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Gary Shteyngart

New York Times-bestselling author of Little Failure, Super Sad True Love Story, Absurdistan, and Our County Friends

  • About Gary Shteyngart

    Author of the critically acclaimed knockout novels The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, Absurdistan, and Super Sad True Love Story, Russian-born Gary Shteyngart has risen to the top of the fiction world. His book trailers are viral hits and his collection of blurbs has earned him the tongue-in-cheek title of “master blurber”.

    His New York Times bestselling memoir, Little Failure, is a candid, witty, and deeply poignant account of his life so far. He shares his American immigrant experience, moving back and forth through time and memory with self-deprecating humor, moving insights, and literary bravado. His latest novel, Our Country Friends, which follows a group of friends isolating together for six months during the pandemic, is a powerful story about friendship.

    Off the page, Shteyngart is a masterful storyteller recounting his life as a Lenin-loving, ratty-fur-overcoat-wearing child to his anxiety-attack-prone twenties in New York.  As a speaker, Shteyngart explores what it means to be an immigrant, a son, an American, a grown-up, and a writer.

    Shteyngart’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, Travel + Leisure, Esquire, GQ, The New York Times Magazine, and many other publications, and his books have been translated into 26 languages. Absurdistan was chosen as one of the ten best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review and Time magazine. He was named a Granta Best Young American Novelist and a New Yorker “Best Writer Under 40.” His latest book, Lake Success, was a National bestseller and was included in the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2018.

  • Speaking Topics

    An Evening With Gary Shteyngart

    An evening with Gary Shteyngart is an evening of social commentary, candid talk and true hilarity. Gary reads from any selected work and then opens the floor to a Q&A session.

  • Video

  • Praise for Gary Shteyngart


    Gary Shteyngart’s visit to our campus was absolutely blurbworthy: the afternoon he spent with our students talking about writing and the writing life was at once madcap and sensible, waggish and thoughtful, left-handed and right. I laughed, I cried, it was better than Cats and that one book of his I didn’t like as much as the others. Oh, and my students listened, and learned.

    College of Charleston

    Gary Shteyngart is a memorable performer. He’s sincere to the point of bravery when discussing his experience of growing up a poor Russian immigrant in Ronald Reagan’s ultra materialistic America of the 1980’s. At the same time he pulls from a deep well of smart, black humor, drawing loud, spontaneous, and unrestrained laughter from the string of my philosophy professors in the back row. From his own formative experiences, to globalization, to Stalinism, and much more, Shteyngart tackles serious issues in a movingly vulnerable voice that had us cracking up at every turn. I knew as I left the auditorium that I’d be reading every bit of his writing that I could get my hands on, hopefully for a long time to come. Living artists of this caliber are rare creatures. Go and see him if you can.

    Matt Rabon, Undergraduate, Philosophy major, College of Charleston

    Praise for Lake Success

    There’s life in the old road trip saga yet. That’s just one of the many things that Gary Shteyngart’s spectacular, sprawling new novel Lake Success affirms. Throughout his career, Shteyngart has proven himself a cheeky comic daredevil, but never more so than in this novel. More than just an artistic tour de force, Lake Success aims and succeeds in saying something big about America today. Shteyngart, after all, immigrated with his parents to America as a child. Beneath his trademark satire lies the earnestness of someone who became a citizen. By the end of Lake Success Shteyngart should convince most of his readers of the enduring viability of the cliché’d ‘on the road’ plot. He should also convince us, if indeed we need convincing, of the enduring viability of our greatest national cliché. That is, the promise of America…[Shteyngart’s] comic view of the country is by turns compassionate and mournful, wickedly satirical and ultimately aspirational. He captures what one of his own favorite writers, Philip Roth, once called the ‘indigenous American berserk’. But he’s not in turn captured and disfigured by it. He imagines that there might yet be another fork in the road, another highway rest stop, another snoring American right beside you, dreaming their own great American dream.

    Maureen Corrigan, NPR

    [A] terrific new comic novel…Lake Success is often satiric, deploying the same sharp skills as Shteyngart’s earlier novels, like Super Sad True Love Story and The Russian Debutante’s Handbook: a cool control of tone, a Tom Wolfe-level eye for status markers, a knack for making the outrageous sound all too plausible. But Lake Success has depths. Barry might be the oblivious poster boy for white male privilege, but Shteyngart makes us feel for the people around him, especially Seema and their son.…Barry’s journey, and Seema’s and Shiva’s, take unexpected turns. Shteyngart’s satire raises timely questions about the state of our nation; his humane story of a family offers answers.

    The Tampa Bay Tribune

    [A] very funny, very acid satire…[protagonist] Barry's jaunt through the South and Southwest during the 2016 campaign is at once a social and political journey — Sullivan's Travels by way of Game Change…Shteyngart often shuttles between mocking Barry and pillorying him, which makes for lively writing either way. He's a study in outsize narcissism, a bubble that needs popping…[Shteyngart has] put a spotlight on how the game is rigged.

    The Minneapolis Star Tribune

    Shteyngart sets up Cohen's dilemma beautifully, and the scenes of Cohen's travels contain gorgeous writing…Lake Success frequently references Jack Kerouac's On the Road. Some readers might also be reminded of Lolita, or at least the parts in which Nabokov, like Shteyngart a Russian-born American writer, chronicles Humbert Humbert's journey across the country. It is in these scenes that Lake Success is at its most powerful and offers the most pointed observations of present-day America. When the driver of a bus Cohen has boarded orders a woman in a handicapped seat to move to the rear, Cohen remarks that the U.S. was ‘at heart, heavily regimented and militaristic. Despite our cowboy ethos, we were really all under orders, and anything we said or did in protest could be construed as 'talking back,' and we could all be thrown off the bus.’ That's what Lake Success is about: People struggling not to get thrown off the bus, as it were, and to maintain their power, however illusory it may be. It's a novel, in other words, about fear. Which makes it an apt work for this strange era in American history.

    The Houston Chronicle

    Good news, comrades. From one of our finest comic novelists comes a work with equal parts smarts and heart to go with the steady hilarity of its plot and prose. Lake Success, by Russian-born Gary Shteyngart, is surely the funniest book of the year, indeed one of the best overall — ultimately, a rueful mash note to the author's adopted country. Like comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, Shteyngart mocks us relentlessly for the fools that we are. Unlike Cohen, he loves us all the more…Barry is just the biggest nerd you ever met in your life, obviously somewhere on the spectrum himself, a relentlessly likable unlikeable character…The unexpectedly beautiful ending of this book…is what takes it over the top. Much earlier, in regard to his wife and son, Barry reflects that he doesn't ‘know how to harvest love out of sorrow.’ He doesn't completely figure it out, but he comes a long, long way.


    Shteyngart’s storytelling is… electric in its suspense and mordant hilarity; his characters are intriguingly and affectingly complex, and, while the action never stops, he still digs deeply into our perceptions of self and family, lies and truth, ambition and success, greed and generosity, love and betrayal, and, most touchingly, what we deem normal and how we respond to differences. Lake Success is a big, busy, amusing, needling, and outraging novel, one to revel in and argue with, a nervy and chewy choice for book discussions…. Shteyngart is a writer of empathic imagination, ultimately steering this bristling, provocative, sharply comedic, yet richly compassionate novel toward enlightenment and redemption.

    Booklist (Starred Full-page Review)

    Shteyngart’s latest is a hilarious, melancholic, and rapier-sharp tale for our times.

    Library Journal (Starred Review)

    As good as anything we’ve seen from this author: smart, relevant, fundamentally warm-hearted, hilarious of course, and it has a great ending.

    Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

    [Gary] Shteyngart does slapstick as well as ever, but he stakes out new terrain in the expert way he develops his characters’ pathos. . . . [Lake Success is] a stylish, big-hearted novel. Shteyngart made his name as a sharp satirist, and he’ll undoubtedly widen his appeal with this effort.

    Publishers Weekly

    Gary Shteyngart has given us a trip through the American wasteland—from the people who have too little to the people who have too much. Incredibly smart, incredibly funny, incredibly tragic, and therefore incredibly human, this is the perfect novel for these dysfunctional times.

    Nathan Hill

    In Lake Success, Gary Shteyngart hears America perfectly: its fatuity, its poignant lament, its boisterous self-loathing. Its heartbeat. Reading him sometimes makes me want to scream—with recognition and with pure hilarity.

    Richard Ford

    Lake Success takes us on an unforgettable road trip through an America that’s ominously divided, wildly diverse, and weirdly familiar. Gary Shteyngart writes about money and marriage with brutal honesty, virtuoso wit, and stubborn compassion for his deeply flawed but still somehow lovable characters.

    Tom Perrotta

    Praise for Little Failure

    I fully expected Gary Shteyngart’s memoir of his search for love and sex in a Russian-Jewish-Queens-Oberlin upbringing to be as hilarious and indecorous and exact as it turns out to be; what I wasn’t entirely prepared for was for a book so soulful and pained in its recounting of the feints and false starts and, well, little failures of family love. Portnoy meets Chekhov meets Shteyngart! What could be better?

    Adam Gopnik

    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

    Praise for Super Sad True Love Story

    Gary Shteyngart’s wonderful new novel, Super Sad True Love Story, is a supersad, superfunny, superaffecting performance — a book that not only showcases the ebullient satiric gifts…but that also uncovers his abilities to write deeply and movingly about love and loss and mortality.

    Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

    With Shteyngart’s nutty knack for tangy language, it’s as if Vladimir Nabokov rewrote 1984.

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