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Posts Tagged ‘Gary Shteyngart’

Tonight: Elif Batuman and Gary Shteyngart at 92Y

February 3, 2014 | by

Batuman_Shteyngart

Join us this evening at 92Y, where, snow be damned, Gary Shteyngart and Elif Batuman will take the stage to read from their latest work. They’ll be introduced by Sloane Crosley and our very own Lorin Stein, respectively. The night begins at 8:15; those unable (or unwilling) to face the slush can watch a free livecast here. (If last night’s Super Bowl was any indication, it will be much better than whatever’s on TV.)

 

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Shelf-Conscious

December 27, 2012 | by

Chris Killip, 'The Library of Chained Books,' Hereford Cathedral, Hereford, UK, 1992.

We’re out this week, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2012 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!

I knew a kid in college who wanted so desperately to produce a book that he couldn’t stand the sight of their spines. He stacked them—ten or so brown and black books, library hardcovers—in his dorm room, titles to the wall, lips facing forward. He didn’t really buy books, either—at least I don’t recall that he did—but he never passed a bookstore without entering to read. These same stores have since displayed his books in their windows.

“‘You can tell how serious people are by looking at their books,’” Susan Sontag told Sigrid Nunez, long ago when Nunez was dating Sontag’s son. “She meant not only what books they had on their shelves, but how the books were arranged,” Nunez explains. “Because of her, I arranged my own books by subject and in chronological rather than alphabetical order. I wanted to be serious.”

There are many varieties of nerd, but only two real species—the serious and the nonserious—and shelves are a pretty good indication of who is which. “To expose a bookshelf,” Harvard professor Leah Price writes in Unpacking My Library, a recent collection of interviews with writers about the books they own, “is to compose a self.” In Sontag’s case, a very rigorous self. And, of course, that’s just the sort of self someone anxious about his aspirations might shy away from. “A self without a shelf remains cryptic,” Price notes. It’s like the straight-A student who says he hasn’t studied for finals: if you haven’t confessed to caring, no one can consider you to have failed.

There’s not a lot of anxiety about keeping libraries in this collection, however, because the adults featured—Junot Diaz, Steven Pinker, Gary Shteyngart, James Wood, Claire Messud, to name a few—are all solidly successful. Price’s interviews are less about each writer’s affairs and encounters with individual books than his or her shepherding of the whole herd—what’s treasured, tossed, bought twice, allowed to be lent. The interesting questions focus on each writer’s feelings about intellectual signaling and methods of overall arrangement. In other words, the stars of the pictures aren’t the books but the shelves. Read More »

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A Letter from Gary Shteyngart’s Dog

November 9, 2012 | by

The following letter was sent by Gary Shteyngart’s dog to the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Dear BAM,

Last night, while my favorite human Gary Shteyngart was dripping gherkin juice and pickled cod balls onto his green polyester shirt, I noticed a tear trickling down his face. I peered over his slumped shoulder and saw on the interwebs that in a couple weeks, some famous people are gathering at BAM to make fun of him. Not only that, you monsters are actually selling tickets to the public for this public humiliation of my friend. BAM staffers, I say to you: this small, furry excuse of a human being already suffers terrible asthma, an overabundance of gnarled body hair, and bouts of midnight gas. He has trouble buttoning his own shirts, doesn’t own a comb, and bribes his own MFA students to write his books. His hardship started years ago, first as a young Russian émigré tortured at Hebrew School, when he arrived in America speaking no English with a mere two shirts and a bear coat, and then again at New York City’s Stuyvesant High School, when his fellow immigrant teens would sabotage his Bunsen burner to get ahead. He struggled to make money in his 20s by writing grants for programs like “Torah Tots,” attempting to secure foundation money for the important purpose of introducing 3-year-olds to the murders and rapes of the Old Testament. In short I say to you, hasn’t Gary suffered enough? Why must you persecute him more? And also will this be live streamed on the web, so I can watch from the comforts of my luxury dog crate?

Sincerely,

Felix the Dachshund

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Handsome Crooks, Crooked Reviewers

October 2, 2012 | by

  • Meet “ridiculously photogenic 19th century NZ criminal” Daniel Tohill.
  • “Wanted — literate, artful writers who can post five-star reviews of some books on amazon.com. Pay is fifteen dollars firm for fifty to a hundred words of high praise with some specifics about the book that will appeal to potential readers.”
  • The most-challenged books of 2012: newcomer Fifty Shades of Grey joins old favorites like witchcraft-mongering Harry Potter and Slaughterhouse Five.
  • Gary Shteyngart: “You, American Airlines, should no longer be flying across the Atlantic. You do not have the know-how. You do not have the equipment. And your employees have clearly lost interest in the endeavor.”
  • Wes Anderson presents an animation of the fictional books from Moonrise Kingdom.
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    Something Out of Something: Talking with Etgar Keret

    May 1, 2012 | by

    In 2006, the great book-blurber and novelist Gary Shteyngart called Etgar Keret’s The Nimrod Flipout “the best work of literature to come out of Israel in the last five thousand years—better than Leviticus and nearly as funny.” Keret may indeed be the most loved and widely read Israeli writer working today. He is known for his very short short stories, which are often described as “surreal” and “absurd.” It’s certainly the case that they do not adhere to the laws of the physical universe.

    In his most recent collection, Suddenly, a Knock at the Door (published this month by Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a talking fish grants wishes; a woman unzips her boyfriend to reveal the German gentile inside; a middle-aged man is kidnapped and taken to his childhood. But at the heart of Keret’s writing is a deep compassion. His characters may be enmeshed in paradoxes unique to Israel—with its fraught borders, fragmented populations, and newly ancient language—but it’s always their humanity that shines through.

    Keret is also a filmmaker. With his wife, Shira Geffen, he directed Jellyfish (2009), which won the Camera d’Or at Cannes, and has had his work adapted to film, including Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006). Over the course of two weeks, during which his father passed away from cancer (he has written about his father for Tablet), Keret generously corresponded over e-mail for this interview.

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    Gary Shteyngart

    July 27, 2010 | by

    Gary Shteyngart’s latest novel, Super Sad True Love Story, signals his move out of Soviet territory and into a near-future New York City, where books have no place in a hyper-technological society. Yet, in our conversation a few weeks ago, many of Shteyngart’s expressions (such as “the intertube”) reveal an innocence he has maintained in our own heavily digitized world. He reflects that now, after having lived with this book for three years, he needs to “retreat to the countryside and live in a pristine environment where the iTelephone doesn’t work.”

    Super Sad True Love Story switches between letters, diary entries, and dialogues. Why did you choose these formats?

    Well, you know, it’s sort of hard to read an entire book cover to cover these days. Most people just don’t come with the same equipment that we used to have. When they look at a book they think, “Oh my God, it’s so many pages! What am I going to do? How will I ever get through this?” So, you’ll notice the cover of this book is very flashy—it’s almost like you want to press parts of it, hoping that something will pop up. So, the insides of the book—the “text” you would call it—have the same kind of approach to it. Everything is mixed up, and different stuff comes at you at different speeds. Just as the reader is about to fall asleep with one kind of format, all of the sudden it changes.

    Your new book also features some bizarre clothing trends, especially those Onionskin jeans. What’s your assessment of fashion today?

    Well, first of all, a couple years ago the pubic bone started making an appearance. I’ve never seen so many pubic bones! I mean, it’s shocking. I know them so well now. Forget the asscrack--that’s been around for a while.

    After placing two novels in the Soviet Union, why did you move away from that setting for your third novel?

    Boy, it’s getting tiring! You know? When I was growing up in the Soviet Union, it collapsed. I wrote about that collapse in two books already, but I have an uncanny feeling we’re not doing very well here, too. I think I have a sixth sense when it comes to failing empires. That’s sort of my specialty. If I were around during the Roman Empire I’d be writing a book a week. I’d be so happy! I love things on the decline because that’s really the natural progression of our lives. We’re born, we’re feisty for the first couple of years, and then the inevitable decline begins. That’s what appeals to me—the long slide into oblivion. Read More »

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