Russian Debutante's Handbook
By Gary Shteyngart
(Riverhead Books, Paperback, 9781573229883, 496pp.)
Publication Date: April 29, 2003
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The Russian Debutante's Handbook introduces Vladimir Girshkin, one of the most original and unlikely heroes of recent times. The twenty-five-year-old unhappy lover to a fat dungeon mistress, affectionately nicknamed "Little Failure" by his high-achieving mother, Vladimir toils his days away as a lowly clerk at the bureaucratic Emma Lazarus Immigrant Absorption Society. When a wealthy but psychotic old Russian war hero appears, Vladimir embarks on an adventure of unrelenting lunacy that takes us from New York's Lower East Side to the hip frontier wilderness of Prava--the Eastern European Paris of the nineties. With the help of a murderous but fun-loving Russian mafioso, Vladimir infiltrates the Prava expat community and launches a scheme as ridiculous as it is brilliant.
Bursting with wit, humor, and rare insight, The Russian Debutante's Handbook is both a highly imaginative romp and a serious exploration of what it means to be an immigrant in America.
Gary Shteyngart was born in Leningrad in 1972. This novel won the Stephen Crane First Fiction Award, was named a New York Times Notable Book, and was chosen as a best book of the year by The Washington Post Book World and Entertainmeny Weekly. His second novel, Absurdistan, was one of the New York Times' Best Books of 2006, and named a best book of the year by Time and The Washington Post. His third novel, Super Sad True Love Story was a New York Times Notable Book and named a best book of the year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, and many others. His most recent book, Little Failure, is a memoir hailed as "hilarious and moving" (New York Times) and "dazzling" (NPR). His work has appeared in the New Yorker, Granta, and other publications. He lives in New York City.
"Rowdy, ribald, funny...this superb debut [is] the real thing."—Esquire
"As attuned to the exhilarating possibilities of the language as Martin Amis, as deadpan and funny as the young Evelyn Waugh."—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"In Vladimir Girshkin, the wisecracking, lovelorn, desperately self-reinventing protagonist, Shteyngart has given us a literary symbol for this new immigrant age, much as Saul Bellow or Henry Roth did in theirs..."—Chris Lehmann, The Washington Post
"A brilliant, funny debut describing the vicissitudes of immigration today, as experienced by the hero, a young Russian-American."—Harper's Bazaar
"The rampaging narrative is festooned on every page with glittering one-liners, improbably apt similes, and other miniature pleasures."—Elle
"If Henry Miller were Russian, this is a book he might have written."—Time Out New York
"[Gary Shteyngart's] sense of the exploded past and volatile present suffuses this gifted first novel..." —O. Magazine