Monday, July 5, 2010

Book Review: Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart

This has taken quite some time to get thrown onto the internet, mostly because I've been working and moving into new, not-disgusting, digs (i.e. OMG YES ARNAVUTKOY). As I start getting into more of a schedule, more interesting posts will be put here. So there will be more than just going to Galata Evi with Ben.

As much as I'm not a fan of satires, I had to do a balancing act with Absurdistan. Yeah, its told from the point of a sorta-Russian, sorta-American joke of a human being. Yes there's the awkward rapping and pathetic 'hood queen. This is what bad books are made of. But with a Caspian setting, mockery of the American military-industrial complex, and lots of funny little Turkic and Kartveli men, it's actually kind of awesome.

Whenever I read a good book about the region, I find myself thinking, "my God, somebody actually did their research here!" This is no different, Shteyngart definitely did his research here. He knows enough about Azerbaijan and Georgia (and Daghestan, I think) to use them to create his fictional Absurdsvani. And he's a good enough writer to pull off the satire with as few cringe-inducing moments as possible. This is a good thing.

The best thing, though is a chapter which is just a grant proposal for a Holocaust Museum entitled "A Modest Proposal." Pretty much my favorite chapter I've read in a really long time. Its honest enough to be hilarious, and cagey enough to bite. I'm a huge, huge, fan.

So again, very funny book. A bit too esoteric, maybe, but the New York Times got it and loved it, so maybe not. And putting in himself as the antagonist was a pretty fantastic touch. There are probably enough bits for everyone to like it (I, for example, am a deaf-mute when it comes to New York references) so maybe...everyone will like it. I at least did.


  1. Those houses...they're so beautiful.

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