Reporting from the literary hub of the universe

Last night I went to see Gary Shteyngart read at Magers & Quinn. It was surprisingly delightful. Surprising, because in the past I have not been so kind to Shteyngart’s writing (see here or here) and I’ve been really skeptical about my crush on his latest novel Super Sad True Love Story.

But after seeing Shteyngart read last night, I like the book even more. Hearing his interpretations of Lenny and Eunice’s voice made the characters even more real, the story more frightening (and even better). Plus, he was pretty damn charming.

He opened the reading talking about how when he’s in Brooklyn he usually hangs out with a couple of poets, but here in Uptown Minneapolis (he kept calling it Uptown Minneapolis which was kind of adorable) he was hanging out with Jonathan Franzen and Per Petterson. “It’s like the literary hub of the universe,” he said. Hell yes, take that you naysayers of “flyover country.” You know who you are.

After he read a bit from the book, he spent some time talking about the technological aspects of the book and how the advance of technology is taking away our humanity. This, of course, prompted someone to ask him if he was worried about the future of books and he said that as long as there were people there would be the desire to read “these kinds of narratives.” Which is kind of an interesting way to put storytelling.

I was a little taken aback by how adorable and charming he was. I expected someone who writes such biting satire to be a kind of droll or sarcastic, but he wasn’t at all. It was a nice surprise.

However, the biggest surprise of the night is that I actually purchased Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. It’s Rock & Roll Bookclub’s fault.

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  1. Christa 23.Sep.10 at 12:34 pm

    See, every time I’ve read an interview with Gary Shteyngart, I’ve totally thought I’d want to hang out with him. Maybe even let him hold my hair when he makes me barf from Vodka consumption. Plus, that book trailer for “Super Sad True Love Story” is so so excellent. Although, my judgment may have been clouded by the J-Mac cameo. Regardless, I’m glad he has won you over. Now let’s never read “Absurdistan” but still be fans.

  2. Jodi 23.Sep.10 at 12:39 pm

    That might be part of the problem, I don’t often read author (or rockstar) interviews. Mostly because I just don’t seem to care outside of their writing (or music). Unless, of course it’s Mary Gaitskill. . . and I have to say it was your review + Mary’s endorsement that made me open my mind up enough to give this one a chance.

    And as much as I love Super Sad. . . I still reserve the right to refer to Absurdistan as Crapstackistan.

  3. Audrey Brown 23.Sep.10 at 1:36 pm

    How on God’s green EARTH have I never seen this blog before. I LOVE it. I am officially a reader.

  4. Jodi 23.Sep.10 at 1:38 pm

    Thanks Audrey. I like to think of myself as the best kept secret on the internet.

  5. Emily 23.Sep.10 at 5:29 pm

    Stumbled across your blog just now, and this post’s combination of MN+Magers & Quinn+ “flyover country” eye-rolls=a happy reader. (I’m still debating whether to pick up Freedom myself; Adichie’s Half of A Yellow Sun is heavy on my nightstand.) Can’t wait to check out more of your site. Thanks!

  6. David 24.Sep.10 at 1:06 pm

    Personally, Jodi, I think you help make the Twin Cities the literary hub of the universe.

    Shteyngart’s response to my Book Notes invitation was that he had only listened to Kraftwerk while writing Super Sad Love Story, and that wouldn’t make an intesting essay. I think he could make Justin Bieber’s music interesting…

  7. David 24.Sep.10 at 1:07 pm

    “interesting” of course (typing on an iPad is a learned skill I haven’t picked up yet).


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