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Little Failure: A Memoir by Gary Shteyngart

Little Failure: A Memoir (2014)

by Gary Shteyngart

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
Little Failure: A Memoir by Gary Shteyngart
349 pages


I won this book from GoodReads nearly 2 years ago. It has taken me that long to get to it because…I’m slow. But alas, I found the time to read this memoir by author Gary Shteyngart. This memoir deals with much of his first four decades of life but focuses heavily on his relationship with his parents and his early life as an immigrant from USSR to the United States.

I’m going to be honest. I love biographies/memoirs on anyone, including people I’ve never heard of…which was good in this case because I had no idea who Gary Shteyngart was. I hadn’t heard of his books, I hadn’t heard of the name. And luckily, that didn’t matter. I really enjoyed this memoir. The author was frank but humorous in just the right places, you can tell he doesn’t try to sugarcoat life – it just is what it is. Not all parts are extremely exciting or action-packed but then again, neither is life. I had trouble putting this book down at times…until my infant yanked it out of my hands and decided I was done for the night. Not only that, but it made me decide I should take a look at Gary Shteyngart’s books of fiction. He is a talented writer (at least from reading his memoir) and while I hear his books aren’t for everyone (what book is?), I’m curious what he has to offer. Good memoir and glad I had the chance to read it!
( )
  UberButter | Jan 18, 2016 |
Heard so much about this author and this book. He is a funny and truthful person. I enjoyed maybe half of the book. Parts here and there. The funny was very funny. ( )
  bogopea | Jul 21, 2015 |
One can count on getting some laughs from Gary Shteyngart, and in the beginning you get enough of those as he traces his upbringing in Soviet Jewish family; but stick around, and you find yourself really feeling for the "Little Failure." Many memoirs are written, I think, from the author's attempt to exorcise demons, and that's certainly true for this book. But it turns out in the end that as Shteyngart finally looks the demons that have tormented him through much of his life, they really don't look that bad. Or more accurately, they assumed a disproportionate influence over his life than they deserved, scary shadows whose source of projection was merely mortal.

Very entertaining. ( )
  kvrfan | Apr 25, 2015 |
You don't have to be a Russian, Jewish, immigrant, New Yorker to appreciate Gary Shteyngart's autobiography, Little Failure, but it can't hurt. Having some things in common with the author (religion, adopted city, Stuyvesant High School, working in the Financial District and browsing The Strand - now a Lot Less discount store) made me appreciate his personal story without ever having read his novels. Sharing traits (hopefully failure not being one of them) facilitates empathy and understanding, but Shteyngart's story is in some ways a universal one of becoming an adult and coming to understand oneself. His journey is more painful than most, and his skill, like David Sadaris's, is weaving that pain into golden, laugh out loud, humor. ( )
1 vote OccassionalRead | Apr 23, 2015 |
This is the story of a Russian Jew who immigrated to this country at age 8 and is one of the more truthful insightful memoirs I've read. He views himself and his parents with a fair even handedness in an effort to understand and yet does not draw away emotionally. It is not always comfortable but is compelling. ( )
  snash | Jan 21, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gary Shteyngartprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ross, Jonathan ToddNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679643753, Hardcover)

After three acclaimed novels—The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, Absurdistan, and Super Sad True Love Story—Gary Shteyngart now 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.
Shteyngart’s loving but mismatched parents dreamed that he would become a lawyer or at least an accountant 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 boyfriend, at being a writer, and most important, at being a worthwhile human being.
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 decided to become a writer, and his grandmother paid him a slice of cheese for every page he produced. He wrote Lenin and His Magical Goose, his first novel.
In the late 1970s, world events changed Igor’s life, and his parents would change his name. Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev made a deal: exchange tankers of 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 after spending the first part of his childhood in the Soviet Union was equivalent to stumbling off a monochromatic cliff and landing in a pool of pure Technicolor.
Shteyngart recalls that the first two books he ever read were about small children shrunk to even smaller size and forced into a hostile place. Now those stories appeared to have come true, as he lived 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.

Advance praise for Little Failure
“Gary Shteyngart has written a memoir for the ages. I spat laughter on the first page and closed the last with wet eyes. Unputdownable in the day and a half I spent reading it, Little Failure is a window into immigrant agony and ambition, Jewish angst, and anybody’s desperate need for a tribe. Readers who’ve fallen for Shteyngart’s antics on the page will relish the trademark humor. But here it’s laden and leavened with a deep, consequential psychological journey. Brave and unflinching, Little Failure is his best book to date.”—Mary Karr, bestselling author of Lit and The Liars’ Club

“A surefire hit.”—Library Journal

Praise for Super Sad True Love Story
“Wonderful . . . [combines] the tenderness of the Chekhovian tradition with the hormonal high jinks of a Judd Apatow movie.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:06 -0400)

"... 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."--

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