Exhibit 6.1


Well, you should be reading Gary Shteyngart’s second novel now instead of wasting your time here. It’s exactly the sort of hysterical, profane satire that doesn’t come up a lot any more. Or, if it does, it usually targets celebrity or media or something small and fleeting and American. Shteyngart’s book targets those things to–at least in a way–but his obese, America-loving Russian oligarch stumbles into a bigger story of oil and politics in a crumbling former Soviet state named Absurdistan.

Misha, the oligarch, is an insatiable glutton for anything that comes his way–food, affection, conflict, etc.–and his beloved adopted country of America holds the largest excess of his vices. Struggling to obtain a visa to return to New York, he gets stuck in a staged civil war between Absurdistan’s two not-at-all distinct religious factions who are after the country’s rich oil reserves and the wealthy Halliburton contracts they’ll bring. An empathetic child in a fat man’s body, Misha’s money allows him to avoid recognizing the actors that create the world’s problems which he believes hurt him deeply. He thinks he understands hunger but he’s nearly orgasmic when feasting. He thinks he understands diaspora but only sees it in his own displacement from America.

Shteyngart keeps Misha sympathetic and where most authors might have slowly stripped him of his money and health, Shteyngart makes him complicit in the devastation of the country around him until the wall of his weight and money finally cracks and the world comes in. It’s a book about oil and greed and democracy, but mostly it’s about the loss of reason and principle in the selfish quest of a country, of a man, for wealth.

Oh, it’s also hilarious and remarkably well-written.

Comment / Posted in Books, Fiction, Shteyngarts

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