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Publisher's Summary

After three acclaimed novels - The Russian Debutante's Handbook, Absurdistan, and Super Sad True Love Story - Gary Shteyngart turns to memoir in a candid, witty, deeply poignant account of his life so far.

Shteyngart shares his American immigrant experience, moving back and forth through time and memory with self-deprecating humor, moving insights, and literary bravado. The result is a resonant story of family and belonging that feels epic and intimate and distinctly his own. Provocative, hilarious, and inventive, Little Failure reveals a deeper vein of emotion in Gary Shteyngart' s prose. It is a memoir of an immigrant family coming to America, as told by a lifelong misfit who forged from his imagination an essential literary voice and, against all odds, a place in the world.

©2014 Gary Shteyngart (P)2014 Recorded Books

Critic Reviews

"Jonathan Todd Ross had to meet quite a challenge while narrating Shteyngart's memoir filled with humor, sarcasm, self-deprecation, and personal triumphs - and succeed he does in representing the author with pizzazz." ( AudioFile)

What listeners say about Little Failure

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
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did not do much for me

I bought this on recommendation from Audible based on my liking of Sedaris, Rakoff, and Ronsen. I find these books best when the authors are the narrators. Ross' voice seemed to mimic what I would imagine the author to sound like, so I'm not sure if it was the narration or just the story itself that failed to captivate me. I just didn't find it that humorous and it was so boring that I couldn't even finish it.

6 people found this helpful

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Wrong narrator for this book

If I could have rated only the narrator, I would have liked to. I could not take his overly theatric narration, so I gave up after a few chapters. It's therefore unfair for me to rate the story and writing since I'm sure I would love the book with a more appropriate reader. Google informs me this narrator is primarily a voice artist for children's animated films, and that makes total sense. Too much emoting from my earbuds.

So I still need to read this book.

5 people found this helpful

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I loved this book - funny, sad, all that nonsense

What made the experience of listening to Little Failure the most enjoyable?

My personal identification with the author.

What other book might you compare Little Failure to and why?

Davis Sedaris works.

What about Jonathan Todd Ross’s performance did you like?

It was good, but would have preferred the author's own voice. JTR sounded distinctly un-Jewish and un-New Yorker

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

this is a dumb question

5 people found this helpful

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Is it Stone Garden, Stone Horn, or Shitgart?

A much heralded memoir of the NY Times best-selling novelist, Gary Shteyngart. Shteyngart lovingly, but oh-so painfully (particularly when it comes to girls), describes his childhood as a Russian immigrant to the US. Born in Leningrad during Soviet times, the only child of Jewish parents, he grows up with relative poverty and the strict, demanding, and demeaning oversight of parents lost in a strange land equipped only with the societal norms of another culture. Gary is haunted by panic attacks and asthmatic spasms. Although, living the life of an outcast at his first school in the US (Queens, NY), referred to as the SSSQ, Gary manages to qualify for the legendary Stuyvesant High School, but his substance abuse problems result in academic difficulties that preclude his entry into the Ivy League (his parents goal for him). He is admitted to Oberlin the description of which is among the very funniest parts of the memoir. Although ostensibly following a path to law school, Gary has always wanted to be a writer (the admission of which leads to his mother calling him little failure). Oberlin and the years immediately following are taken up with drugs, sex, and a little writing. Gary manages to pull himself together after returning to NYC, finding a father figure sugar daddy, being admitted to an MFA writing program at Hunter College, getting a first book deal, and entering psychoanalysis (I would rather you told me that you were homosexual, says his father who, it is later revealed, was hospitalized in a Soviet mental institution in his early 20's after experiencing what must have been a single grand mal seizure). After being estranged from his parents, he undergoes a remarkable transformation and revelatory experience on a return trip to St. Petersburg with his parents as he approaches forty years of age. Gary comes to love, respect, and forgive his parents - Who shall dwell upon the holy mountain? He that walketh uprightly and walketh righteously and speaks with truth in his heart. . . He that does those things shall never be moved. . . . . Let us say, Amen.

3 people found this helpful

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Good memoir... Good story...

Great performance.. Could do without the effort for fake Russian accents. Would have been better straight up English, without the poor attempts at foreign accents. They all sound like bad variations of Dracula.

3 people found this helpful

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Almost as good as Super Sad True Love Story

Jonathan Todd Ross did a great job bringing Gary's work to life. If I had been reading instead of listening, I might have struggled with the Russian words, so this was a good one to listen to. The ending falters a bit, becoming the typical "how I became a successful writer" story, which is why it was a four-star and not a five-star listen. This is a fairly negligible complaint, because most of the book is excellent.

2 people found this helpful

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Still laughing and weeping

Really, a great immigrant story. G. Shteyngart can coax a laugh and a sigh from the same sentence. He can place you right in the room with him, self deprecating and darling, and his perplexed, quasi lost but not helpless parents who just love him so much and, simultaneously, damage him terribly, and get you to see the moment he is describing from all sides. Particularly in scenes with G and his parents, you simultaneously feel for both of them.
Everyone in this story of life in the new world is trying his/her best, and making mistakes that scar deeply. When GS spoke the book's last lines I wanted more. I wanted to know what came next.

1 person found this helpful

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Witty and funny

You have to be from eastern Europe to fully enjoy this and empathize with his experience.

1 person found this helpful

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Exorcising his demons doesn't make a good book.

This is an immigrant story without charm, a coming-of-age story without charm, a father-son conflict that made me cringe, and cringe again. The author writes about his struggle to define himself as an individual while caught in the heavy net of overbearing parents, the immigrant culture of his NYC neighborhood, the pull of his mother country, and the desire to be American. It's mildly interesting, but lacking a strong climax or even an intense focus to really pull you into the author's journey.

1 person found this helpful

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Funny in doses

Any additional comments?

This amusing, frequently hilarious memoir chronicles Shteyngart journey from Soviet era childhood in Leningrad, to his family’s emigration in the late 70”s to New York, to his college years and first time book deal. Shteyngart indisputably has a gift for storytelling and turn of phrase and the narrative breezes along. His experiences are heavily dosed with self-deprecating humor and one liners that sometimes border on shtick. Though the book is often funny, I found that if I listened too long, it tended to lose its charm and grate a bit. I found I liked it much better when I listened to it in small, measured doses. The narration is spot on, capturing Shteyngart’s angst ridden persona. The mimicry of his parent’s Russian accents humorously (and without insult) enlivens what they are saying. If you haven’t read any of Shteyngart’s fiction (I hadn’t), don’t let that deter you from Little Failure. In the end, this is a lighthearted, breezy read that won’t change your life but will distract you from it.

1 person found this helpful