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Little Failure

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Little Failure

A Memoir
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERAfter 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...
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERAfter 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...
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  • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

    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

    "Hilarious and moving . . . The army of readers who love Gary Shteyngart is about to get bigger."--The New York Times Book Review

    "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

    "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

    "[A] touching, insightful memoir . . . [Shteyngart] nimbly achieves the noble Nabokovian goal of letting sentiment in without ever becoming sentimental."--The Washington Post



    From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author-
  • Gary Shteyngart was born in Leningrad in 1972 and came to the United States seven years later. He is the author of the novels Super Sad True Love Story (2010), Absurdistan (2006), and The Russian Debutante's Handbook (2002). Super Sad True Love Story won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize and was selected as one of the best books of the year by more than forty news journals and magazines around the world. Absurdistan was chosen as one of the ten best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review and Time magazine. The Russian Debutante's Handbook won the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction and the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction. His fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Esquire, GQ, Travel + Leisure, The New York Times Magazine, and many other publications. His work has been translated into twenty-eight languages. Shteyngart lives in New York City.

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A Memoir
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