Gary Shteyngart

The Best Burns from BAM’s Gary Shteyngart Roast

Gary Shteyngart is one of the most successful and critically acclaimed literary novelists of his generation — but he isn’t just that. The New Yorker “20 Under 40″ list author is also New York literary society’s most beloved clown, the dark comic undertones of his novels extending into his public persona. Over the years, he’s exaggerated the excesses of his own personality to create for himself a bumbling, lecherous nebbish character who can’t even speak (much less read) English.

It was that character who hobbled onto the stage at the Brooklyn Academy of Music last night, conspicuously overdressed in a black suit with a bow tie, for a Friars Club-style roast to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Shteyngart’s debut novel, The Russian Debutante’s Handbook. Joined by host John Wesley Harding, his roasters included fellow authors Sloane Crosley, Kurt Andersen, and Edmund White, along with New Yorker Fiction Editor Deborah Treisman. Although, at under an hour, the program felt a bit too brief and — as Harding suggested at several moments — the ribbing was often too gentle, Shteyngart’s colleagues still managed to get in a few entertaining jokes. We’ve collected the best disses below, with apologies for excluding White’s, which were excellent but which we just couldn’t manage to transcribe because he was reading them very quickly from prepared notes. … Read More

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10 Great Novels About the Immigrant Experience

This week saw the release of Karolina Waclawiak’s debut novel How to Get Into the Twin Palms, a wonderful little book that made us fall in love with the idea of the immigrant novel all over again. A Polish émigré herself, Waclawiak’s tale is a twist on the traditional coming-to-America novel, her heroine an immigrant trying to pass as another kind of immigrant, testing the waters, in the LA heat. But off-center as it may be, the book got us thinking about some of our favorite novels about the immigrant experience, a few of which we’ve collected here — read through our list of great fictional immigrant and émigré stories after the jump, and as ever, if we’ve missed your own favorite, please add it to our list in the comments! … Read More

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10 Great Off-Kilter Love Stories in Literature

If you’re anything like us, you like a little quirk with your romance. Or, um, make that a lot of quirk. This week saw the release of Joe Meno’s newest novel, Office Girl, an off-kilter love story between two meandering artist-types trying to make it in Chicago on little more than fumes, awkward sex, and half-baked schemes — until they find each other, of course. After reading the short novel, we had a hankering for some more weird tales of love, so we put together this list of some of our favorite off-kilter romances in literature, from the dark and strange to the relentlessly whimsical. Click through to check out our picks, and as always, be sure to let us know your own favorite book in this vein in the comments. … Read More

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The Official Flavorpill Bookshelf: March Staff Reading Picks

Last month, we shared a virtual staff bookshelf with you, itemizing a few of the tomes kicking around our collective brainspace. But we must read on, and so this month, we have a whole new set of novels, nonfiction, and poetry on our minds and in our back pockets. This month, our staffers are reading a wide range of titles — though we seem to err on the side of nerdom — our noses stuffed in books by William Gibson and George R.R. Martin, Martin Amis and Haruki Murakami. We’ve been left breathless by funny men and ladies, stories of wanderlust and TV tie-ins. We’re looking forward to reading works by Cheryl Strayed, Alison Espach, and many others. What about you? Click through to check out our aggregated staff bookshelf, and hear what a few members of the Flavorpill family have to say about their reading lists, and then let us know what’s in your own read/reading/to read piles in the comments! … Read More

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Books You Definitely Shouldn’t Give to Your Valentine

With Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, the more bookish among you may be thinking about getting literary gifts for your loved ones. A swell idea, as far as we’re concerned, but be warned — when given as gifts, books can take on special, often unintended meanings, so choose with care. For instance, as much as we love American Psycho, we’d never gift it to someone we were interested in dating. It just kind of sends the wrong message (like, “I’m imagining your death right now”). So, to save you from any possible missteps, we’ve created a guide to what books not to give to your Valentine, whether you’ve been together for three weeks or three years, and offered our suggestions as to what you might slide across the candlelit table instead. Click through to see what we chose, and good luck. … Read More

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Your Favorite Authors’ Favorite Books of All Time

One of the most popular interview questions for writers is “what are you reading right now,” or for the more adventurous, “what are your own favorite books of all time?” The idea is, of course, twofold — that you can get a good suggestion and peek into that writer’s mind at the same time. We recently came across a list of David Foster Wallace’s favorite books, and aside from some very sensical choices (obviously he’d love The Screwtape Letters), we were kind of surprised — there was much more suspense and horror fiction than we would have expected from the giant of post-modernism. Curious, we decided to investigate the favorite books of some of our other favorite authors, to get a little reading-list inspiration and possible insight into their own internal workings. Predictable or not-so predictable, their choices are all pretty interesting — and we have now reading material for a month. Click through to get some reading advice from the best sources around, and let us know whose list most inspires you (or most matches your own) in the comments. … Read More

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A Peek Inside the Libraries of Famous Writers

There’s nothing like a well-stocked library to enhance a home. Especially when that library has been outfitted with books chosen by some of the choosiest readers of all — the authors themselves. We recently caught a peek at the literary collections of a few contemporary novelists in Leah Price’s excellent and newly released Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books, but we admit that our library-lust wasn’t quite sated, and we had to go hunting for more. We’ve already shown you a choice selection of the libraries of the rich and famous, but here, inspired by Price’s book, we’re focusing on the libraries, studies, and carefully organized bookshelves of the authors themselves. Click through to see a few snapshots of the libraries of famous authors, and let us know which ones inspire you to curl up and read in the comments. … Read More

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How to Read Like Some of Your Favorite Writers

The Atlantic Wire just posted the most recent installment of their always fascinating Media Diet feature, and this week’s subject is none other than self-proclaimed “reading junkie” Margaret Atwood. The Canadian literary diva reveals that “she [doesn't] like news too early in the day,” reads before bed even though it has been known to give her nightmares, and subscribes to too many magazines — most of them literary. While we find these details fascinating, we’re always more interested in combing through the column to find out what books our favorite writers are reading. Click through to find out what’s currently on Atwood’s bedside table, as well as some other reading suggestions culled from recent contributors in the archive. … Read More

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10 Celebrities Who Should Definitely Have Their Own Talk Shows

We recently learned that Bethenny Frankel, of Real Housewives and resultant spin-off fame, has teamed up with Ellen DeGeneres to start working on a pilot for her very own talk show. Though available details are few, Frankel told the Hollywood Reporter, “I want to be on TV in a format where I can have a longer conversation with my fans rather than 140 characters on Twitter.” Now, we’re not too sure what we think of this — does the world really need more Bethenny Frankel? Since we’ve yet to try the Skinnygirl margarita, we’re not at liberty to say. But we can think of several celebs whose talk shows we would watch without a doubt, especially if they turn out the fantasy talk shows we imagine for them. And don’t worry — we’re not about to suggest James Franco. That kid does enough. Click through to see our list of ten celebrities that should definitely have their own talk shows, and to check out our predictions as to what those gab fests might look like. And of course, let us know who else you’re dying to see in a maroon armchair in the comments! … Read More

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Literary Love Letters to NYC

From time to time, we all second-guess why we live in New York — especially in the wake of a pleasant holiday weekend away. It’s crowded, expensive, and after awhile all of the ambition can become downright annoying. We’ve wanted to shout to new arrivals, “Turn back!” but we can’t, because at the end of the day, we love this city despite its many flaws. As have many of our favorite writers. However, the quotes we’ve assembled here are not without their own troubles. We regret to inform you that Paul Auster is missing from this list and we assure you that we feel horrible about it, but we couldn’t find a longer passage in his many books about New York that would make the cut. Perhaps you could suggest one? … Read More

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