Annotations for Little Failure : A Memoir


Baker & Taylor
The award-winning author of Super Sad True Story traces his uproarious experiences as a young bullied Jewish-Russian immigrant in Queens, his haphazard college pursuits and his initial forays into a literary career.

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Baker & Taylor
Traces the author's experiences as a young bullied Jewish-Russian immigrant in Queens, his haphazard college pursuits, and his initial forays into a literary career.

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Random House, Inc.

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST NONFICTION BOOKS OF THE YEAR BYTIME • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NEWSDAY • A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Washington Post • NPR • The Atlantic • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • The Economist • The Guardian • Publishers Weekly • Kirkus Reviews • BookPage • The Telegraph • The Independent • The Irish Times • Financial Review(Australia)

Little Failure is the all too true story of an immigrant family betting its future on America, as told by a lifelong misfit who finally finds a place for himself in the world through books and words. In 1979, a little boy dragging a ginormous fur hat and an overcoat made from the skin of some Soviet woodland creature steps off the plane at New York's JFK International Airport and into his new American life. His troubles are just beginning. For the former Igor Shteyngart, coming to the United States from the Soviet Union is like stumbling off a monochromatic cliff and landing in a pool of Technicolor. Careening between his Soviet home life and his American aspirations, he finds himself living in two contradictory worlds, wishing for a real home in one. He becomes so strange to his parents that his mother stops bickering with his father long enough to coin the phrasefailurchka--"little failure"--which she applies to her once-promising son. With affection. Mostly. From the terrors of Hebrew School to a crash course in first love to a return visit to the homeland that is no longer home, Gary Shteyngart has crafted a ruthlessly brave and funny memoir of searching for every kind of love--family, romantic, and of the self.

BONUS: This edition includes a reading group guide.

SHORTLISTED FOR THE SPEAR'S BOOK AWARD IN MEMOIR • LONGLISTED FOR THE JQ-WINGATE LITERARY PRIZE

"Hilarious and moving . . . The army of readers who love Gary Shteyngart is about to get bigger."--The New York Times Book Review

"A memoir for the ages . . . brilliant and unflinching."--Mary Karr

"Dazzling . . . a rich, nuanced memoir . . . It's an immigrant story, a coming-of-age story, a becoming-a-writer story, and a becoming-a-mensch story, and in all these ways it is, unambivalently, a success."--Meg Wolitzer, NPR

"Literary gold . . . [a] bruisingly funny memoir."--Vogue

"A giant success."--Entertainment Weekly

"[Little Failure] finds the delicate balance between sidesplitting and heartbreaking."--O: The Oprah Magazine

"Should become a classic of the immigrant narrative genre."--The Miami Herald

"As vivid, original and funny as any that contemporary U.S. literature has to offer."--Los Angeles Times

"The very best memoirs perfectly toe the line between heartbreak and humor, and Shteyngart does just that."--Esquire

"Touching, insightful . . . [Shteyngart] nimbly achieves the noble Nabokovian goal of letting sentiment in without ever becoming sentimental."--The Washington Post

"[Shteyngart is] a successor to no less than Saul Bellow and Philip Roth."--The Christian Science Monitor



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Random House, Inc.

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST NONFICTION BOOKS OF THE YEAR BYTIME • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NEWSDAY • A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Washington Post • NPR • The Atlantic • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • The Economist • The Guardian • Publishers Weekly • Kirkus Reviews • BookPage • The Telegraph • The Independent • The Irish Times • Financial Review(Australia)

After three acclaimed novels, Gary Shteyngart 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.

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 wrote his first novel, Lenin and His Magical Goose, and his grandmother paid him a slice of cheese for every page.

In the late 1970s, world events changed Igor's life. Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev made a deal: exchange 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 from the Soviet Union was equivalent to stumbling off a monochromatic cliff and landing in a pool of pure Technicolor.

Shteyngart's loving but mismatched parents dreamed that he would become a lawyer or at least a "conscientious toiler" on Wall Street, something their distracted son was simply not cut out to do. Fusing English and Russian, his mother created the termFailurchka--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 writer, at being a boyfriend, and, most important, at being a worthwhile human being.

Swinging between a Soviet home life and American aspirations, Shteyngart found himself living 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.

SHORTLISTED FOR THE SPEAR'S BOOK AWARD IN MEMOIR • LONGLISTED FOR THE JQ-WINGATE LITERARY PRIZE

"Hilarious and moving . . . The army of readers who love Gary Shteyngart is about to get bigger."--The New York Times Book Review

"A memoir for the ages . . . brilliant and unflinching."--Mary Karr

"Dazzling . . . a rich, nuanced memoir . . . It's an immigrant story, a coming-of-age story, a becoming-a-writer story, and a becoming-a-mensch story, and in all these ways it is, unambivalently, a success."--Meg Wolitzer, NPR

"Literary gold . . . bruisingly funny."--Vogue

"A giant success."--Entertainment Weekly



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