Last night when novelist (and Seattle lover) Gary Shteyngart spoke before a full room at Kane Hall, the conversation turned repeatedly to his prescience. Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, interviewer Sasha Senderovich figured, seems like a character snatched from one of Shteyngart’s bawdy satires. Shteyngart himself is well aware of the connections between his Soviet upbringing—he immigrated here when he was seven—and our current administration.
Eight years have passed since his last novel, Super Sad True Love Story, was released and much of its dystopian satire now feels weirdly current (though it felt nearly as current then). It’s a world in which everyone is glued to their personal devices, jostling for status based on credit scores and “fuckability” ratings. They get their news from FoxLibertyPrime and FoxLibertyUltra. Journalism is but a husk, nobody reads books, people obsess about perfect health so they can live forever—sounds familiar, no?
Last night’s talk centered on his 2014 memoir, Little Failures, which details his experience as a Russian-Jewish immigrant, and over the nearly two hour talk and reading, Shteyngart was just as funny, affable, earnest, and intelligent as in his books. May 9 he returns to Kane Hall for a second talk, “I Alone Can Fix It: Tales from a New Dystopia.” This one focuses on his novel Lake Success, which is due out in September (he’ll be back in Seattle at the Broadway Performance Hall on September 10), another plucked-from-the-zeitgeist satire about a narcissistic hedge fund manager’s cross-country Greyhound bus ride. He’ll again speak with UW’s Sasha Senderovich, and then he’ll premier the new novel, giving his first public reading.
The event is free, though you need to RSVP here. It is well worth your time.