Feb 16, 2014


From my Sunday Times profile:—
“A make-out scene with James Franco is, I mean, so important for a trailer these days” says Shteyngart, seigneurially, when I catch up with him at his apartment in the East Village, in the middle of a book tour that has already covered the East and West coasts, and next week heads for Canada, the UK, Australia. Books line one wall of his sparsely furnished, Scandinavian-style living room; next door, a dishwasher can be heard finishing its cycle. “You do things that are insane. I'm reviewing a nose trimmer for the New York Times. Anything you can do.  It's a laser-guided one so I may lose half of my face.” Such ingenious outreach may speak to the perilous state of publishing in the goggled-eyed age of YouTube and Facebook. “The era of the big writer is over,” admits Shteyngart, “Roth is really the last one. And he stopped. So let's just bow out with dignity here. Or not. Stupid trailers. My fault.” But is also speaks to the semi-parodic gusto with which Shteyngart has thrown himself onto conquering what remains of it. A prodigious blurber and lit party hob-nobber, a teacher at Columbia who doesn’t think twice about calling on ex-students like Franco to help promote his books, Shteyngart is a ”publicist’s dream” in the words of his publicist, a literary showman and media entity whose persona — part Woody Allen nebbish, part Borat naïf, topped off with his amazing, elasticated Groucho eyebrows — has sometimes made him seem more a character sprung from the pages of his books —The Russian Debutante’s Handbook (2002), Absurdistan (2006), and Super Sad True Love Story (2010) — than their author, prompting one reviewer to ask: Can an author be too entertaining? “I don't know what happened to the idea that something can be illuminating and entertaining at the same time,” asks Shteyngart back, those eyebrows performing a pogo-dance of exasperation. “What happened to that?”

1 comment:

  1. Shteyngart has set back the immigration bill debate 10 years. Maybe not, the Republicans don't read. He is playing it for laughs; if he weren't, he'd be in prison somewhere.