Cart

The Russian Debutante's Handbook PDF, ePub eBook


Hot Best Seller
Title: The Russian Debutante's Handbook
Author: Gary Shteyngart
Publisher: Published April 29th 2002 by Riverhead Trade
ISBN: 9781573229883
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

210817.The_Russian_Debutante_s_Handbook.pdf

In order to read or download eBook, you need to create FREE account.
eBook available in PDF, ePub, MOBI and Kindle versions


reward
How to download?
FREE registration for 1 month TRIAL Account.
DOWNLOAD as many books as you like (Personal use).
CANCEL the membership at ANY TIME if not satisfied.
Join Over 150.000 Happy Readers.


The Russian Debutante's Handbook introduces Vladimir Girshkin, one of the most original and unlikely heroes of recent times. The twenty-five-year-old unhappy lover to a fat dungeon mistress, affectionately nicknamed "Little Failure" by his high-achieving mother, Vladimir toils his days away as a lowly clerk at the bureaucratic Emma Lazarus Immigrant Absorption Society. Whe The Russian Debutante's Handbook introduces Vladimir Girshkin, one of the most original and unlikely heroes of recent times. The twenty-five-year-old unhappy lover to a fat dungeon mistress, affectionately nicknamed "Little Failure" by his high-achieving mother, Vladimir toils his days away as a lowly clerk at the bureaucratic Emma Lazarus Immigrant Absorption Society. When a wealthy but psychotic old Russian war hero appears, Vladimir embarks on an adventure of unrelenting lunacy that takes us from New York's Lower East Side to the hip frontier wilderness of Prava--the Eastern European Paris of the nineties. With the help of a murderous but fun-loving Russian mafioso, Vladimir infiltrates the Prava expat community and launches a scheme as ridiculous as it is brilliant. Bursting with wit, humor, and rare insight, The Russian Debutante's Handbook is both a highly imaginative romp and a serious exploration of what it means to be an immigrant in America.

30 review for The Russian Debutante's Handbook

  1. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    $1.99 today.... Shetyngart's debut novel is pretty funny. Vladimir Girshin, is lovable and comical as a Russian-Jewish immigrant....as are all the characters. Even the characters you don't like --are so stereotyped--you begin to like them too. Tongue-and-cheek stabs at political parties, and different nationalities. Guilty pleasure reading! If you like Philip Roth ... and other Shteyngart books... no reason you wouldn't enjoy this too -- when you're in the mood for a walk on the crazy & wacky $1.99 today.... Shetyngart's debut novel is pretty funny. Vladimir Girshin, is lovable and comical as a Russian-Jewish immigrant....as are all the characters. Even the characters you don't like --are so stereotyped--you begin to like them too. Tongue-and-cheek stabs at political parties, and different nationalities. Guilty pleasure reading! If you like Philip Roth ... and other Shteyngart books... no reason you wouldn't enjoy this too -- when you're in the mood for a walk on the crazy & wacky side!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Antof9

    From the back of the book: "Breezily hilarious." -New York Magazine "Blisteringly funny." -Salon.com "Remarkable." -New York Observer "As funny and wicked as Waugh." -Time "Brilliant." -Harper's Bazaar "Terrifically charming." -Vanity Fair "A wholly original delight." -Entertainment Weekly "Energetic, sparkling." -Los Angeles Times "Not to be missed." -The Wall Street Journal Really? Seriously? Is it possible that this book is the author's own Cagliostro? Is it possible that all the lovers of this book (it won the From the back of the book: "Breezily hilarious." -New York Magazine "Blisteringly funny." -Salon.com "Remarkable." -New York Observer "As funny and wicked as Waugh." -Time "Brilliant." -Harper's Bazaar "Terrifically charming." -Vanity Fair "A wholly original delight." -Entertainment Weekly "Energetic, sparkling." -Los Angeles Times "Not to be missed." -The Wall Street Journal Really? Seriously? Is it possible that this book is the author's own Cagliostro? Is it possible that all the lovers of this book (it won the Stephen Crane First Fiction Award, it's "notable" to the New York Times and the American Library Association, it's one of Entertainment Weekly's Best Books of the Year) are doing exactly what Vladimir describes the "in-crowd" doing when "the next best thing" comes along? All the book reviewers decided this is the next best thing, so they all gave rave reviews, and now *all* of the literary world believes it is. So it must be. Except . . . I didn't really much like it. Does that make me an idiot? Or one of those people like Morgan, who doesn't know how to be cool? hmmm . . . There were certainly parts of this book that I enjoyed and/or found fascinating. A linguist at heart, I love books loaded with non-English words, phrases, locations and names. With an immigrant father (from Holland), a Polish sister-in-law, parents who lived in Ukraine for 2 years, Jewish great-grandparents, a much-loved trip to Prague and Poland two springs ago, and living in the Midwest for the last 12 years, I'm the perfect audience for this book. And yet, I still didn't really "get" it. Some of the flashes of brilliance included the social ladder and how immigrants from different countries view each other and their fellow Americans: Roberta to Baobab, "Peasant!" she shouted back, slamming a bathroom door behind her. "Sicilian peasant!" "What? Come again?" Baobab turned in the direction of the kitchen and the breakables. "My grandfather was a parliamentarian before Mussolini! You Staten Island whore!" And then Baobab describes Laszlo, who is stealing his girlfriend: "No, I assure you, this Laszlo's quite the barbarian. He has that international odor. And his personal pronouns are a mess. . ." Later, alpha and beta immigrants are explained, which is actually fascinating. But it's not enough to carry this book. A particularly entertaining phrase recurred again and again throughout the book. I smirked every time. Every time the city of Prava comes up, it's thusly: "Prava, the Paris of the 90s". This tickled me. It is these humorous things that kept me reading. The biznesmenski lunch was another. By the author's descriptions, we know that he knows "of whom he speaks" (or writes, in this case). Another account I couldn't pass up: "The Groundhog kissed Vladimir on both cheeks and then presented his own pock-marked ones. Vladimir closed his eyes and uttered a ridiculous "Mwa!" with each kiss. With the male Eastern European love overture complete, Vladimir was allowed to take his seat. . ." Some of the reviewer's comments in the front of the book talk of Vladimir, the hero, but I didn't get that from him. I felt sorry for him the entire book. I also wanted to punch him a few times, but that was taken care of for me. Perhaps it boils down to his mother's "favorite bilingual nickname for him: Failurchka. Little Failure." Again, a clever turn of a phrase, but basically, this described him to a T, and made him unloveable as the main character. I had this overarching feeling that if this guy would just put as much effort into *actual* work as he did into dishonest work, he could actually do something. I didn't hate this book, but I didn't really like it either. And I kept wishing I was done with it. It's a cheap paperback written like a master. In fact, it's amazingly well-written, and one of the reviewers (inside the cover, I think) even makes a comment about this author's love for and command of the language. Which makes it all the more disappointing, unfortunately. It gave me some insight into my dad's life (as an immigrant to America at age 21), and there were parts that made me laugh.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I loved the language in this book - the weird, fresh phrases and the author's obvious fascination with English words, their sound and their usage. This seems to be a common thread in books by smart Russian/Eastern European men writing in English, though I haven't read enough of these authors to make a reliable generalization. The language was enough to carry me pretty far, but I felt that there wasn't much more to this book than that. The beginning was excellent - when Vladimir is working at a c I loved the language in this book - the weird, fresh phrases and the author's obvious fascination with English words, their sound and their usage. This seems to be a common thread in books by smart Russian/Eastern European men writing in English, though I haven't read enough of these authors to make a reliable generalization. The language was enough to carry me pretty far, but I felt that there wasn't much more to this book than that. The beginning was excellent - when Vladimir is working at a crappy desk job in New York and miserably failing his Russian-Jewish turned-suburban-Westchesterite parents. But once he goes to strike it rich in Prava, he pretty much stops being a human being. So sure, a lot of "wacky" and "zany" things happen to Vladimir, and much respect to Gary Shteyngart for actually making stuff up in a fiction book (despite having graduated from an MFA program), but sadly I just didn't care about most of it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Eveline Chao

    this was awesome and clever and hilarious. i described it to someone as hipster nabokov, which might sound off-putting, & there are parts that are SO clever and witty and hip that it verges close to making you start to hate it for its cleverness, but in the end it managed to keep me on its side. it was also witty enough to make me do really dorky things like transcribe a couple lines i liked. here they be: "Real humor is not supposed to be funny," Baobab said. "It's supposed to be tragic, lik this was awesome and clever and hilarious. i described it to someone as hipster nabokov, which might sound off-putting, & there are parts that are SO clever and witty and hip that it verges close to making you start to hate it for its cleverness, but in the end it managed to keep me on its side. it was also witty enough to make me do really dorky things like transcribe a couple lines i liked. here they be: "Real humor is not supposed to be funny," Baobab said. "It's supposed to be tragic, like the Marx Brothers." All in all, Vladimir's American dreams formed a curious arc. During adolescence he dreamed of acceptance. In his brief days at college he dreamed of love. After college, he dreamed of a rather improbable dialectic of both love *and* acceptance. And now, with love and acceptance finally in the bag, he dreamed of money. What fresh tortures would await him next? The Groundhog suddenly looked serious. "Volodya, let me speak from the heart. You and Kostya are the future of this organization. I see that now. Before it was fun, sure, run around, blow up a few diners, cut off some dicks, but we got to get serious. This is the nineties. We're in this . . . 'informational age' . . . we need 'Americanisms' and 'globalisms.' Do you know where I'm coming from?" What was it with these disconsolate young men? Was being the cornerstone of Prava's elite not enough for them? Did they expect to lead meaningful lives as well?

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    This book was a hoot. Shteyngart has a wonderful sense of the absurd, and his penchant for eccentric characters is the main selling point of this romp in New York and an Eastern European city that has all the chaotic vibrancy and despair of any city emerging from behind the Iron Curtain. Well worth it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I feel like I've been reading a different book toeveryone else?! 'Satire of hipsters'?- maybe for about 10 pages, the rest just descended into the "comic" failures of Vladimir in the crime world... I was literally forcing myself to read up to certain pages, so in the end I quit. To be honest, I was turned off from the very first nine pages which were full of people saying how good the book was. If the book is so good, why does it need that? Very suspicious... I'm so disappointed, I have been want I feel like I've been reading a different book toeveryone else?! 'Satire of hipsters'?- maybe for about 10 pages, the rest just descended into the "comic" failures of Vladimir in the crime world... I was literally forcing myself to read up to certain pages, so in the end I quit. To be honest, I was turned off from the very first nine pages which were full of people saying how good the book was. If the book is so good, why does it need that? Very suspicious... I'm so disappointed, I have been wanting to read this book for about 3 years and I finally gave up waiting for the library to buy a copy (good call library as it turns out) and got one from amazon... I wasted my very thinly spread money on such a terrible book, why why why?

  7. 5 out of 5

    shiv

    i found this tome to be fun...but vladimir girshkin is so unsympathetic a character, i found it difficult to really enjoy. i get the feeling that i'm supposed to see him as a farce, or a transatlantic everyman who happens to have amazing adventures...mostly i just see him as shallow and afraid. i particularly loathe the judgmental inner monologues, wherein he weighs people's coolness quotients by just how high they rank on the douchebag scale. i know it's supposed to be satire; i've just met too i found this tome to be fun...but vladimir girshkin is so unsympathetic a character, i found it difficult to really enjoy. i get the feeling that i'm supposed to see him as a farce, or a transatlantic everyman who happens to have amazing adventures...mostly i just see him as shallow and afraid. i particularly loathe the judgmental inner monologues, wherein he weighs people's coolness quotients by just how high they rank on the douchebag scale. i know it's supposed to be satire; i've just met too many people like girshkin. though The Groundhog is kind of cool, in his scary, branch-whipped kind of way.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    I read Gary Shteyngart's debut novel at fever pitch because I started it late for a reading group discussion. Fever pitch was the correct approach; it matches the pace of the story. In the grand tradition of immigrant novels, Vladimir Girshkin is a young man of Russian descent adrift in a sea of confusion. He works at an immigrant resettlement agency in New York City, making non-profit wages. His girlfriend is a dominatrix by night, his father is an MC who scams Medicare, and his mother-well I ne I read Gary Shteyngart's debut novel at fever pitch because I started it late for a reading group discussion. Fever pitch was the correct approach; it matches the pace of the story. In the grand tradition of immigrant novels, Vladimir Girshkin is a young man of Russian descent adrift in a sea of confusion. He works at an immigrant resettlement agency in New York City, making non-profit wages. His girlfriend is a dominatrix by night, his father is an MC who scams Medicare, and his mother-well I never figured out exactly what it was she did but she was trying to beat the Russian immigrant odds in the 1990s by going straight. I suppose the novel isn't for everyone. The two reading group members who showed up at the meeting at least tried but "couldn't get into it." I loved it the way I loved Saul Bellow's The Adventures of Augie March; the way I loved Chang-rae Lee's Native Speaker; the way I loved Isaac Asimov's autobiography In Memory Yet Green. The book is part of a huge story called "How I Became an American" fraught with identity crises, family strife, and hilarity. The post-Soviet Union Russian criminal element is well represented but done with heavy sarcasm. A good part of the story is set in Prague, that city's celebrated Baroque soul swamped in the tatters of two world wars and one Cold War. Shteyngart's Eastern European characters are raised to a level of slapstick often seen in film but rarely in novels. It was not clear to me whether Vladimir actually found himself or love or even a career, but he found safety. Just writing this now it occurs to me that safety is the rarest commodity of all for an immigrant. Rather than riches or enough to eat or religious freedom, safety is in the end what the displaced person craves most.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    The Russian Debutante's Handbook by Gary Shteyngart is a humorous fantasy about a Russian immigrant who is trying to find himself, and usually finds himself in hot water. The hero/narrator is one Vladimir Girshkin, who finds himself in a dead-end job and an unsatisfying relationship. He dreams for something better, but the advice of his friends leads him, on one hand, to Florida, where he infuriates a Catalan mobster by refusing to be his catamite. Then -- on the advice of a highly suspect Russi The Russian Debutante's Handbook by Gary Shteyngart is a humorous fantasy about a Russian immigrant who is trying to find himself, and usually finds himself in hot water. The hero/narrator is one Vladimir Girshkin, who finds himself in a dead-end job and an unsatisfying relationship. He dreams for something better, but the advice of his friends leads him, on one hand, to Florida, where he infuriates a Catalan mobster by refusing to be his catamite. Then -- on the advice of a highly suspect Russian named Rybakov -- he goes to the Stolovan Republic (a kind of generic east European country on the model of the Czech Republic) where Rybakov's son, the Groundhog, is in charge of the local rackets. In Prava, capital of Stolovan, Vladimir and the Groundhog set up a highly successful pyramid scheme, until the Groundhog turns on him. In the end, he ends up where I began, in Cleveland, Ohio, married to his American terrorist girlfriend he met in Prava:Downtown Cleveland. Its three major skyscrapers standing above the cosmopolitan wreckage of factories aching to be nightclubs and chain restaurants; the squat miniskyscrapers that look as if they had been cut short in their prime; the hopeful grandeur of municipal buildings built at a time when the transport of hogs and heifers promised the city a commercial elegance that had expired with the animals... But, somehow, this city has persevered against the unkind seasons and the storms that gather speed over Lake Erie. Somehow, Cleveland has survived, with her grey banner unfurled -- the banner of Archangelsk and Detroit, of Kharkov and Liverpool -- the banner of men and women who would settle the most ignominious parts of the earth, and there, with the hubris born neither of faith nor ideology but biology and longing, bring into the world their whimpering replacements.Yep, that's Cleveland, all right-- except I don't know about the hogs and heifers. More like car parts and machine tools, but Shteyngart's mostly right. This is a very funny book, but it tends to get goofy in parts. What keeps it worth reading is Shteyngart's wild imagination in depicting the American and the Eastern European scenes. His Vladimir ranges from a schlemiel to a picaro as we progress through his efforts to find a love and a life in a strange land, wherever it may be.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

    "A knowledgeable Russian lazing around in the grass, sniffing clover and munching on boysenberries, expects that at any minute the forces of history will drop by and discreetly kick him in the ass. A knowledgeable Jew in a similar position expects history to spare any pretense and kick him directly in the face. A Russian Jew (knowledgeable or not), however, expects both history and a Russian to kick him in the ass, the face, and every other place where a kick can be reasonably lodged. Vladimir u "A knowledgeable Russian lazing around in the grass, sniffing clover and munching on boysenberries, expects that at any minute the forces of history will drop by and discreetly kick him in the ass. A knowledgeable Jew in a similar position expects history to spare any pretense and kick him directly in the face. A Russian Jew (knowledgeable or not), however, expects both history and a Russian to kick him in the ass, the face, and every other place where a kick can be reasonably lodged. Vladimir understood this. His take on the matter was: Victim, stop lazing about in the grass." (347) The above is one of many apt descriptions offered up by this book of its protagonist, Russian-Jewish American Vladimir Girshkin, as it chronicles the misadventures of his WTF-post-liberal-arts-college years. True to over-the-top Shteyngart form, this book endeavors to take our slovenly hero across several continents, several business enterprises, and several GORGEOUS girlfriends (projection much, Gary?). In overcoming his timidity and the tightening leash of his overbearing mother, Vladimir finds the courage to leave his demoralizing nonprofit job and pseudo-dominatrix girlfriend Challah for a life with Fran and NYC's plaid-clad hipsterati. But as the costs of vintage clothing and countless bar tabs start to add up, Vladimir needs money. Like, thousands a month to live as a true hipster (you can only imagine just how much I appreciated this section). But, of course, everything goes awry, and slightly rape-ish, and only catapults Vladimir into an even more absurd business enterprise across the Atlantic in "the Paris of the '90s," the diamond-in-the-rough of the former Soviet bloc, Prava. Shteyngart always knows how to pack a sardonic punch, and this, his first novel, is no exception. With oh so much to love, my criticisms are almost moot. While reading, I sometimes felt as though Shteyngart was beating me over the head (or the ass, or the face) with Vladimir's feelings of displacement arising from his Russian-Jewish background. Yes, I realize this is, like, one of THE big points of the whole shebang. But, I occasionally found myself reading pages and pages of reiteration, seemingly just to drive into my puny brain that Vladimir does not belong anywhere. It was all beautifully written, of course, I didn't really mind, but it just seemed to lack the precision of his later works. This whole paragraph just sounds like I'm hatin' on the book for not being Super Sad True Love Story, so feel free to ignore it all. In short, I have read all of Shteyngart's works at this point, in reverse order, and never once has he disappointed me. His writing is always poignant and insightful, and I look forward to whatever he decides to do next.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Corey

    I found a dusty copy of this book lying unattended to on my mother's bookshelf, sandwiched between Updike and Dickens, believe it or not. I believe what drew me in was a blurb on the back comparing Shtyngart to Saul Below. Indeed, the plot is analogous to The Adventures of Augie March (and in fact, I think there are a couple of allusions to that great novel in Shtyngart's novel), but if you go into this one looking for something akin to the beauty and flawlessness of Bellow's prose, you'll be dis I found a dusty copy of this book lying unattended to on my mother's bookshelf, sandwiched between Updike and Dickens, believe it or not. I believe what drew me in was a blurb on the back comparing Shtyngart to Saul Below. Indeed, the plot is analogous to The Adventures of Augie March (and in fact, I think there are a couple of allusions to that great novel in Shtyngart's novel), but if you go into this one looking for something akin to the beauty and flawlessness of Bellow's prose, you'll be disappointed, as I was. The Russian Debutante's Handbook is weighed down by cliches and characters of shallow depth (Morgan and Cohen come to mind). That said, a more apt comparison might pit Shtyngart against Gogol. The author, like his Russian predecessor, clearly has a knack for satire, for establishing the absurdity of this world, for mourning a loss of culture, and for warning against getting caught up in feeling superior to it; we're all fools, after all. This is a fun read, and I found myself laughing out loud more than a few times, but in the end, Shtyngart made it longer than it needed to be, and mistakenly tried to turn it into something of a thriller towards the very end (I refer, of course, to the 20+ page car-chase in the last chapter). Maybe I came into this one with the bar set too high, but I do think this is quite an accomplishment for a first novel and I am curious to read his next one.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Hudson

    I bought this for 25 cents at a yard sale, and what a score that was... Steyngart’s humor bubbles up naturally from the ground, only fully carbonated and lime-flavored... I’ve seldom read a novel that gets underway so fast. He hits you right away with a barrage of breezy, antic, cutting observations, all cleverly slotted within a breakneck plot. (For relief from the pace, the narrator has a wistful and weary side; and there's an undercurrent of geopolitical awareness to also help temper the hype I bought this for 25 cents at a yard sale, and what a score that was... Steyngart’s humor bubbles up naturally from the ground, only fully carbonated and lime-flavored... I’ve seldom read a novel that gets underway so fast. He hits you right away with a barrage of breezy, antic, cutting observations, all cleverly slotted within a breakneck plot. (For relief from the pace, the narrator has a wistful and weary side; and there's an undercurrent of geopolitical awareness to also help temper the hyperactivity.) Within a couple of chapters, I was mentally shelving RBH alongside other favorites such as Waugh’s Scoop, Pynchon’s Lot 49, Roth's Portnoy, Updike’s Beck is Back, Bellow’s Rain King, Waugh’s Scoop, Lodge’s Nice Work, Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tuckova

    I feel like I went on a date with this guy that everybody said I would totally love, and I don't want to be rude or anything but I'm really having a not-fun evening with him, I don't get the appeal, he seems like pretty much every other self-absorbed type telling his long long and not very interesting story (OH DOES YOUR MOTHER EXPECT TOO MUCH SUCCESS FROM YOU HOW SPECIAL AND UNIQUE TELL ME MORE), and I realized around page 250 out of 400 or so that as the book is not a human being it is not at I feel like I went on a date with this guy that everybody said I would totally love, and I don't want to be rude or anything but I'm really having a not-fun evening with him, I don't get the appeal, he seems like pretty much every other self-absorbed type telling his long long and not very interesting story (OH DOES YOUR MOTHER EXPECT TOO MUCH SUCCESS FROM YOU HOW SPECIAL AND UNIQUE TELL ME MORE), and I realized around page 250 out of 400 or so that as the book is not a human being it is not at all a problem to just get up and walk away. The snorty ha-ha renaming of Prague was also not funny to me, and I think he bet a lot of his money on that. Cleverly disguising the Vltava as the Tavlata ... I don't have that funny bone, I guess.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Katrin

    As a former expatriate myself, I found this book to be comforting both in content and style. Being displaced in a foreign country is very amusing after the initial shock and confusion, the new country's idiosynchrasies clashing with your own. The reverse culture shock in coming back to the U.S. after being an expat in Europe is even more interesting than the original displacement, and this is observed and described in great detail and aptitude.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Four and a half stars. Highly funny, and as for the audiobook, Rider Strong (which is an awesome name) read it really well. In a part where they hire some DJ for their new super-pretentious dance club where horse tranquilizers are the new cocaine, as he is getting off the plane he yells, "MC Paavo in de haus!! In de pan-European 'hood! Got de Helsinki beat y'all can't fuck wif!" His accent was so hilarious that I kept rewinding to hear it again. I want to make it my new ring tone.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    The Russian Debutante's Handbook is Gary Shteyngart's first novel, but the third I encountered—the fourth, actually, if you count his memoir Little Failure. Having now read all of Shteyngart's books to date—Absurdistan and Super Sad True Love Story as well—I can see that this first deep shaft Shteyngart sank into the metaphorical mine of his memory has rougher edges than its successors, but the same manic energy went into its construction. They're all of a piece, really, these books of his, snaps The Russian Debutante's Handbook is Gary Shteyngart's first novel, but the third I encountered—the fourth, actually, if you count his memoir Little Failure. Having now read all of Shteyngart's books to date—Absurdistan and Super Sad True Love Story as well—I can see that this first deep shaft Shteyngart sank into the metaphorical mine of his memory has rougher edges than its successors, but the same manic energy went into its construction. They're all of a piece, really, these books of his, snapshots taken from only slightly different perspectives—tragicomic and adolescent, self-deprecating and self-flagellating, witty and absurd, all at least semi-autobiographical stories of a post-Soviet Jewish immigrant to America. Which is, nu, not so bad a thing after all, you know? With Shteyngart, at least, you know what you're getting... not gourmet fare, perhaps (and you should pardon yet another simile), but consistent, like fast food you pull over to devour in the parking lot just past the drive-thru because the bag they handed you smells so good. At any rate, The Russian Debutante's Handbook was just what I needed at the time, something a little... madcap, after finishing a much more serious novel that I found both amazing and "difficult to read without flinching." Vladimir Grishkin is Shteyngart's stand-in for The Russian Debutante's Handbook—born in Leningrad, raised in New York, and educated in the Midwest. As the novel begins in the summer of 1993, Vladimir is back in New York City, working as a junior clerk for the Emma Lazarus Immigrant Absorption Society, where he provides assistance to more recent and less fortunate Russian immigrants than himself. Vladimir lives in a cockroach-infested apartment with his girlfriend Challah (yes, like the bread), a BDSM professional who is introduced to us on p.4 as a "downcast, heavyset American girlfriend whose bright orange hair was strewn across his Alphabet City hovel as if a cadre of Angora rabbits had visited. A girlfriend whose sickly-sweet incense and musky perfume coated Vladimir's unwashed skin, perhaps to remind him of what he could expect on this, the night of his birthday: Sex." Oh, yeah, there's that... like every one of Shteyngart's protagonists thus far (and like Shteyngart himself to some extent, I suspect), Vladimir is obsessed with places to put his puckered purple pecker. He is at least serially monogamous, but our little Volodya (as Shteyngart notes, the diminutive of "Vladimir" is not "Vlad") tends to see the women in his life more... instrumentally, let's say, than as full-fledged friends or colleagues or, y'know, human beings. This perspective gets a little tiresome, to put it mildly. But if Vladimir's chauvinism is at all a forgivable obsession—and it's also true that Grishkin is both relatively aware of and self-deprecating about his shortcomings—it's also kinda funny to watch him fumble around every female he meets. There aren't many outright jokes in The Russian Debutante's Handbook, but there is a fair amount of humor. A few pages farther in, for example, Vladimir and Challah's little apartment gets a visit from a rather aggressive cockroach:The intruder crawled along the crests and ridges of their bed sheets the way a big-rig truck weaves along a mountain highway, then executed a great leap forward into Vladimir's pillow. It was really something! In Leningrad the roaches were small and lacked initiative. —p.31 Most of The Russian Debutante's Handbook, though, is set not in New York but in the Republic of Stolovaya—specifically, in Prava, its capital city, which in the 1990s seems poised to become a cultural center for American expatriates and European intellectuals. Prava's definitely not Prague, and Stolovaya is definitely not the Czech Republic—Vladimir's destination (after some rather entertaining contretemps lead to his abrupt departure from the States) bears much more of a relationship to Absurdistan, and never mind that they share no borders in this world or any other. Prava's most dominant landmark, for example, is the Left Foot, a gigantic sculptured boot that is the last vestige of "the world's tallest statue of Stalin" (p.204). The Foot is an inescapable reminder of Soviet occupation looming over Old Town, and a bone of contention between the Stolovan babushkas and the new biznesmenski—since the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, the country has also become a free-for-all for imported mafiya entrepreneurship, leading to a kind of three-cornered standoff with the more stolid Stolovan old guard and the forces of, you should pardon the expression, Western enlightenment. Vladimir himself is welcomed warmly by Prava's economic and cultural leaders alike—soon, in fact, it's plain to see that he is the Russian debutante of the title. The fun then becomes... waiting for the other shoe to drop (and seeing how quickly Volodya can scurry out from underneath). My opinion of The Russian Debutante's Handbook was further redeemed at the last minute by its final chapter (of the main narrative, that is—there is an Epilogue but it is brief and of no consequence). The epic chase scene in which this paragraph appears (carefully selected to be spoiler-free) had me laughing out loud:Nevertheless, the force of the impact steered the Trabant into the railing of the embankment. The Trabi, knowing a greater physical force when it crashed into one, bounced back into the street, saving Vladimir and his driver from a lapse into the river. A remarkable car, the Trabant! Such shyness and humility, such understated presence. Mother had always wanted Vladimir to marry a girl just like the Trabi. —p.465Ah, Volodechka, you should only be so lucky...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Will

    I had pretty high expectations going into reading The Russian Debutante’s Handbook. I read Super Sad True Love Story over the summer, and thought that Shteyngart’s writing in it was witty and direct, and his character development deeply humanizing. Lenny Abramov, the protagonist of Super Sad True Love Story, expresses his feelings so strongly and outwardly that it’s hard not to sympathize and identify with him. If Shteygart’s writing style were to be relatively constant between books then The Ru I had pretty high expectations going into reading The Russian Debutante’s Handbook. I read Super Sad True Love Story over the summer, and thought that Shteyngart’s writing in it was witty and direct, and his character development deeply humanizing. Lenny Abramov, the protagonist of Super Sad True Love Story, expresses his feelings so strongly and outwardly that it’s hard not to sympathize and identify with him. If Shteygart’s writing style were to be relatively constant between books then The Russian Debutante’s Handbook—which according to its jacket is “breezily hilarious”, “blisteringly funny”, “terrifically charming”, and “as deadpan and funny as the young Evelyn Waugh”—would at least be an enjoyable read. But, when it came down to it, I found the book and its humor to be pretty flat and tiresome. From the outset, Shteyngart races from character to character, setting to setting, irreverently poking fun at stereotypes while at the same time reinforcing them. And, while his satirizations are often valid, and his writing clever, the book feels tedious and smug as a result of them. Hipster Americans living in Prague? Ex-Soviet state gangsters? Wealthy, liberal New Yorkers? These are easy targets that Shteyngart really beats into the ground. Shteyngart is keenly aware of the legacy of immigrant fiction, and its default message. The protagonists, as expatriots of their birth country, can no longer identify with their home culture and people. Alternatively, however, as new members to a foreign society, they are not wholly assimilated, and remain on the boundaries of its culture—both foreign and familiar. Shteygart recognizes this tradition while at the same time using it as a means to tease both Russia (his birth country) and America (his immigrant home). He sardonically describes Vladimir Girshkin, the protagonist of The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, as “the best of both worlds. Historically, a little dangerous, but, for the most part, nicely tamed by Coca-Cola, blue-light specials, and the prospect of a quick pee during commercial breaks (409).” Shteyngart knows that while his—and Vladimir’s—position is both expansive and enabling, it is also restrictive. And, thus, as with everything else, he makes fun of it. What was most disappointing about The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, though, was its characters. It’s hard to enjoy a book where you don’t like any of the characters. And, it’s hard to like any of the characters when the author ridicules all of them. There is a decent amount of Lenny Abramov in Vladimir Girshkin. Like Lenny, Vladimir is the son of Russians Jews, striving to be part of a culture/group that he feels he can never wholly join. He is meek, insecure, and well-read. But, while Lenny is somewhat endearing, and soft, Vladimir is cruel and vindictive. He indiscriminately scams, uses, and lies to everyone, propelled by a feeling that he is owed something from the world by his in-between status. There’s so much energy in The Russian Debutante’s Handbook. You would be hard-pressed to count all of the exclamation points Shteyngart uses. But, in the end, this energy—while enough to carry the reader through the book—feels stagnant and hollow.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Octo

    Hmm... I think I might have enjoyed this book far less had I not been thrown into the (former) U.S.S.R. born immigrant community in Chicago for the brief period of time that I was. This book deals with all that interests me so much in that community - the courage to immigrate in the first place, the idealized American dream, the social disconnect that exists once immigrants arrive, the longing for for home, the misunderstanding of america, and the ultimate american question - what do you do when Hmm... I think I might have enjoyed this book far less had I not been thrown into the (former) U.S.S.R. born immigrant community in Chicago for the brief period of time that I was. This book deals with all that interests me so much in that community - the courage to immigrate in the first place, the idealized American dream, the social disconnect that exists once immigrants arrive, the longing for for home, the misunderstanding of america, and the ultimate american question - what do you do when you're down and out? But we're presented with more than just that in this book. There are all these crazy liberal artsy Americans heading to prague and forming their own little society there. Hell, they even pretend to understand, and actually act upon, social disconnects left by the disintegration of the USSR. The cold war was won, and people on both sides are fooled by the winner's propaganda - and they're prepared to act. Other plusses include highlighting differences between what we americans usually generically refer to as 'russians' and the bitter hatred and disconnect between segments of them, clearly illustrating the slippery slope created when one's morals are compromised, and genuinely funny depictions of eastern european immigrants in america and american 20 somethings in prague.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Janice

    IF YOU'RE GOING TO WRITE ABOUT PRAGUE, WRITE ABOUT PRAGUE! don't change a few letters, change a few names, turn alfonse mucha into someone else, but continue to refer to kafka as if you're forgetting this is supposed to be an imaginary place. what is this, CRACKED magazine? yes, i said CRACKED. not even MAD material, here. i wouldn't mind this annoyance if the book hadn't made me crazy in other ways. i can't stop reading a book if i'm far enough in, and unfortunately i didn't realize i hated this IF YOU'RE GOING TO WRITE ABOUT PRAGUE, WRITE ABOUT PRAGUE! don't change a few letters, change a few names, turn alfonse mucha into someone else, but continue to refer to kafka as if you're forgetting this is supposed to be an imaginary place. what is this, CRACKED magazine? yes, i said CRACKED. not even MAD material, here. i wouldn't mind this annoyance if the book hadn't made me crazy in other ways. i can't stop reading a book if i'm far enough in, and unfortunately i didn't realize i hated this until i was past that point of no return. everyone in this was a caricature that i couldn't care less about. the main character didn't seem like a character, more like a loose conglomeration of foul deeds and annoying opinions, floating around, bumping into each other and everyone else, often contradictory. caricature and satire and inconsistency are fine, if done well. this is not.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    I really loved this book. It is hilarious--I was laughing out loud from the first chapter. Set in the 1990s in New York City, the book is essentially a satire on hipster culture. I love it for that reason alone. But the story is good too! I'd offer a summary but I think it's difficult to explain without spoilers. All I can say is the story is a lot of fun. Definitely recommend it!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    Ten years after its publication, I wonder if any of the critics who breathed hot steam all over The Russian Debutante's Handbook now have morning-after second thoughts. Because I don't see where Shteyngart's first novel "tops Saul Bellow's for bounce and Philip Roth's for wit." Not even close. Granted, it's got all the properties of hot-commodity literary fiction. It's tidily crafted and smoothly written, an easy read and occasionally clever. It delivers chuckles but not a single revelation. Ther Ten years after its publication, I wonder if any of the critics who breathed hot steam all over The Russian Debutante's Handbook now have morning-after second thoughts. Because I don't see where Shteyngart's first novel "tops Saul Bellow's for bounce and Philip Roth's for wit." Not even close. Granted, it's got all the properties of hot-commodity literary fiction. It's tidily crafted and smoothly written, an easy read and occasionally clever. It delivers chuckles but not a single revelation. There's no pesky innovation or risk-taking. The finale is so choreographed it's got all the suspense of a Kenny G solo. Wanting to be both realistic and unique, to walk that line between post-9/11 realism and Pynchonian hijinks, it takes a semi-outlandish premise that fails at both realism and satirical exaggeration: it simply feels false. Maybe it'll be easier if I just bullet-point the tropes: 1. The too-unlikely hero. Protagonist Vladimir is inept, naive, and bumbling. Yet he masterminds scheme after winning scheme, usually on the fly, outsmarting seasoned villains at every turn. This works for the Marx Bros., but TRDH seems to want wackiness AND verisimilitude, and ends up compromising both. 2. The too-unlikely Lothario. Besides being inept, Vlad is soft, nebbishy, and mawkishly needy. Yet he somehow attracts -- at first sight -- two of the three most desirable women in the novel. The first one he meets when he's atrociously drunk; he delivers three clumsy lines and passes out. Based on this mighty first impression, the woman takes him home, leaves him alone in her pad, gives him her name and phone number, and invites him to a party as well as to meet her parents, all within a few hours. I've tried this maneuver and, believe me, it doesn't work. 3. NYC fixation. Okay, sure, write what you know. it's just time to move the hell out of Williamsburg. 4. Hipster-bashing. Was this ever fresh? Who needs reminded that hipster culture is solipsistic, shallow, and self-important? Is Shteyngart unaware that griping about hipsters is primarily a favorite pastime of other hipsters? 5. Multicultural street cred. An unexpected misfortune from tearing down the Wall was all these millennial U.S. writers streaming in to stripmine the former Soviet Union for fresh fictional foreigners. 6. Blatant name-dropping. In this case referencing Russian literary titans (and a limp Milan Kundera pun, for some reason), just in case anyone doubted the writer ever read anything serious. 7. A weirdly archaic yet faddish obsession with body type. Evil characters are corpulent blobs or slabs of granite; the shallow semi-evil are predatorily skinny. The good women are beautiful; the not-so-good are too thin and breastless or fat and dumpy. All characters in TRDH are straight out of USA Network central casting. 8. Abounding coincidences and implausibilities. Too numerous to count in TRDH. The protagonist meets everyone he needs to meet precisely when he needs to meet them. In the final chase an entire Olympus of gods orchestrates Vladimir's escape. By this point, coincidences are growing out of coincidences like warts on top of warts. I don't know. Maybe this all seemed new and refreshing in 2002. Maybe eight pages of critical acclaim raised my expectations a wee bit too high. Handbook sure is a cozy fit with Everything is Illuminated, Kapitoil, and And Then We Came to the End. But if this was the future of literary fiction ten years ago, I'm glad I didn't see it coming.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Moses Kilolo

    Somewhere in the middle of this book I wanted to hate it. For reasons unrelated to the book. Or the authorial style. Or the story. I just fell sick. Deep into the night, while the world around me was quietly asleep, I walked in and out of my room. It's 3. Now its 4. And shall it be 6 or 7 when the light is adequate. When Nairobi rises from its slumber. This pain. So terrible. (Perhaps I shouldn't say where, in my mortal body, the pain racked,scaring the shit off me. Easy to loose your body. Don' Somewhere in the middle of this book I wanted to hate it. For reasons unrelated to the book. Or the authorial style. Or the story. I just fell sick. Deep into the night, while the world around me was quietly asleep, I walked in and out of my room. It's 3. Now its 4. And shall it be 6 or 7 when the light is adequate. When Nairobi rises from its slumber. This pain. So terrible. (Perhaps I shouldn't say where, in my mortal body, the pain racked,scaring the shit off me. Easy to loose your body. Don't stuff it with suspect things!) Anyway, on to The Russian Debutante's Handbook. At the risk of a tainted, if somewhat unfair review. Considering the circumstances, if you know what I mean. "Everything will go right, if you should follow what mama says' Wrongly paraphrased, of course. But Vladimir Girshkin, this mid twenties American, Rushian, Jew... is under some serious pressure from his mama to perform. And back to his 'sweet' romantic life lies Challah, the ultimate source of his unhappiness. Undefined, I guess. What's up with all that K-Y! Then comes the day of his change. Say this aging Russian guy shows up at his work place, with a proposal of making him into 'something,'in exchange for something. The American Citizenship. Follow the usual second and third thought in Vladimir's mind. He's broke. His other woman is hard to sustain. Cash is scarce. His mind boils with lots of sums of making it all possible. Then come the weak spot and off Vladimir is gone to some place in Europe where he meets the man's son Groundhog. Skip review. Here my stomach is collecting the deepest and sharpest aspects of pain, telling me heaven is across the frontier. Just give up. And end, in hell.... So Vladimir arrives in Prava where he develops a grand scheme of defrauding Americans of their money. And the dude works it quite well with Groundhog and party. Soon they swim in money. Soon the world is at their feet. Soon its is all beginning to falling apart. And in the ugliness of it comes a girl who falls in love with a man reading a poem. The girl -Morgan. The guy - Vladimir. When Morgan meets the people who Valdmir is associating with, she is far from impressed. I visit the Chemist again. Perhaps those, what are they called? perhaps not the horse shit that comes into Prava from the states to fuck up "innocents"... i just need a damn pain killer. Back to Vladimir. Groundhog's father Rybokov is discovered not to be American, after all those letters to the New York Times. And now he is after Vladmir and his. And his son is equally pissed. So Vladimir world comes tumbling down. One more shot for the pain. Read. read to the end. Morgan is at home waiting. Growing within her is a baby. Vladimir's son. The boy Vladimir hopes will be, say, the right kind of American. Worst review ever penned by this hand. Whoever said pain can bring out the best in writers? Need some sleep. Have I reviewed this book? It is well written. It is detailed and at times funny, with a keen eye at the ever expanding possibility of the English language. It reminds me of cheap oh not cheap but popular, no, no, just some American movies featuring Russian Mafioso. Sleep.

  23. 4 out of 5

    E

    My ultimate credo: A story becomes literature when it transcends its genre. When it can seduce almost any reader, regardless of its plot, because the characters are so well crafted, the writing is seamlessly poetic, and nimble comedy keeps any tragedy from taking itself too seriously. Shteyngart's novel exceeds these expectations, having entranced a reader who previously found every mafia tale she'd ever encountered supremely nauseating. While a few classic features of mobster fiction can be fou My ultimate credo: A story becomes literature when it transcends its genre. When it can seduce almost any reader, regardless of its plot, because the characters are so well crafted, the writing is seamlessly poetic, and nimble comedy keeps any tragedy from taking itself too seriously. Shteyngart's novel exceeds these expectations, having entranced a reader who previously found every mafia tale she'd ever encountered supremely nauseating. While a few classic features of mobster fiction can be found scattered among the jokes, the twists, and the multi-cultural philosophy, there is no bitter after-taste of a formula having been followed. Instead there is the sensation of satisfaction from knowing you've just been converted. Absurdity is quickly revealed as the writer's greatest strength and with it he exhibits the importance not of a protagonist with whom we must completely identify but of one who ballet dances along the razor's edge between amusing and annoying, sympathetic and selfish. When you find yourself willing to fight tooth and nail for an admitted semi-idiot who just ten pages ago was committing crimes all too familiar to you from the receiving end, and ten pages earlier had your bottom lip quivering over his Muppet-like fears of the big bad world, you know he's become family to you. And you're not letting that book go anywhere.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Shteyngart's first novel works best as an evocation of 90s America and Americans, both at home and abroad. Narrator Vladimir Girshkin spills as much ink analyzing Americans and expats as immigrants, and his views are always insightful and humorous. The plot serviceably moves this incisive outsider from parties in New York to clubs in Prava (Prague) to, memorably, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial, but his evolution from stilted bureaucrat to Machiavellian con artist comes across as a pleasant cont Shteyngart's first novel works best as an evocation of 90s America and Americans, both at home and abroad. Narrator Vladimir Girshkin spills as much ink analyzing Americans and expats as immigrants, and his views are always insightful and humorous. The plot serviceably moves this incisive outsider from parties in New York to clubs in Prava (Prague) to, memorably, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial, but his evolution from stilted bureaucrat to Machiavellian con artist comes across as a pleasant contrivance at best -- none of which makes the book any less of a great read! Recommended for anyone who traveled to Eastern Europe in the 90s or wants to read an immigrant's view of "Alternative culture."

  25. 5 out of 5

    Conor

    My first Shteyngart, and I really enjoyed it. I thoroughly enjoyed the humor, wordplay, and commentary on WASPy America. I liked that the whole nebbishy Jew trope was inverted by the main character becoming an outlaw Eastern European gangster. It did feel a bit frenetic and disconnected at times (many, especially his various lovers, seemed to be discarded without resolution throughout the book), but that could have been the fact that I listened to this on audiobook at 2x speed (read by Rider Str My first Shteyngart, and I really enjoyed it. I thoroughly enjoyed the humor, wordplay, and commentary on WASPy America. I liked that the whole nebbishy Jew trope was inverted by the main character becoming an outlaw Eastern European gangster. It did feel a bit frenetic and disconnected at times (many, especially his various lovers, seemed to be discarded without resolution throughout the book), but that could have been the fact that I listened to this on audiobook at 2x speed (read by Rider Strong, aka the snakebitten Sean Hunter, bff of Corey Matthews from TV's "Boy Meets World"! Where do they find these people?).

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I'm currently reading this and laughing out loud every ten minutes and wishing I could write dialog like this. But I can't. Okay - I finished it and loved it... but like many a debut novel, it petered out at the end. It's like - I"m not sure how to end this thing so I'll throw every idea I have out there. The scenes with whipping the Groundhog in the Banya made me laugh and laugh and I have to sadly admit, I saw some of my self in the pretentious Americans hanging around in Prava. Would that I c I'm currently reading this and laughing out loud every ten minutes and wishing I could write dialog like this. But I can't. Okay - I finished it and loved it... but like many a debut novel, it petered out at the end. It's like - I"m not sure how to end this thing so I'll throw every idea I have out there. The scenes with whipping the Groundhog in the Banya made me laugh and laugh and I have to sadly admit, I saw some of my self in the pretentious Americans hanging around in Prava. Would that I could date a Russian mobster instead of falling in love with the long haired poet guy. I will definitely read his Absurdistan next just for the laughs.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    God. I really want to like Gary Shteyngart, but I just can't stand him. I got about 80 pages in. Reading him is like talking to someone who thinks he's smarter than he actually is.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tim Lepczyk

    Gary Shteyngart revels in the absurd. Whether it is in Super Sad True Love Story , or, in this case, The Russian Debutante's Handbook , Shteyngart has an eye for the ridiculous. In The Russian Debutante's Handbook the story follows Vladimir Girshkin, the only son of Russian immigrants, as he navigates life in New York City.  Having moved from Leningrad/St. Petersburg at the age of twelve, Vladimir has romanticized life in eastern Europe and is trying to balance his heritage with the culture of Gary Shteyngart revels in the absurd. Whether it is in Super Sad True Love Story , or, in this case, The Russian Debutante's Handbook , Shteyngart has an eye for the ridiculous. In The Russian Debutante's Handbook the story follows Vladimir Girshkin, the only son of Russian immigrants, as he navigates life in New York City.  Having moved from Leningrad/St. Petersburg at the age of twelve, Vladimir has romanticized life in eastern Europe and is trying to balance his heritage with the culture of the United States. When the novel begins, Vladimir is twenty-five, living in New York after graduating from an expensive, Midwestern, liberal arts college, and is working in the Emma Lazarus Immigrant Absorption Society (picture Ugly Americans minus the creatures).  In his quest for money and status (themes Shteyngart seems especially drawn to) Vladimir gets involved with a psychotic client, delves into organized crime, and finds himself in Prava (the Paris of the 90's), deceiving and defrauding Western expats all in the name of capitalism. There are funny characters, and humorous moments, but the novel is repetitive, and weighed down by a lack of vision. Part way through, it seemed as though Shteyngart had no clear idea where the novel was headed. Transitions are jerky, and sections don't always fit together well. Moreover, the repetition of Vladimir's low self-esteem and deceptions becomes increasingly annoying. Another problem I have with this book, and perhaps with Shteyngart's writing, is that Vladimir Gershkin is so similar to Lenny Abramov from Super Sad True Love Story. Both characters are Russian immigrants who are overly nostalgic, obsessed with money and status, suffer from low self-esteem, have poor luck with women, are intelligent but unmotivated, balding, hairy, and describe things in similar ways. Essentially, Shteyngart lifted Vladimir Gershkin, made a few modifications and placed him in a distopian future under the name of Lenny Abramov in Super Sad True Love Story.  Lenny hit the point of being annoying in that novel, and reading another incarnation of Lenny is too much. While there were parts of The Russian Debutante's Handbook I enjoyed, I started skimming after 200 pages.  My urge to see what happened outweighed the problems I had with the writing. Shteyngart is a talented writer, but needs to look beyond himself for a subject.  If you're interested in his writing, I recommend Super Sad True Love Story as it is more focused and sharper.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Boris Sukharlev

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The book the Russian debutantes Handbook is a great book to read as it deals with many issues that people are facing in our day and age, with the theme of how the American dream plays a vital role in immigrants is vividly shown in the book. This book resembles a previous book I read Bone by Fae Myenne Ng. Like Bone the protagonist of the Russian debutantes handbook is a child of immigrant parents, who has been influenced by his past life in russia as well as his present life in the united states The book the Russian debutantes Handbook is a great book to read as it deals with many issues that people are facing in our day and age, with the theme of how the American dream plays a vital role in immigrants is vividly shown in the book. This book resembles a previous book I read Bone by Fae Myenne Ng. Like Bone the protagonist of the Russian debutantes handbook is a child of immigrant parents, who has been influenced by his past life in russia as well as his present life in the united states. Vladimir is an underachiever 25 year old who works at a dead end job. His parents are rich and want their son to embody the "American dream" that they made for themselves ( albeit by health insurance fraud.) Vladimir is seen as a failure in the eyes of his parents and of himself , however things change when an old Russian immigrant Mr Rybakov asks for his services in making him an American citizen. In return Mr Rybakob promises that his son will give him wealth and fortune in the new city of Pava. The author paints a vivid picture in my mind of the characterization of Vladimir. Like The book Bone the author writes certain words in a foreign language in this case Russian, to expand of Vladimir values and traditions. For example using the term mamachka which mean mother dearest or his mother telling him how he walks “like a Jew” (45) shows not only the culture he is in the family being self hating Jews but to show his mother dominance in his life. I ,as a Russian immigrant completely relate to the hardship Vladimir end ours, maybe not the problems with the mob ( did not enjoy that stereotype in the book but the problems regarding trying to make my parents proud and the American dream. While reading the 2 books I was supposed to read over summer I discovered certain points that the author of “How to read literature like a college professor” pointed out that were evident in this book. In the book How to read like literature like a college professor Thomas C foster pointed out that when reading literary novel one has to be on the lookout for meals as they represent a communion between individuals. As I was reading the Russian debutant I noticed this very act, in the begging of the book Vladimir goes to Mr Rybakov's house and has dinner with him. This act at first may seem not important but after the author started describing the herring that they were eating as well as the vodka shots and the Russian songs they were singing together I understood the message. Both of these individuals have a common ground, regardless of age difference both embrace their past culture and as well as beginning their life anew in America. This is the central theme of the novel , immigration and all the hardships that come with it. This is why this book is so great, as every single person can relate as they or a generation before them know firsthand the many obstacles we faced in adopting to a new country and to truly embody the concept of the American dream.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alla

    This, for reasons of time, is not going to be a complete review, but a couple of notes. 1. I cringe whenever I see Shteyngart compared to Nabokov. Such comparisons are very superficial and can only be made on the basis of the authors' national background. The proponents of such view will claim that both of the writers, native Russian speakers, tweak the English language in such a clever way as to arouse a chuckle in the English language reader. Well, where Nabokov's use of unexpected metaphors a This, for reasons of time, is not going to be a complete review, but a couple of notes. 1. I cringe whenever I see Shteyngart compared to Nabokov. Such comparisons are very superficial and can only be made on the basis of the authors' national background. The proponents of such view will claim that both of the writers, native Russian speakers, tweak the English language in such a clever way as to arouse a chuckle in the English language reader. Well, where Nabokov's use of unexpected metaphors and synesthetic references was marked with outstanding finesse in its simplicity (i.e. never overdone), Shteyngart's prose is amusing at first but soon becomes tiresome. There is only so many times that one can tolerate such gems as "blinding yellow orb" instead of a three letter "sun." To reiterate, I am not against such verbal tomfoolery, rather I believe that overall simplicity adorned by an occasional embellishment is a more elegant solution. 2. If one is really intent on comparing Shteyngart to Nabokov, one could draw parallels between Vladimir and Pnin. The former would then have better English, and, once again, is a much more heavy-handed version of the latter. As one example, the not-so-subtle character transformation he overcomes from the first part of the novel to the second is nothing short of miraculous. Gone is the insecure hapless fool, replaced by a rather ruthless criminal with lots of bad habits. Maybe it's the semi-fictional Eastern European locale that inspires such change (Prava being, of course, Praga or Prague in the Czech Republic). While we are on the subject of the locale, I suppose this is another attempt at being Nabokov, in imitating his "Fialta" (of "Spring in Fialta"). 3. The phonetic play Shteyngart is engaging in (see p. 235 - "weeping willows wept under the weight of the tetra-hydro-petra-carbo whatever-the-hell-it-was being belched out of the smokestacks") is curious, but such moments are rare in the text. 4. Overall, the text is amusing at best. My guess is that the target audience is the Russophile Westerners infatuated with all things Russian. An actual Russian reading the book (such as myself) will likely understand all of the references better, but will not find them quite as tickling. One word summarizes the work for me as I put down this text, a word that Nabokov wrote at length about: "poshlost'". Vulgarity, tawdriness, cheapness are some (although imperfect) English equivalents of the term. Out of respect for Nabokov, let's keep Shteyngart out of the big leagues and place him instead where he really belongs - light quick reads for the subway or the beach.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In order to read or download eBook, you need to create FREE account.
eBook available in PDF, ePub, MOBI and Kindle versions



Loading...