A Forsley Feuilleton: Gary Shteyngart Can Afford As Many Bottles of Vodka And â€œDouble-Cured-Spicy-Soppressata-And-Avacadoâ€ Sandwiches As He Craves[admin / March 27th, 2012 / Young Bright Things ]
As far as the schools of literary criticism go â€“ and damn do they go far, so far that you need a dozen diabeticless Labrador Retrievers with MFAs to fetch them â€“ Iâ€™ve always favored those theories, like Historical-Biographical criticism, that focus on the author of a work because, if you ask me, every work of literature is a direct reflection of its authorâ€™s life and times and. . . mental illnesses.Â Vladimir Nabokov wouldnâ€™t have written Lolita if he didnâ€™t have pedophilic desires â€“ desires masked through his fetishizing of butterflies, which are just like pubescent girls: nice to look at but bad to touch.
Bret Easton Ellis wouldnâ€™t have written American Physco if he hadnâ€™t worked in advertisement during the 80s, a career that gave him, like Patrick Bateman and Christian Bale, â€œall the characteristics of a human being: flesh, blood, skin, hair; but not a single, clear, identifiable emotion, except for greed and disgust.â€Â And I, Christopher Forsley, wouldnâ€™t have written last weekâ€™s Forsley Feuilleton, An Open Letter To The Anti-Ginger Grocery Store Night Managers, if Cryos International, one of the worldâ€™s largest sperm banks, didnâ€™t announce that theyâ€™d no longer accept my redheaded tadpoles.
Some authors successfully hide the biographical reflections in their work. . . but Gary Shteyngart, even though he looks like a vampire, isnâ€™t one of them.Â After reading his three novels â€“ The Russian Debutanteâ€™s Handbook, Absurdistan, and Super Sad True Love Story â€“ back to back to back, Iâ€™ve concluded that all three of his protagonists are direct extensions of himself:
Vladimir Girshkin, the protagonist of his first novel, is â€œthe immigrantâ€™s immigrant, the expatriateâ€™s expatriate, enduring victim of every practical joke the late twentieth century had to offer.â€Â The 325-pound son of the 1,238th-richest man in Russian and hero of Shteyngartâ€™s second novel, Misha â€˜Snack Daddyâ€™ Vainberg is â€œa grossly overweight man with small, deeply set blue eyes, a pretty Jewish beak that brings to mind the most distinguished breed of parrot. . .â€Â And Leonard Abramov, who has â€œthe grossest feet, bunions and this gigantic heel spur that sticks out like heâ€™s got a thumb glued to his foot,â€ doesnâ€™t have a lyrical description to quote because heâ€™s the protagonist of Shteyngartâ€™s most recent novel, Super Sad True Love Story.Â I believe Shteyngart wrote it using his own diary entries and the transcribed e-mails of one of his young Korean mistresses because â€“ based off the far-fetchness of Historical-Biographical criticism â€“ by then he was a best-selling author with money to afford as many bottles of vodka and â€œdouble-cured-spicy-soppressata-and-avocadoâ€ sandwiches as he craved and had neither the time nor desire to write the dense, original prose that made his first two novels great.
Iâ€™m not saying the lack of dense, original prose in Shteyngartâ€™s Super Sad True Love Story makes it worse than his first two novels.Â Iâ€™m saying itâ€™s worse than his first two novels because Leonard Abramov only did one woman in it, whereas Vladmir Girshkin, in Debutanteâ€™s Handbook, did three, and Mish â€˜snack daddyâ€™ Vainberg, in Absurdistan, did two.Â And, for me, the most interesting biographical reflections found in Shteyngartâ€™s novels are not those of his own pathetic persona â€“ they are those ofÂ the women he,Â through characters like â€˜Snack Daddyâ€™, puts his â€œcrushed purple insectâ€ into.
I find these women interesting â€“ so interesting that the novels, like my pecker, rise and fall with them â€“ because Iâ€™m certain they had, or have, real life parallels in Shteyngartâ€™s own life, times, and mental illnesses.Â Some say he writes his novels as a way to better understand his second generation Jewish Russian immigrant New Yorker experience, but I say he writes them to better understand the dysfunctional relationships heâ€™s had with the American women heâ€™s encountered.Â And because Shteyngart is the greatest contemporary second generation Jewish Russian immigrant New Yorker writer of satire under the age of forty whoâ€™s partially bald, kind of funny, and incredibly impotent, I want to use the remainder of this Forsley Feuilleton to take a quick look at the women in his three novels with hopes of learning how he can afford as many bottles of vodka and â€œdouble-cured-spicy-soppressata-and-avacadoâ€ sandwiches as he craves while I â€“ as a contemporary second generation Catholic Irish immigrant San Franciscan writer of satire under the age of thirty whoâ€™s longhaired, very funny, and incredibly potent â€“ can only afford moonshine and Ramen.
In The Russian Debutanteâ€™s Handbook, Shteyngart, through Vladmir Girshkin, puts his â€œcrushed purple insectâ€ into three women: Challah, Francesca, and then Morgan.Â Challah is an obese red-haired dominatrix with â€œbulging cheeks and determined radish of a nose,â€ who looks â€œever matronly and suburban, despite all the torn black shirts, gothic bracelets, and crucifixes.â€Â Vladmir leaves this â€œqueen of everything musky and mammal-likeâ€ because the â€œgradients in statusâ€ between them were no longer enough to arouse him.Â He leaves her for a young, wealthy Manhattanite-by-birth named Francesca with small eyes â€œas perfectly oval as Faberge miniatures, their gray the sobering shade of a Petersburg morning. . .â€Â Then, after wasting his life-savings in an attempt at keeping up with Franâ€™s lifestyle, he takes his â€œcrushed purple insectâ€ to Europe and beds with Morgan, a girl from Cleveland, because â€œit was time for someone innocent and pliable.â€
In Absurdistan, Shteyngart, through Misha â€˜Snack Daddyâ€™ Vainberg, puts his â€œcrushed purple insectâ€ into two women: Rouenna and then Nana. Misha met Rouenna â€“ who in her own words is â€œhalf Puerto Rican. . . half German. . . half Mexican and Irish. . . but raised mostly in Dominicanâ€ â€“ at a â€œtitty-barâ€ where her breasts, â€œtied back with a kind of wide summer bandanna, were a reassuring presence against the toxic hump and the warm, sweaty flesh that gathered around it like the foothills of Mount Etna.â€Â Misha loses Rouenna, who he believes is his true love, to Professor Shteynfarb, author of The Russian Arriviste’s Hand Job.Â Then, while stuck in Absurdistan because of the â€œsins of his father,â€ a young tour guide named Nana takes his â€œcrushed purple insectâ€ and sticks it â€œinside of her in one lubricated motion, without the usual series of soft cries women produce upon being entered.â€
Lastly, in Super Sad True Love Story, Shteyngart, through Leonard Abramov, puts that same â€œcrushed purple insectâ€ into only one woman: Eunice.Â â€œYoung, stoic, and flatâ€ with a â€œsharp nose and little arms,â€ Eunice is a self-destructive American struggling with the pressures of her traditional Korean family.Â Leonard falls instantly in love with her and then, later that night, â€œtalked her out of her pants, cupped the twin, tiny gloves of her ass with (his) palms, and pushed (his) lips right inside her soft, vital pussy.â€
A Note: in these three novels, Shteyngart, through his protagonists, puts his â€œcrushed purple insectâ€ into other women besides the aforementioned. . . like Fabriza who, if I remember correctly, had Mediterranean pubic hairs that popped through her neon panties, and I also recall one of Shteyngartâ€™s biographical reflections hooking up with his widowed stepmother. . .
But who cares?Â What have I learned by taking a quick look at the women in Shteyngartâ€™s three novels?Â Not much.Â Maybe, because the quality of his novels depend on the number of female characters they include, I have learned that a writer â€“ a straight male writerÂ Â – is only as good, or interesting, or unique as the women he chooses to put his â€œcrushed purple insectâ€ into.Â Or maybe I just learned that Gary Shteyngart â€“ as the greatest contemporary second generation Jewish Russian immigrant New Yorker writer of satire under the age of forty whoâ€™s partially bald, kind of funny, and incredibly impotent â€“ can afford as many bottles of vodka and â€œdouble-cured-spicy-soppressata-and-avacadoâ€ sandwiches as he craves while I â€“ as a contemporary second generation Catholic Irish immigrant San Franciscan writer of satire under the age of thirty whoâ€™s longhaired, very funny, and incredibly potent â€“ can only afford moonshine and Ramen because instead of writing directionless, longwinded, unclear Forsley Feuilletons, he writes novels featuring complex, unique, interesting female characters.