoir", Shteyngart demonstrates again that he is our 21st Century Mark Twain, rivalling the former's skill in using humor in making readers laugh and think about everything from relations between the sexes to surviving primary and middle school as a young Russian emigrant barely able to speak American English, speaking a heavily accented version until the age of fourteen. With "Little Failure", Shteyngart demonstrates anew why he has been dubbed by The New York Times as "one of his generation's most original and exhilarating writers", taking us on a whirlwind trek spanning four decades and two continents; a trek I found impossible to put down, even missing a transfer at a Brooklyn subway station because I was so engrossed with his insightful humor.

"Little Failure: A Memoir" is not just a humorous memoir worthy of comparison with "Angela's Ashes", McCourt's finest. It's a compelling saga of a young Russian-American emigrant's survival in New York City, learning to become as American as his Soloman Schechter School classmates. (The progressive, religiously-oriented Jewish school in Queens which he attended for his primary and middle school education.) It's a memorable exploration into the education of a young writer, as noteworthy in its own right, as any book on this subject written by Mark Twain, Frank McCourt or Pete Hamill - to name but a few - and one that is destined to be viewed as an instant classic in the genre, chronicling a literary life that begins in pre-adolescence as a would-be writer of bad Soviet Union-inspired space opera science fiction to the literary titan that he is today. It's also a compelling examination of Shteyngart's life-long struggles to please his parents - the title is an Anglicized version of the quasi-Russian word "Failurchka", his mother's less than affectionate nickname for him - and how he succeeds - and fails - in falling in love with girls, and later, women, from his late adolescence to the present. Much to his credit, Shteyngart never ceases to amaze readers with his self-deprecating wit, having described emigrating from his country of birth as a "Jew for Grain" exchange between the Soviet Union and the United States. Despite the obstacles placed in his path, Shteyngart never comes across as someone traumatized - or embittered - by them, always relying on his witty, humorous prose to win the reader's attention and affection, even under the worst circumstances one can imagine. According to his Random House editor, David Ebershoff, himself, a notable writer of fiction ("The Danish Girl"), Gary Shteyngart has written a literary classic. May I be bold to suggest that a century from now this superb memoir will be as well regarded and as celebrated as Twain's best; without question, "Little Failure: A Memoir" is one of the great memoirs of our time, worthy of comparison with Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes", Pete Hamill's "A Drinking Life", Mary Karr's "The Liar's Club" and Rick Moody's "The Black Veil: A Memoir with Digressions". Shteyngart's hilarious, heart-warming prose, will entertain and delight many readers, keeping them spellbound from the first page to the last, and making his debut memoir among the most discussed, most anticipated, books of 2014.
16 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Little Failure: Poignant and Powerful 4 décembre 2013
Par Laurence R. Bachmann - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
Having read two of Gary Shteyngart's three novels I am not surprised I liked his memoir. I am surprised though how much and how it resonated. The author's early writing reminds me of Henry Fielding's Tom Jones: raucous, and frenetic picaresque romps that excoriate cultural mores, social climbers as well as well as politics and power of all persuasions. Therefore it was with some trepidation I approached Little Failure. It is one thing to skewer the Russian mob, start-ups or upstart pretension; quite another to skewer mom and dad, without seeming to be an ungrateful Ahole. Happily, his memoir works really well. Shteyngart manages to be funny,poignant and unfailingly honest about his parents' and his own failings and importantly, their struggle together.

It would seem hard to raise a son more neurotic or disfunctional than that quintessential Jewish neurotic New Yorker, Woody Allen. Yet Mom and Pop Shtenyngart do so and then some. The recipe for their dubious success reads something like this: start with a son whose gut-wrenching asthma exacerbates your very worst fears for your only child. Toss in a heart-wrenching and culturally dislocating emigration that make you strangers in a strange land, and oh, yeah leave behind most of your mother's family. It is amidst this backdrop that the author recounts hilarious and painful memories: learning English but keeping Russian, attending Hebrew School but sort of despising it, having an accent then not, being a minority, but hating other minorities, and finally having parents who both adore and abuse you.

These two extremes are the crux or the heart of what's the matter in Little Failure. At one end of the gamut are parents who clearly love you. At the other is a father who smacks you around fairly regularly to vent his frustrations and failures. More complex is a mother who charges you for the chicken cutlets you eat, the lamps you break or refuses to speak to you for days and weeks when you disappoint or rebel. Plus you take on the role of mediator in their own unhappy marriage. What saves it from feeling as bad as it probably was is Shteyngart's compassion and his own very real affection for these difficult and damaged people.

The author understands that broken people can't help but raise broken children. When half your family is decimated by Hitler and the other half by Stalin, when you just escaped the Siege of Leningrad to later flee the USSR and start over at 40, life has been stacked up against you in formidable, essential ways. Shteyngart's clear-eyed look at his and his parents' experience and struggles is always tempered with this understanding and forgiveness. It seems not only authentically felt but deserved. That is why, long after the laughter has faded--and there is much to laugh at in Little Failure--what resonates is the abiding affection of this crazy, bizarre mishpucha.
38 internautes sur 50 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Tries too hard to make everything into a joke; a good writer who needs to grow up 8 janvier 2014
Par Timothy J. Bazzett - Publié sur
Gary Shteyngart's memoir, LITTLE FAILURE, is the first of his books I have read, although I have read numerous blurbs and reviews (mostly positive) of his second and third novels, Absurdistan: A Novel and Super Sad True Love Story: A Novel. The guy's stock-in-trade is obviously humor, a biting satirical sort of humor, and, if this memoir is any indication, one that does not spare those closest to him. And I know he's been pretty successful and his books have sold well, so maybe it's a generational thing, but I had trouble even liking this guy who can so freely poke cruel fun at his parents, particularly given the tremendous sacrifices they have made on behalf of their only child, sickly and asthmatic. The 'humor' is, in some cases, just too caustic and critical. Yes, he does make fun of himself too, but even so ...

While it's probably of interest only to me, I did take note of the fact that Shteyngart's family chose to leave the USSR right at the time that the Soviet military invaded Afghanistan, just before Christmas of 1979. If you had a son, it was a damn good time to get outa Dodge.

Shteyngart was only thirty-eight when he was writing this (maybe a bit young to be writing your memoirs) and the first half of the book seemed a bit slow and redundant, the humor often cutesy and forced. The second part of the book, puberty and beyond, first in Queens and then at Oberlin College, was much more interesting, although - maybe that generational thing again - I had trouble relating to his drunken stoner ways. The humor here became much darker and perhaps even self-destructive, as the author moaned about his despair of ever finding someone to love him, although he seemed to end up doing okay with women. Indeed, one affair he documents here, with 'Pamela Sanders,' with its intimations of somewhat sleazy, slumming sexual obsession, reminded me of Glen Savan's novel of that ilk, White Palace.

The guy can be funny, no question. But it's not my kind of humor and there seems to be just a little too much self pity and whining involved in telling of a life in which the real sacrifices were made by a pair of parents who made many difficult choices and did everything they could to do right by their son. Yeah, their thrifty immigrant ways, broken English and old-country habits may have seemed strange and embarrassing to him. But did they deserve being so often the butt of his jokes? I don't think so. Shteyngart is a good writer, especially considering English is not his first language. He has obviously long since overcome that barrier; has, in fact, mastered the language thing. Now he just needs to grow up. (three and a half stars)

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER
27 internautes sur 35 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Big Neurosis, Little Failure 16 janvier 2014
Par Shady Ivan - Publié sur
I want to preface this by saying that I am a fan of Gary. I have read every book he has put out and was eagerly awaiting this memoir.

I too am a Russian immigrant (though a goy in my case). Born in Moscow where as Shteyngart hails from Saint Petersburg.

One of the most uncomfortable college experiences I had was when once a grad student teaching my Slavic Studies course asked the class of your run of the mill Ohio State students what came to mind when they heard "Eastern Europe."

What sprang from the tips of the Midwestern tongues didn't exactly scar me for life but reaffirmed the fact that the place that housed my ancestors for hundreds of years is -in one way or another- viewed as a cold hell by many (if not most) in my adopted country.

Nothing about soulfulness or good literature or mystical spirituality came up.

The stereotypical litany I heard included, "prostitution, mafia, dictatorship" and -to add insult to injury- "bad food."

On the upside, nobody actually brought up an STD.


I have the perspective to appreciate this book.


The problem with "Little Failure" is that it is not a story of a Russian immigrant it is a story of an evolving neurosis.

The neurosis of a sick Soviet child, the neurosis of a thick-accented adolescent at a Hebrew school, the neurosis of a lonely teenager in an elite public school, etc...

Everything is told in this nervous, pained voice in search of the next punchline. All the other people in the memoir are vague, blurry ghosts. A source material for another bout of angst or a new litany of jokes.

Most good writing is crafted in a way where the reader can develop his own independent opinion about the events in the book. With "Little Failure" this feat is impossible. The reader dwells in a totalitarian, literary state where humor is the pedestal that upholds the ideology of dread. There is no freedom here. The nervous voice dictates your vision. And I found the experience of reading this book suffocating and repetitive.

This memoir is free of people, real people, real characters. The only real person is Gary and even he plays second fiddle to his nervous mind which is the only living entity that had depth in the book. Sort of like Chairman Mao was the only man who could afford to be fat in his realm.

All the people who make an appearance are more or less one-dimensional societal caricatures. Rich New York hippies, goofy left-wing Oberlin students and -of course- Soviet Jews.

For those who read this book and appreciate it, let me pose a simple question.

On one hand, place the stereotype of a Russian Jewish person and in another hand take Gary's parents as they are described in the book. Can you detect any difference? Could this lack of differences be considered a literary success?

Yes, Gary describes his folks with brilliant style but are they really perfect ethnic archetypes or has their humanity been stripped from them by their son?

There were ethnic stereotyping in Shteyngart's fictional works too, but with rich narratives they reclaimed their humanity. Not so in Little Failure.

There is a rich tradition of self-deprecating humor in America. But if you look closely, the people doing the self-deprivation are minorities. Brilliant Jewish, black and others putting out their ethnic laundry and having a laugh.

Woody Allen and Dave Chappell looking at mainstream American with a plea, "yes, I am ridiculous but can you still love me? let me do a funny dance for you."

Its an old performance that generated millions of dollars for the entertainment industry. But it strips the dancing monkey of his dignity.

As a Russian, I want my country of origin and its offspring to be described with more depth. Yes to absurdity, yes to tragedy, no to to a narrating voice of a cerebral Yakov Smirnoff. Sometimes you have to lay down the humor and show something real.

Yes, there is value in describing the immigrant neurosis, yes it is often funny. But I want to see a human face behind the laughs and the nervous twitches. I wanted to see the faces of Gary's parents. I wanted to see Gary's face.

I looked into the borscht and saw a dull, suffocating abyss.

Do svedanya, Gary.

I hope your next book won't be a little failure.

~ Ivan
Ivan's Shady Existence Blog
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