Last night, my book club (well three members, including me) discussed Gary Shteyngart’s novel, Absurdistan. The votes were one big thumbs up, one big thumbs down, and me somewhere in the middle. What I liked: well, the surreal and ludicrous characters and setting. It reminded me quite a bit of Catch 22 (and just as I was thinking that to myself, the author mentions the name Joseph Heller!). The continual digs at the pretentiousness of academia, both factual (Hunter College), and fictitious (“Accidental College”), were especially entertaining and unfortunately almost true to life. I also liked the author’s creation of a satirical alter-ego, Jerry Shteynfarb (author of “The Russian Arriviste’s Hand Job”). I also loved the political satire, which again reminded me of Heller. His attempts to illustrate middle East religious conflict using fictitious Christian sects, rather than Muslims, was brilliant as well.
The downside — I did find the book somewhat repetitious at times, and not all the humor worked for me. It’s not for the squeamish or those who don’t like extremely lewd humor. So, three out of four stars — liked it a lot, didn’t love it.
Note to other members: all three of us ordered Mediza’s excellent chicken tagine, and also were able to come up with exact change in cash at the end instead of the usual cluster of credit cards. Will wonders never cease?