breaking news

Mechanicsburg man accused of raping 2 young kids

His parents called him their “Little Failure”


There has been a thread circulating lately on Facebook in which devoted readers ask one another to name the 10 books that have been the most influential in their lives. Having been asked - I really cannot respond.

So many great books, so many wonderful writers. Where would I begin?

I’m frequently asked to name my favorite book or favorite writer. Once again I cannot begin to narrow it down to just one all-time favorite.

All the time I could expend in making these decisions is better spent by simply reading more books. So that’s what I’ll do instead. Read.

Every four years Gary Shteyngart publishes another book. It’s tempting to call him my favorite author. Shteyngart’s three previous books - “The Russian Debutante’s Handbook” (2002), “Absurdistan” (2006), and “Super Sad True Love Story” (2010) - were all novels. Last year I heard that he was writing a memoir. I couldn’t wait to read it.

The author was born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in the former Soviet Union. When young Gary was 7 years old, his family was allowed to leave the USSR and move to the United States. This occurred during the Carter Administration. A diplomatic swap of sorts had been made; many Jewish citizens of the USSR were allowed to emigrate after it was agreed to ship the Soviets large quantities of our surplus grain.

Shteyngart’s novels are rambunctiously humorous. Each one seems to contain autobiographical elements from the author’s life. In his new memoir, “Little Failure,” the author clues his readers in to many of the life experiences that ended up surfacing in his fiction.

If you are a fan of his previous work be warned though. While there is plenty of his usual self deprecating humor in this memoir it is toned down quite a bit. Here’s why: the author is an only child and this is very much his family history. There’s a lot in here about his mother, father, and grandmothers.

He has an excellent memory. He recalls things that happened before the family moved to Queens, New York. He has been making regular trips back to Russia to refresh his memories. Apparently both of his parents were somewhat nervous to know their son would be writing about their personal lives.

He takes us along on this expedition. He was a sickly, timid child with terrible asthma. There were significant dramas in his parents’ marriage. The son found himself becoming an intermediary whenever his parents were fighting.

While his father didn’t see how becoming a writer could ever promise him much of a future, Gary’s grandmothers were very supportive. When he was still in Leningrad one grandmother would give Gary a slice of cheese whenever the boy completed another page in the book he was writing at age 6.

“Little Failure” follows the jagged trek of an insecure youth who only wanted to be loved. He went from being the second most hated kid at his Hebrew school to winning a scholarship to Oberlin, where he acquired the moniker Scary Gary.

He admits he did crazy things. Extensive psychoanalysis has helped. A famous novelist became his angel by helping Gary to land his first book deal. This “Little Failure” deserves to be a huge success. Maybe some day soon his parents will actually read it.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Springfield Entertainment

Shawn Mendes to headline return of ‘MTV Unplugged’
Shawn Mendes to headline return of ‘MTV Unplugged’

“MTV Unplugged” is returning to television, and Shawn Mendes will be the first singer to appear on the show, Variety reported. Mendes will appear in the season premiere in a performance shot at Los Angeles’ Theater at Ace Hotel. The show will air on Sept. 8, Variety reported. Mendes currently holds the No. 1 spot in Top 40 radio...
Katy Perry reschedules Columbus show in Sept.
Katy Perry reschedules Columbus show in Sept.

Katy Perry is kicking off her latest tour close to home, but due to “unavoidable production delays,” the show has been rescheduled. “Witness: The Tour” announced it would play its first US date on Sept. 7, 2017 at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio. But a recent tweet from the Schottenstein Center announced...
Concerts near and a short-drive away to get on your radar
Concerts near and a short-drive away to get on your radar

Tickets are on sale at the individual venues and all Ticketmaster outlets, except where noted. Banker’s Life Fieldhouse 125 Pennsylvania St., Indianapolis www.bankerslifefieldhouse.com, 317-917-2727 Recently announced: Harry Styles, June 27; Ed Sheeran, Sept. 8; Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, Oct. 7; Janet Jackson, Nov. 26; Katy Perry, Dec...
Your complete guide to all the festivals happening in Dayton this weekend
Your complete guide to all the festivals happening in Dayton this weekend

You know you’re in the prime of summer when you actually have to choose between all the different festivals happening on the weekend.  Luckily, you have us to make it easy for you. Here’s a complete rundown of all the festivals going on in the Dayton area this weekend.  >> Stay in the know: sign up for our...
Springfield Art Museum to showcase the work of famous Ohio painter
Springfield Art Museum to showcase the work of famous Ohio painter

A window into time through the works of an artistic pioneer will be the focus of the Springfield Museum of Art’s next exhibition. “Faces of the Heartland: James R. Hopkins” showcases the work of one of the art world’s first regionalist painters and an Ohio native highlighted by his figural and portrait works of the residents...
More Stories