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May 13th, 2014
12:11 am

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Reading log
Gary Shteyngart, Little Failure (2014). By age 40 George Orwell has been a colonial policeman in Burma, a hop picker in England, a patient in a Parisian charity hospital, and a volunteer fighter in the Spanish Civil War. Kurt Vonnegut has been a soldier, a POW, and a father of three who also adopted three of his dead sister's children. Paul Theroux has served in the Peace Corps in Malawi and has taught in Uganda and in Singapore. Therefore, when Orwell. Vonnegut and Theroux write about their lives, it is an interesting read. Gary (an Americanization of Igor) Shteyngart, an only child of a Leningrad mechanical engineer, was brought to the United States in 1979, at age 7, so he wouldn't have to serve in the Soviet Army. He goes to a Hebrew private school, a science-intensive high school and an expensive liberal arts college, where he drinks, smokes pot and has love affairs with other students. The main thing that worries him all the time is to what degree he is an American, to what a Jew, and to what a Russian; that life can offer more interesting things than these worries never enters his mind. Gary does not start a family or acquire a profession other than writing, and the range of topics he can competently write about is fairly small. I don't think this offers enough material for an interesting memoir.

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From:zapiens
Date:May 13th, 2014 03:46 pm (UTC)
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I have not read anything by Shteyngart, but your description of his memoir immediately made me think of Portnoy's Complaint - a book written on the basis of not much more, yet interesting and lasting. Of writers who led somewhat sheltered lives one can also mention Proust, Faulkner, ?
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From:letopisetz
Date:May 14th, 2014 06:16 pm (UTC)
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Shteyngart is no Proust or Faulkner)
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From:zapiens
Date:May 14th, 2014 07:12 pm (UTC)
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This is most likely true, however, the OP was faulting Shteyngart for writing a memoir without a significant and diverse life experience. I respectfully pointed out that one may not be required to produce books based, however loosely, on one's life.
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From:letopisetz
Date:May 14th, 2014 06:20 pm (UTC)
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was brought to the United States in 1979, at age 7, so he wouldn't have to serve in the Soviet Army

Rather, that's what he was told by his parents. They likely had other reasons to move and would have made a similar decision even if they had a daughter or no children at all)

Edited at 2014-05-14 06:20 pm (UTC)
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