You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.

X

Welcome to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

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

'A Dog's Purpose' producers respond to video of possible abuse, says German shepherd is fine
'A Dog's Purpose' producers respond to video of possible abuse, says German shepherd is fine

Video that emerged Wednesday of a German shepherd dog named Hercules was quickly called into question by some viewers. Celebrity gossip site TMZ obtained video from the set of the upcoming film "A Dog's Purpose," that some viewers may find disturbing. It shows Hercules struggling with a person who appears to be a trainer trying to get the...
Disney video appears to confirm theory that every Pixar movie is related
Disney video appears to confirm theory that every Pixar movie is related

One of the longest-enduring fan theories about movies is that in the Disney Pixar universe, all the films are related to each other. One theory by film reviewer Jon Negroni, aptly named, "The Pixar Theory," goes so far as to say that all Pixar movies take place within the same universe. The A.V. Club reported that, according to a video posted...
Madame Tussauds in London unveils Trump wax figure
Madame Tussauds in London unveils Trump wax figure

Other Madame Tussauds locations also have Trump wax figures on display, including Washington, D.C., Orlando and New York, according to The Telegraph.
Sanctuary show to focus on Great Women of Gospel
Sanctuary show to focus on Great Women of Gospel

Contact this contributing writer at bturner004@woh.rr.com. A Springfield native will pay tribute to the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement in song. Lauren Kelley will take on the great women of gospel music at the next Sanctuary Series concert, 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22, at High Street United Methodist Church. The concert replaces...
Michelle Stitzlein sheds new light on recyclable items
Michelle Stitzlein sheds new light on recyclable items

Contact this contributing writer at bturner004@woh.rr.com. What you throw out today, Michelle Stitzlein may turn into art tomorrow. What you consider recyclable, she may hang on a gallery wall. The Springfield Museum of Art’s McGregor Gallery will have the proof when “Industrial Nature: Works by Michelle Stitzlein” premieres with...
More Stories