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Little Failure: A Memoir Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 7, 2014

3.9 out of 5 stars 548 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Novelist Shteyngart (Super Sad True Love Story, 2010) looks back at his tug-of-war life in this caustic, funny, brash, and self-immolating memoir. Born in Leningrad, in 1972, the only child of a kindergarten piano teacher and a mechanical engineer, Shteyngart was a small, anxious, severely asthmatic boy stretched on the rack of his warring parents’ needs and worries and subjected to downright medieval treatments for his ailment. While gasping for breath and paralyzed with fear, including a terror of the Soviets’ notorious exploding televisions, Shteyngart—nicknamed “Little Failure”—became a “pathological reader.” Encouraged to write by his indomitable grandmother, who paid him for his efforts in cheese, he composed his first novel at age five: Lenin and His Magical Goose. Veering between flaying candor and chagrined adoration in his vivid depictions of his family, Shteyngart is also diabolically droll in his accounts of social absurdities, including what he basically describes as the grain-for-Jews agreement reached between Jimmy Carter and the USSR that freed Soviet Jewry, including the battling Shteyngarts. He then experienced a second life-changing liberation when he received his first inhaler. Finally able to breath, the Little Failure figures out that writing is his only defense against being a “hated freak” in a Hebrew school in Queens. Shteyngart’s penetrating attentiveness, outlandish precision, abrading and embracing humor, and ability to extrapolate larger truths about inheritance, immigration, assimilation, and creativity from his own epic floundering and yearning make for a memoir of exceptional dimension, provocation, and pleasure. --Donna Seaman

From Bookforum

Honest, poignant, hilarious [...] Shteyngart's stalwart refusal to cast himself as a victim sets this book apart from the majority of American memoirs, whose authors seem hell-bent on passing judgement on the people who raised them. […] Shteyngart seems to have made a deal with some minor devil (a daredevil?) stipulating that if he exposed every crack and fissure in himself, laid bare every misstep, fuckup, and psychic flaw, his memoir would be a deep and original book. If so, the payoff here was absolutely worth it. —Kate Christensen

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ 0679643753
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Random House; First Edition (January 7, 2014)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 368 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9780679643753
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0679643753
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.44 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.61 x 1.12 x 9.62 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    3.9 out of 5 stars 548 ratings

About the author

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Gary Shteyngart was born in Leningrad in 1972 and came to the United States seven years later. His debut novel, The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, won the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction and the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction. His second novel, Absurdistan, was named one of the 10 Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review, as well as a best book of the year by Time, The Washington Post Book World, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Chicago Tribune, and many other publications. He has been selected as one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, GQ, and Travel + Leisure and his books have been translated into more than twenty languages. He lives in New York City.

Customer reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5
548 global ratings

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