16 December 2007
I'm probably not going to finish this book
At the beginning, it was clever and funny--and the way the author tied himself into the plot was brilliant. But once it became clear that the author-as-character wasn't completely impotent/incompetent, the charming hilarity juxtaposed with the long-winded and muscular yet carefully chosen and delicate prose of all Russian classics faded away. It's all a ploy. The middle of the book (where I am) is terrible.
Shteyengart is too entirely pleased with himself and the hilarity of his creation and his narrator. Gag.
I liked Misha for a good hundred pages. It was a bit cloying, sure, to have a 300-pound Russian Jewish immigrant to the United States living large and enjoying a life of American hiphop and his hispanic Bronx girlfriend. He's a rich gourmand. Like all good Russian protagonists. It was great! Life was good when the book felt like a tribute to Tolstoy, Turgenev, and Gogol; when the book was successfully lampooning both American hubris and Russian mobsters. Seriously, the protagonist was named Misha Vainberg. Gogol's characters all had allegorical names like that. It was great. He's a self-centered wealthy gourmand. Like all good Russian protagonists.
Yes. I've read Crime and Punishment. And I have yet to finish it, either. I know Raskolnikov was neither rich nor a gourmand. But three hundred pages into that book, I still believe the poor, scrawny, nervous Raskolnikov. One hundred forty-one pages in, and I've given up on Misha.
All of which is to say I've abandoned better books than Absurdistan. Life is too short for me read something I don't enjoy. Unless I'm being graded on reading it.