Shteyngart’s Memoir ‘Little Failure’ Is Great Success

This interview was originally published in The Times of Israel.

The wacky world of author Gary Shteyngart is on display in a new memoir, 'Little Failure.' (photo credit: Brigitte Lacombe/Courtesy of Random House)

The wacky world of author Gary Shteyngart is on display in a new memoir, ‘Little Failure.’ (photo credit: Brigitte Lacombe/Courtesy of Random House)

Author Gary Shteyngart, 41, was known as Igor until age seven, but he began his career as a writer at age five when his grandmother bribed him with a piece of cheese for every page he produced. His first work: an original story book about Lenin and a magical goose who lead a socialist revolution in Finland

The Jewish-American-Russian writer’s new memoir is called, “Little Failure.” In spite of the harsh title, the successful author has penned a winning account of his and his parents’ immigration to New York from Leningrad in 1979, and of the life they have led thereafter.

The memoir, derived from a nickname Shteyngart’s mother lovingly (or maybe not) gave him, does an excellent job of unpacking the emotional baggage that has accompanied the author’s family across the world and through the years. Readers may be familiar with themes of the Soviet immigrant experience from Shteyngart’s award-winning satirical novels, “The Russian Debutante’s Handbook,” “Absurdistan,” and “Super Sad True Love Story.”

However, his memoir, which could have alternatively been titled, “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Asthmatic,” kicks things up a notch and is being touted as his best work to date.

Shteyngart spoke to The Times of Israel from his home in Manhattan, sharing what it’s like to be a SAP (Soviet Ashkenazi Pessimist), about learning to be a good parent, and how to rope Hollywood stars like James FrancoRashida Jones and fellow authors such as Jonathan Franzen and Sloane Crosley, into making promotional videos for his books.

Click here to read the interview and watch the book trailer.

© 2014 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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