Gary Shteyngart is an American writer born in Leningrad, USSR. Much of his work is satirical.
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Hi, I'm Gary Shteyngart, author of a bunch of books, the novels Russian Debutante's Handbook, Absurdistan and Super Sad True Love Story and the latest is a memoir called Little Failure.
UPDATE: Thanks so much for asking me stuff, guys! I love all of you. And now it's time to feed my dachshund. Farewell!
Do you ever get tired of being a Jew? It just seems like it would get exhausting.
it's very tiring having to wear that big furry hat all the time, but, nu, what are you gonna do?
Oppositely, how do you feel about the idea of a Palestinian state?
i'm all for that too!
It's where a chick fucks a guy in the ass with a strap on but you can pretend you didn't know that already if that's what you're into Gary.
no kidding! wow, I can't wait to ask my single friends if they've been getting their peg on lately.
Would you ever let a chick peg you?
i have no idea what that means, but the answer is probably yes.
What is your position on the state of Israel?
I'm all for it.
I had a dream the other night: I was holding my laptop by the sides on either side of the keyboard and when I set it down it was stamped with the imprint of my hands. What do you think this means?
looks like you're going to get a master's of fine art in creative writing. you poor soul.
First found out about you on an NPR segment I believe, about Absurdistan a few years back. Good stuff.
1. I've seen you compared to John Kennedy Toole and his "Confederacy of Dunces" -- how do you feel you compare with his work?
2. What's your very best life advice?
i'm just like John Kennedy Toole but not as good. Life advice: get a long-haired dachshund. So cute and they live well in apartments.
Have you thought about using your enormous wealth and your status as an international man of letters to mediate the conflict in Ukraine?
yes, i'm going there in january so expect complete peace in donetsk by february.
Great. Hoping to open my Donetsk hotel for Valentine's Day tourism.
If you could maybe plug it during peace talks, so much the better. Poroshenko and Putin alike are welcome, but please all payment must be in dollars or compressed natural gas.
save the novorossiya suite for me please.
If you wrote romance novels on the side, what would your pseudonym be?
How tall are you?
I'm barely 5'6". Ridiculous, right?
I enjoyed reading your essays on doing book tours across America in the New Yorker. I look forward to reading your memoir. What do you enjoy more, fiction or nonfiction? And do you think one can teach oneself to be funny?
you gotta watch a lot of mel brooks as a child to be funny. i love writing about america. USA!
Do you think one person can change the world? Why don't you?
that was the motto of oberlin college when i went there. "Think one person can change the world? So do we." I think maybe two people can change the world. Three for sure. But one?
I recently read Little Failure. I live in the Philly area, where there are alot of Russian Jews. My Russian friend was explaining that culturally there is a big difference between "Russian Jews" and "Russian-Russians (non-Jews)" that live here in the US. I didn't really understand. Care to weigh in?
russian jews tend to eat slightly less pork than russian-russians. i'm trying to think of other things. sometimes our hair is less golden than that of our russian-russian friends. that's about it.
What do you think of Oberlin's other famous grad, Lena Dunham? Think you would have ran in the same circles if you overlapped?
i love her, but, no, she was way too cool for my geeky circles.
Ever seen the show The Americans on FX? Russian spies living in early 80s Reagan America.
it's possibly my favorite show on TV right now. my kingdom for one of those wigs!
Do you still get panic attacks?
i'm having one right now! wait, that's just gas. yeah, i get em!
Was there any widespread cheating when you went to Stuyvie?
We cheated like crazy. I'm not even sure how to take a chemistry test unless the answers are written inside my elbow.
As a writer, do you find social media useful and nourishing, or is it usually a huge distraction?
it's so great to talk to all those wonderful readers, but it's a huge distraction. the next book will take 8 years instead of 4.
BQQ: Vinegar or tomato-based?
NOW THIS IS A COMPLICATED QUESTION!!!!!!! it really depends on the venue. this trip included some insane BBQ in atlanta, st. louis and kansas city. oh man, i'm hungry. where's my pizza?
Top 5 80s new wave/post punk albums?
new wave? i saw erasure in berlin 5 years ago with some russian friends. those guys are SO cute!
You're a little failure, according to the title of your memoir. Would your mother be happier if you were, at least, a big failure?
i think she likes my failure at exactly this level.
Did/Does marijuana hurt your asthma?
i switched out of asthma and into marijuana use at exactly the right time.
Yet in fairness to the GOP (almost as hard as being fair to LeBron), their only alternative for a Convention site was Dallas. Does Dallas even exist? We know it only as a mythical setting of a 1980s TV show, supposedly the home of shiksa cheerleaders and presidential assassins. Can you confirm its existence?
i was a huge dallas fan growing up. and i've been at its airport many times. once i read in an art museum there. it exists big time!
Do you dream in Russian or English? Esperanto?
nightmares are in russian, mediocre dreams in english, tax refund dreams in luxembourgish.
I was expecting to see some Talking Heads on this list.
oh god yes. stop making sense, totes. and the depeche mode one where the singer is looking for his own personal jesus.
What are some contemporary novels you recently read that you really loved?
a gazillion. family life by akhil sharma comes to mind. so many great writers out there. mmmm, writers....
In your experience, s someone who is ready to write a novel (I have everything planned out and ready just need to sit down with my laptop), once I have completed it and done the first edit/revision myself, what is the next step?
Do I show it to friends/family for further feedback and editing? Do I send straight to a publisher or find an agent? I am not much of one for self-publishing personally. Any help is greatly appreciated!
Show it to friends who like to read books. Not to family unless you're really super close. Then seeketh you an agent who will take 15 percent of the fee from you but hopefully get you a nice book deal. Then get a teaching job at some plush university. Writing rulz! Good luck!
Hi, Gary. I've read all your books. Which one do you think is best suited to a film adaptation, and why is it "Absurdistan"?
ha! a famous 1980s singer once offered to make a musical out of it. i can't say who it was for legal reasons.
Given that so few MFA students achieve success, are you conflicted about the existence of MFA in creative writing programs?
there are worse things to do with your life than to spend two (or three, or four, or five) years being surrounded by people who love books.
Hi, this is a pretty basic question, butt how do you come up with ideas for books? Where does the inspiration come from?
I love writing, but sometimes I get writers block and I have no idea how to carry on.
it's important to surround yourself with interesting people and to leave brooklyn and go to fascinating places. always take notes! you're like a doctor, you're always on call, writing everything down.
Hello, I just read SSTLS and loved it. What book of yours should I read next?
thanks! i guess if you want to read a non-fiction version of lenny try my memoir Little Failure. if you want to read about a 325-pound lenny go to absurdstian.
Do you think you'd ever come down to Winston-Salem to try some Vinegar-based BBQ? (My mom wanted me to ask this)
i will accept your offer of an all-expense-paid trip to eat BBQ.
Have you been back to Russia in the past year? Just curious if it is any different vs. 3-4 yrs ago now that Putin is flexing his muscles even more.
i'm gonna be there for new year's. wish me luck!
If you only had one meal left to eat in NYC, where would you go?
i'd eat the suckling pig at maialino in the gramercy hotel. oh, how i'd eat that. for a vegetarian option, i'd have their cacio e pepe for breakfast.
what made you think of the post-apocalyptic graphic scenes in the SSTLS?
the post-apocalyptic graphic scenes are straight out of my life! being a SAP (Soviet Ashkenazi Pessimist) i'm all about dystopia.
Are your books available in Russia? Or are they banned?
my 3 novels were translated into russian. little failure failed to be sold for translation so far.
Do you think you will ever write another non-fiction book or that the memoir is it?
yeah, i like non-fiction quite a bit. i write a ton of travel articles for Travel + Leisure for example.
Does Oberlin's mistake explain the increasing irrelevance of Northeast Ohio?
Irrelevance? They got that LeBron dude AND the republican convention.
Are things getting serious with your girlfriend? (did you buy a ring, yet...3 months salary)
reader, i married her.
Why did you dedicate your memoir, LITTLE FAILURE, to your shrink?
i couldn't have written it without him. not that i go five times a week like the other crazy new yorkers four times a week is more than enough.
Why do you think Jewish dudes and Asian ladies are such a prevalent couple? There are many cultural similarities between the two, but is there anything else?
i think soviet jews and koreans mix well because of a shared love of cabbage. theirs is better, i must say.
Did you come up with onion skin pants from leggings that become sheer in the sunlight? I know your book was before that big Lululemon snafu, but I thought maybe thats where you came up with the idea!
no i actually came up with that after walking down Avenue A on a warm summer afternoon.
What advice would you give to someone interested in teaching literature?
have the students talk quite a bit. if it's on the graduate level and drinking is allowed let the final class toast with some single malt or vodka, as i do.
Gary! I think you're an amazing writer! I paid for Google Glass because of your article though, and eh. But let's set that aside.
I read the Russian Debutante's Handbook and loved it. I then gave it to one of my friends, a bilingual Russian-American Jew with a Russian home life. He told me it was one of the best books he'd ever read ever, but that he didn't get how someone who wasn't a Russian-American Jew would find it funny at all. Is there some gap of in-jokes you built into the book on purpose?
studies show that up to 71 percent of my readers aren't russian-american jews!
Do I have any chance at being a good Jewish writer if I'm not neurotic?
none. i'm terribly sorry.
Gary, Absurdistan was both hilarious and incredibly on-point with how the Post-Soviet world crumbled. How much improvement do you think has happened since you wrote it?
thanks, barejew. improvement? things have gotten worse!
Which would you rather fight; 100 duck sized horses, or 1 horse sized duck?
i never fight horses. i could probably do 100 ducks.
Гарик, ты по-русски читаешь?
of course, i chitayu po-russki.
And yet, no kisses for Paul Giamatti in the second video. Poor Paul...
sad, i know. no smooching rashida jones either. such is life.
i hereby grant you a golden peg. use it wisely!
What book have you always wanted to read but just aren't getting to?
bleak house. oh, but i finally finished pickety's capital in the 21st century AND the goldfinch.
Do you have an all time favorite memoir?
I love Mary Karr's Liar's Club and Nabokov's Speak Memory.
Is it true you are obsessed with dachshunds?
When did it started?
Obsessed isn't the word. I LOVE dachshunds. All my passwords are longdog1913 and doxie2000. i probably shouldn't reveal that on reddit but it's true.
Hi Gary! What was the hardest part about writing this memoir?
Trying to remember all the stuff that happened in high school and college when I was rather high on marijuana.
Hi Gary, thanks so much for doing this! I loved the book trailers you made for Super Sad - How did those come about? Did you yourself script them? Any highlights/anecdotes from the set?
i had to kiss James Franco like 50 times for the different takes. Highlight of my life.