Tuesday, June 8, 2010
"Absurdistan" by Gary Shteyngart
My grade: D
I'm really glad to be finally done with this book. It's rare that you read a novel that hardly evokes any emotion whatsoever, and what little feelings there are, are entirely negative.
Firstly, this book is exceedingly disgusting, grotesque, crude and unnecessarily pornographic. I hardly say or think in this direction, but the author is clearly hung up on some sort of sexual and bodily themes. The language is downright offensive, especially to those of us who understand the connotations of the Russian words he insists on using.
Secondly, the characters are completely flat. Not a single one of them is developed. Most are based on stereotypes, which is fine. The others are completely middle-of-the-lane kind of folks, entirely unbelievable in their characterizations and arouse no sympathy whatsoever. In fact, I don't think I ever cared so little about the fates of these 'people'.
Thirdly, this novel is satirical only for the sake of satire. I fail to catch some great message here. Shteyngart hasn't opened my eyes to anything at all, and hasn't even really entertained me. Most of the time, I was exceedingly bored.
Finally, I want to say that I'm not sure what a person who has little knowledge of Russian mentality and way of life, Jewish culture and the American culture can gain from this book. Here is the ideal audience: an immigrant Russian Jew, living in America. Big problem: Russian Jews living in America don't care for your story because they've got their own (and that one is probably better). The saddest part of all is that the writing, itself, is quite good. There is clear talent here. The story, though, from beginning to end, is unrefined, uninteresting and from my perspective, entirely useless.