Award-winning author and Columbia University professor Gary Shteyngart will perform a free public reading from his latest memoir, Little Failure, tonight at 8 p.m. in Campbell Hall.
Shteyngart, a humor and satire writer, is the author of the 2010 novel Super Sad True Love Story, which earned the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize, the United Kingdom’s only comic literature award, and received the praise of over 40 journals and magazines worldwide. He is also the author of two novels, Absurdistan and The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, and his work has appeared in various publications such as The New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, Travel & Leisure, GQ, and Esquire.
In Little Failure, the author reflects on his immigration experience from Leningrad to the United States. According to Shteyngart, who is also UCSB’s inaugural Writer in Residence, reading is among the most important things writers can do to hone their craft.
“Reading is more important than writing,” he said.
Super Sad… chronicles the strained love story of Lenny and a younger, more digitally-inclined daughter of Korean immigrants, Eunice. The book depicts a futuristic America on the brink of collapse — a world everyone wears an “äppärät” around their neck, which is a device that analyzes the wearer’s relative attractiveness in an area and broadcasts it.
Shteyngart said that the closest thing to an äppärät today is Google Glass, even though it fails to engage in facial recognition and comparison. Last summer, Shteyngart won a Twitter contest to try Google Glass for the possible TV adaptation of Super Sad.
Shteyngart’s most recent film bit, his book trailer for Little Failure, stars James Franco as his lover. According to Shteyngart, it was “molto sexy, as the Italians would say.”
On Friday, Shteyngart will also hold an open forum with UCSB writing program students as part of his tenure as the writer in residence.
Linda Adler-Kassner, professor of writing studies and director of the writing program, said students could benefit from hearing Shteyngart speak on his craft.
“I think that oftentimes when we look at a piece of writing that has been judged successful, which is to say it’s published, we can look at it and think ‘Oh, it was so easy for that person to do that,’” Adler-Kassner said. “But it’s never easy; it’s always hard.”