Gary Shteyngart’s “Our Country Friends”

January 14, 2022

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Boris Dralyuk, LARB’s Editor-in-Chief, joins Medaya Ocher for a very special ex-Soviet edition of the LARB Book Club and Radio Hour. The guest of honor is the doyen of Russian-American letters, Gary Shteyngart. The author of the novels The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, Absurdistan, Super Sad True Love Story, and Lake Success, as well as of the memoir Little Failure, Shteyngart’s sharp sense of humor, memorable characters, and up-to-the-minute responsiveness to developments in the culture have won him comparisons to Philip Roth and Saul Bellow, as well as a number of prizes and a wide, dedicated readership. His latest novel, Our Country Friends, is a poignant, affectionate tale of pandemic life set at a “House on the Hill” in the Hudson Valley. More than one critic has called it Chekhovian, and Chekhov does make a well-timed appearance, but this eventful novel is no pastiche. During the talk, Shetyngart touches on the lessons of Soviet and Russian life, the pernicious effects of social media, the importance of community, and the ways in which fiction can and should address the unfolding crises of modern life.

Also, James Hannaham, author of Pilot Impostor, returns to recommend Megan Mylan’s 2021 documentary about Syrian refugees, Simple as Water.