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Little Failure: A Memoir [Anglais] [Broché]

Gary Shteyngart
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Descriptions du produit

Extrait

1.

The Church and the Helicopter

A year after graduating college, I worked downtown in the immense shadows of the World Trade Center, and as part of my freewheeling, four-hour daily lunch break I would eat and drink my way past these two giants, up Broadway, down Fulton Street, and over to the Strand Book Annex. In 1996, people still read books and the city could support an extra branch of the legendary Strand in the Financial District, which is to say that stockbrokers, secretaries, government functionaries—everybody back then was expected to have some kind of inner life.

In the previous year I had tried being a paralegal for a civil rights law firm, but that did not work out well. The paralegaling involved a lot of detail, way more detail than a nervous young man with a ponytail, a small substance-abuse problem, and a hemp pin on his cardboard tie could handle. This was as close as I would ever come to fulfilling my parents’ dreams of my becoming a lawyer. Like most Soviet Jews, like most immigrants from Communist nations, my parents were deeply conservative, and they never thought much of the four years I had spent at my liberal alma mater, Oberlin College, studying Marxist politics and book-writing. On his first visit to Oberlin my father stood on a giant vagina painted in the middle of the quad by the campus lesbian, gay, and bisexual organization, oblivious to the rising tide of hissing and camp around him, as he enumerated to me the differences between laser-jet and ink-jet printers, specifically the price points of the cartridges. If I’m not mistaken, he thought he was standing on a peach.

I graduated summa cum laude and this improved my profile with Mama and Papa, but when I spoke to them it was understood that I was still a disappointment. Because I was often sick and runny nosed as a child (and as an adult) my father called me Soplyak, or Snotty. My mother was developing an interesting fusion of English and Russian and, all by herself, had worked out the term Failurchka, or Little Failure. That term made it from her lips into the overblown manuscript of a novel I was typing up in my spare time, one whose opening chapter was about to be rejected by the important writing program at the University of Iowa, letting me know that my parents weren’t the only ones to think that I was nothing.

Realizing that I was never going to amount to much, my mother, working her connections as only a Soviet Jewish mama can, got me a job as a “staff writer” at an immigrant resettlement agency downtown, which involved maybe thirty minutes of work per year, mostly proofing brochures teaching newly arrived Russians the wonders of deodorant, the dangers of AIDS, and the subtle satisfaction of not getting totally drunk at some American party.

In the meantime, the Russian members of our office team and I got totally drunk at some American party. Eventually we were all laid off, but before that happened I wrote and rewrote great chunks of my first novel and learned the Irish pleasures of matching gin martinis with steamed corned beef and slaw at the neighborhood dive, the name of which is, if I recall correctly, the Blarney Stone. I’d lie there on top of my office desk at 2:00 p.m., letting out proud Hibernian cabbage farts, my mind dazed with high romantic feeling. The mailbox of my parents’ sturdy colonial in Little Neck, Queens, continued to bulge with the remnants of their American dream for me, the pretty brochures from graduate school dropping in quality from Harvard Law School to Fordham Law School to the John F. Kennedy School of Government (sort of like law school, but not really) to the Cornell Department of City and Regional Planning, and finally to the most frightening prospect for any immigrant family, the master of fine arts program in creative writing at the University of Iowa.

“But what kind of profession is this, writer?” my mother would ask. “You want to be this?”

I want to be this.

At the Strand Book Annex I stuffed my tote with specimens from the 50-percent-discounted trade paperbacks aisle, sifting through the discarded review copies, looking for someone just like me on the back cover: a young goateed boulevardier, a desperately urban person, obsessed with the Orwells and Dos Passoses, ready for another Spanish Civil War if only those temperamental Spanishers would get around to having one. And if I found such a doppelganger I would pray that his writing wasn’t good. Because the publication pie was only so big. Surely these blue-blooded American publishers, those most Random of Houses, would see right through my overeager immigrant prose and give the ring to some jerk from Brown, his junior year at Oxford or Salamanca giving him all the pale color needed for a marketable bildungsroman.

After handing over six dollars to the Strand, I would run back to my office to swallow all 240 pages of the novel in one go, while my Russian coworkers hooted it up next door with their vodka-fueled poetry. I was desperately looking for the sloppy turn of phrase or the MFA cliché that would mark the novel in question inferior to the one gestating in my office computer (idiotic working title: The Pyramids of Prague).

One day after courting gastric disaster by eating two portions of Wall Street vindaloo I exploded into the Strand’s Art and Architecture section, my then $29,000-a-year salary no match for the handsome price tag on a Rizzoli volume of nudes by Egon Schiele. But it wasn’t a melancholic Austrian who would begin to chip away at the alcoholic and doped-up urban gorilla I was steadily becoming. It wouldn’t be those handsome Teutonic nudes that would lead me on the path back to the uncomfortable place.

The book was called St. Petersburg: Architecture of the Tsars, the baroque blue hues of the Smolny Convent Cathedral practically jumping off the cover. With its six pounds of thick, glossy weight, it was, and still is, a coffee-table book. This was in itself a problem.

The woman I was in love with at the time, another Oberlin graduate (“love who you know,” my provincial theory), had already criticized my bookshelves for containing material either too lightweight or too masculine. Whenever she came by my new Brooklyn studio apartment, her pale midwestern eyes scanning the assembled soldiers of my literary army for a Tess Gallagher or a Jeanette Winterson, I found myself yearning for her taste and, as a corollary, the press of her razor-sharp collarbone against mine. Hopelessly, I arranged my Oberlin texts such as Tabitha Konogo’s Squatters & the Roots of Mau Mau next to newly found woman-ethnic gems such as Lois-Ann Yamanaka’s Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers, which I always imagined to be the quintessential Hawaiian coming-of-age story. (Someday I should read it.) If I bought Architecture of the Tsars I would have to hide it from this girl-woman in one of my cupboards behind a scrim of roach motels and bottles of cheap GEOGI vodka.

Other than failing my parents and being unable to finish The Pyramids of Prague, my main sorrow consisted of my loneliness. My first girlfriend ever, a fellow Oberlin student, an attractive, curly-haired white girl from North Carolina, had gone down south to live with a handsome drummer in his van. I would spend four years after graduating college without so much as kissing a girl. Breasts and backsides and caresses and the words “I love you, Gary” lived on only in abstract memory. Unless I’m telling you otherwise, I am completely in love with everyone around me for the rest of this book.

And then there was the price tag of Architecture of the Tsars—ninety-five dollars, marked down to sixty dollars—this would buy me just under forty-three chicken cutlets over at my parents’ house. My mother always practiced tough love with me when it came to matters fiscal. When her failure showed up for dinner one night, she gave me a packet of chicken cutlets, Kiev style, meaning stuffed with butter. Gratefully, I accepted the chicken, but Mama told me each cutlet was worth “approximately one dollar forty.” I tried to buy fourteen cutlets for seventeen dollars, but she charged me a full twenty, inclusive of a roll of Saran Wrap in which to store the poultry. A decade later, when I had stopped drinking so much, the knowledge that my parents would not stand by me and that I had to go at life furiously and alone drove me to perform terrifying amounts of work.

I twirled through the pages of the monumental Architecture of the Tsars, examining all those familiar childhood landmarks, feeling the vulgar nostalgia, the poshlost’ Nabokov so despised. Here was the General Staff Arch with its twisted perspectives giving out onto the creamery of Palace Square, the creamery of the Winter Palace as seen from the glorious golden spike of the Admiralty, the glorious spike of the Admiralty as seen from the creamery of the Winter Palace, the Winter Palace and the Admiralty as seen from atop a beer truck, and so on in an endless tourist whirlwind.

I was looking at page 90.

“Ginger ale in my skull” is how Tony Soprano describes the first signs of a panic attack to his psychiatrist. There’s dryness and wetness all at once, but in all the wrong places, as if the armpits and the mouth have embarked upon a cultural exchange. There’s the substitution of a slightly different film from the one you’ve been watching, so that the mind is constantly recalculating for the unfamiliar colors, the strange, threatening snatches of conversation. Why are we suddenly in Bangladesh? the mind says. When have we joined the mission to Mars? Why are we floating on a cloud of black pepper toward an NBC rainbow? Add to that the supposition that your nervous, twitching body will never find rest, or maybe that it will find eternal rest all too soon, that is to say pass out and die, and you have the makings of a hyperventilating breakdown. That’s what I was experiencing.

And here’s what I was looking at as my brain rolled around its stony cavity: a church. The Chesme Church on Lensovet (Leningrad Soviet) Street in the Moskovsky District of the city formerly known as Leningrad. Eight years later I would describe it thusly for a Travel + Leisure article:

The raspberry and white candy box of the Chesme Church is an outrageous example of the neo-Gothic in Russia, made all the more precious by its location between the worst hotel in the world and a particularly gray Soviet block. The eye reels at the church’s dazzling conceit, its mad collection of seemingly sugarcoated spires and crenellations, its utter edibility. Here is a building more pastry than edifice.

But in 1996 I did not have the wherewithal to spin clever prose. I had not yet undergone twelve years of four-times-a-week psychoanalysis that would make of me a sleekly rational animal, able to quantify, catalog, and retreat casually from most sources of pain, save one. I beheld the tiny scale of the church; the photographer had framed it between two trees, and there was a stretch of potholed asphalt in front of its diminutive entrance. It looked vaguely like a child overdressed for a ceremony. Like a little red-faced, tiny-bellied failure. It looked like how I felt.

I began to master the panic attack. I put the book down with sweaty hands. I thought of the girl that I loved at the time, that not-so-gentle censor of my bookshelf and my tastes; I thought about how she was taller than me and how her teeth were gray and straight, purposeful like the rest of her.

And then I wasn’t thinking of her at all.

The memories were queuing. The church. My father. What did Papa look like when we were younger? I saw the big brows, the near-Sephardic skin tone, the harried expression of someone to whom life had been invariably unkind. But no, that was my father in the present day. When I imagined my early father, my preimmigrant father, I always bathed myself in his untrammeled love for me. I would think of him as just this awkward man, childish and bright, happy to have a little sidekick named Igor (my pre-Gary Russian name), palling around with this Igoryochek who is not judgmental or anti-Semitic, a tiny fellow warrior, first against the indignities of the Soviet Union and then against those of moving to America, the great uprooting of language and familiarity.

There he was, Early Father and Igoryochek, and we had just gone to the church in the book! The joyous raspberry Popsicle of Chesme Church, some five blocks away from our Leningrad apartment, a pink baroque ornament amidst the fourteen shades of Stalin-era beige. It wasn’t a church in Soviet days but a naval museum dedicated, if memory serves correctly (and please let it serve correctly), to the victorious Battle of Chesme in 1770, during which the Orthodox Russians really gave it to those sonofabitch Turks. The interior of the sacred space back then (now it is once again a fully functional church) was crammed with a young boy’s delight—maquettes of gallant eighteenth-century fighting ships.

Allow me to stay with the theme of early Papa and the Turks for just a few pages more. Let me introduce some new vocabulary to help me complete this quest. Dacha is the Russian word for country house, and as spoken by my parents it might as well have meant the “Loving Grace of God.” When summer warmth finally broke the grip of the lifeless Leningrad winter and lackluster spring, they schlepped me around to an endless series of dachas in the former Soviet Union. A mushroom-ridden village near Daugavpils, Latvia; beautifully wooded Sestroretsk on the Gulf of Finland; the infamous Yalta in the Crimea (Stalin, Churchill, and FDR signed some kind of real estate deal here); Sukhumi, today a wrecked Black Sea resort in a breakaway part of Georgia. I was taught to prostrate myself before the sun, giver of life, grower of bananas, and thank it for every cruel, burning ray. My mother’s favorite childhood diminutive for me? Little Failure? No! It was Solnyshko. Little Sun!

Photographs from this era show a tired group of women in bathing suits and a Marcel Proust–looking boy in a kind of Warsaw Pact Speedo (that would be me) staring ahead into the limitless future while the Black Sea gently tickles their feet. Soviet vacationing was a rough, exhausting business. In the Crimea, we would wake up early in the morning to join a line for yogurt, cherries, and other edibles. All around us KGB colonels and party officials would be living it up in their snazzy waterfront digs while the rest of us stood weary-eyed beneath the miserable sun waiting to snag a loaf of bread. I had a pet that year, a gaily colored wind-up mechanical rooster, whom I would show off to everyone on the food line. “His name is Pyotr Petrovich Roosterovich,” I would declare with uncharacteristic swagger. “As you can see he has a limp, because he was injured in the Great Patriotic War.” My mother, fearful that there would be anti-Semites queuing for cherries (they have to eat, too, you know), would whisper for me to be quiet or there would be no Little Red Riding Hood chocolate candy for dessert.

Revue de presse

“Hilarious and moving . . . The army of readers who love Gary Shteyngart is about to get bigger.”The New York Times Book Review
 
“A memoir for the ages . . . brilliant and unflinching.”—Mary Karr

“Dazzling . . . 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

“Literary gold . . . [a] bruisingly funny memoir.”Vogue

“Funny, unflinching, and, title notwithstanding, a giant success . . . The innate humor of Shteyngart’s storytelling is dotted with touching sadness, all of it amounting to an engrossing look at his distinct, multilayered Gary-ness.”Entertainment Weekly

“[Little Failure] finds the delicate balance between sidesplitting and heartbreaking.”O: The Oprah Magazine
 
“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.”Los Angeles Times
 
“The very best memoirs perfectly toe the line between heartbreak and humor, and Shteyngart does just that.”Esquire
 
“Touching, insightful . . . [Shteyngart] nimbly achieves the noble Nabokovian goal of letting sentiment in without ever becoming sentimental.”The Washington Post
 
“[Shteyngart is] a successor to no less than Saul Bellow and Philip Roth.”The Christian Science Monitor
 
“Moving . . . and laugh-out-loud funny.”USA Today

“Might just be the funniest, most unflinching memoir ever about coming to America.”W Magazine

“Hilarious . . . an affectionate take on growing up in gray Leningrad and Technicolor Queens.”People

Little Failure is terrific—the author’s funniest, saddest and most honest work to date. [It’s] a powerful and often moving portrait of a troubled man’s creative origins, comparable in intent (and sometimes in quality) to some of the genre’s high-water marks, and owing particular debts to W. G. Sebald, Thomas Bernhard and, most significantly, Vladimir Nabokov, whose name Shteyngart often invokes.”The Guardian (UK)

“[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

“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

“The tragic story of what makes a great comic writer.”—Lev Grossman, Time
 
“Shteyngart is a great writer—there’s no arguing his literary merit—but he’s also very, very funny, which is a rare quality in literature these days.”GQ

“Shteyngart possesses a rare trait for a serious novelist: he is funny—and not just knowing-nod, wry-smile funny, but laugh-aloud, drink-no-liquids-while-reading funny.”The Economist

“Shteyngart’s achingly honest, bittersweet comic memoir is a winner.”Vanity Fair
 
Little Failure . . . puts the lure in failure.”The Wall Street Journal

“A near-perfect account of the churning state of one man’s inner life.”The Sunday Times (London)

“[Shteyngart is] the Chekhov-Roth-Apatow of Queens.”The Millions
 
“Surely some enterprising scholar is already gnawing at the question of why two of the brilliant outliers of American writing were Russian immigrants. One, of course, was the great Vladimir Nabokov. The other is the youngish Shteyngart. They both have the qualities of sly humor, secret griefs.”San Francisco Chronicle

“Funny, heartbreaking and soul-baring  . . . [Shteyngart is] one of his generation’s most original and exhilarating writers.”The Seattle Times

“[A] stellar memoir.”Parade

“[Shteyngart] has dismantled the armor of his humor to give readers his most tender and affecting gift yet: himself.”The Boston Globe

“[Shteyngart’s] irrepressible humor disguises a Nabokovian love of the English language and an astute grasp of human psychology.”Newsweek

“Shteyngart uses his immigrant experience, together with some of the wisdom of Russia’s cultural past, to capture a generation of middle-class Americans . . . and give us a beautifully rendered world of orange-coloured cheese puffs and Cold War menace.”The Times Literary Supplement

“If you thought his fiction was funny, read Shteyngart’s memoir, Little Failure. As you might expect, he’s no less neurotic than his characters.”New York
 
“Frenetically funny, even overwhelmingly enjoyable.”Financial Times

“[Little Failure] should become a classic of the immigrant narrative genre.”The Miami Herald
 
“There is no better comic writer alive than Mr. Shteyngart. . . . And yet it’s [his] past, and the tension it creates with the cushy interior life that America affords, that makes him a much more interesting novelist than his American peers.”The New York Observer

“Ever wonder how a Russian émigré with a wicked sense of humor becomes a great American novelist? In his new memoir, Gary Shteyngart tells his craziest, funniest, super-saddest tale yet: his own.”—Francine Prose, Interview

“[Shteyngart’s] best work to date.”The Moscow Times

“Shteyngart seems to have made a deal with some minor devil (a daredevil?) stipulating that if he exposed every crack and fissure in himself, laid bare every misstep, f***up, and psychic flaw, his memoir would be a deep and original book. If so, the payoff here was absolutely worth it.”—Kate Christensen, Bookforum

“By turns naive and cynical, hyper-intelligent and comically immature, empathetic on the page and unfeeling off it, his self-portrait of a Soviet Jew transplanted aged seven from Leningrad to Eighties America is a masterpiece of comic deprecation.”The Telegraph (UK)

“This Shteyngart, sad and longing and desperate for connection (with his parents, with his readers), seems the most fully human person this author has ever created.”The Jewish Daily Forward
 
“The best memoirs are ones that are perfectly individuated, particular—and yet somehow speak to every reader’s life, every reader’s family. This is one of those rare books.”New Statesman

“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.”—Zadie Smith, New York Times bestselling author of NW and White Teeth
 
Little Failure is told with fearlessness, wisdom and the wit that you’d expect from one of America’s funniest novelists.”—Carl Hiaasen, New York Times bestselling author of Bad Monkey
 
“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

“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


From the Hardcover edition.

Détails sur le produit

  • Broché: 384 pages
  • Editeur : Random House Trade Paperbacks (7 octobre 2014)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0812982495
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812982497
  • Dimensions du produit: 13,2 x 2 x 20,3 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 2.124.820 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
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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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Amazon.com: 4.0 étoiles sur 5  265 commentaires
51 internautes sur 55 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 Amazon.com
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.
19 internautes sur 22 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Little Failure: Poignant and Powerful 4 décembre 2013
Par Laurence R. Bachmann - Publié sur Amazon.com
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.
50 internautes sur 64 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 Amazon.com
Format:Relié
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
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Gary's Traumatized Life 16 janvier 2014
Par Jean Gross - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
I began this memoir and then began again. I couldn't understand what all the hype was about--first thinking that the author was a not- so- funny sterotypical Jew or maybe just a stand-up comedian. I see how wrong I intitially was!!

This memoir morphs into almost greatness!! Really. But, you have to get through the standard expected stuff to find the pony. ( From the old joke that "With all this s..t there has to be a pony in here somewhere.") The trenchant writing doesn't begin until Gary is almost in college half way through the book.

The author had an ostensibly ordinary immigrant life. Yes, the feelings of being an outsider magnified by being a Russian- not the most loved group in America of the eighties- are isolating. Yes, having parents who are cheap and don't "get" America is isolating. Yes, being an only child is tough-- with both parents stuggling workaholics-- and is further isolating. And on and on.. BUT, the clincher is that Gary's Father beat him consistently; and his Mother just stood by, ineffectual -- isolating him more. The only love Gary remembers from this time ( his childhood) is the "touch" of beatings. At least, he was being touched, he thinks.

The best part of this memoir details how the budding author used and abused people-- only caring for himself in the short run, abusing drugs and drink to the max, not being able to make a real connection, not able to love or be loved. Only desperately wanting love and not knowing what that is.

Receiving a lot of psychiatric help was his salvation. Finding true mentors ( Chang Rae Lee was one )and friends helped. Connecting with his flawed parents and with his genes helped. He's still mixed up, of course, but certainly more understanding of others and himself.

And, he's a very good writer! The words fly off the pages from his college years on-- into our hearts.

Four plus stars.
43 internautes sur 56 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 Amazon.com
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.
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