Thursday, March 24, 2011

Absurdistan Review

Book talk: All Misha Vainberg wants is to return to the city and the woman he loves, but the unreasonable U.S. customs officials refuse to issue him a visa.  And all because his father killed a businessman from Oklahoma.  But the son of the 1,238th richest man in Russia has a plan to get back to New York City and his  girlfriend.  Misha has a friend who knows a corrupt official at the Belgian consulate in Absurdistan who will sell him a coveted EU passport.  So, Misha sets off for Absurdistan where he puts his degree in Multiculturalism from Accidental College back in the states to good use.  Soon he finds himself caught up in a civil war that is as hilariously absurd and it is chillingly familiar.

Rocks my socks: I love satires and it isn't a very popular genre, so I'm always excited to find one.  I particularly enjoyed the novel when it got to the point where Misha arrived in the aptly-named Absurdistan.  The citizens of the country, from their religions to their wars are absolutely ridiculous and even though it is a fictional country it is this setting that had the most to say about reality.  I also enjoyed the fact that the author mocked himself as well with his cameo as professor Shteynfarb.

Rocks in my socks: I wish it hadn't taken so long for Misha to get to Absurdistan because I think that's where the book really shines.  The parts leading up to it felt a bit aimless and excessive at times.  This is probably because the first part mostly focus on Misha but when he arrives in Absurdistan the focus broadens to the society at large.  Any lengthy description of Misha is going to be excessive and aimless because he is himself.  He seems to think of nothing but sex and food, and it gets old after a while. Besides, having one bad sex scene in a novel to make a point and be funny is one thing.  Having a dozen bad sex scenes is another.  I really don't need to be reading all that.

Every book its reader: I'd give this to anyone interested in a satire of U.S. foreign relations, although American and Russian society in general are also satirized to a point.  In case the above sentence referring to 'a dozen bad sex scenes' wasn't a tip off, this book is for an adult audience.

Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart

Buy it at your local independent book store or check it out from your local library 

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