1. #BNBookClub: Gary Shteyngart (OUR COUNTRY FRIENDS) with Miwa Messer
  2. Are we ready for pandemic novels? Gary Shteyngart has written a great one in Our Country Friends
  3. Oblong Online: Gary Shteyngart, OUR COUNTRY FRIENDS, in conversation with Darin Strauss.
  4. Gary Shteyngart, in conversation with Fred Savage, discusses Our Country Friends
  5. 7 #booker Eligible Recent Reads: Case Study, Tell Me How To Be, Spies in Canaan, Our Country Friends
  6. Gary Shteyngart presents Our Country Friends in conversation with Carolyn Kellogg
  7. Two New Books About Progress: Our Country Friends and Rationality

#BNBookClub: Gary Shteyngart (OUR COUNTRY FRIENDS) with Miwa Messer

[Music],so,[Music],so,[Music],hey everyone thanks for joining us im,niwa messer i am the producer and host,of barnes nobles podcast poured over,gary steingart obviously is the author,of our country friends and im really,excited to see him again if by any,chance youve already heard the episode,that we did with gary that we released,on november 2nd when the book pub this,is not that conversation that was,spoiler free we are going to have,spoilers in this because we are here for,the book club discussion,so,if spoilers are not your thing we will,try and warn you in advance please mute,your audio if thats the case um and as,i said well well try and do our best,to to for those of you who dont want to,hear spoilers but we are here to talk,about our country friends and why we,love this book so much so gary thank you,so much for joining us for folks who,dont know this is garys fifth,novel do i have that right novel thats,true six book fifth novel thats right,all right so little friend was the,memoir or a little failure a little,failure with,the novels include russian w towns,handbook and lake success and,absurdistan and super super sad true,love story,there we go there we go but our country,friends is the november barnes noble,book club pick which were super excited,about and the reason we chose it i was,talking to shannon devito who is our,director of books here she was like well,i love the characters i love the,characters flaws,and i thought there was really a lot to,talk about and she is absolutely right,so,before we get to the audience question,part,can we talk about the fact that you,wrote this book in real time,starting in real time yeah you didnt,bake bread you didnt make pickles you,wrote an awful lot,maybe i should have made pickles yeah no,and uh thank you so much for having me,and uh hello out there and,uh barnes and noble readers um yeah,when the when the pandemic struck i was,writing a kind of academic satire i live,in new york and i was writing this kind,of funny satire where nyu new york,university took over manhattan which,its sort of doing now anyway but in,this scenario they actually built a wall,around the island and had their own,army with the the violet helmets,violators the school color all this kind,of stuff so it was kind of you know haha,uh kind of a satire and then uh the,pandemic started and,people around me started getting sick,and everything was sort of,um,falling apart so i decided,to,[Music],shift gears really quickly and begin to,write,about what was happening and what was,happening was that you know uh i was,living upstate,uh in the um,about 100 miles north of new york city,which is exactly where the book takes,place by the way this,novel has absolutely no imagination on,my part everything everything thats in,there is is in there you know the house,looks exactly like my house except i,have one little guest house,uh and here there are five and thats,because when i was growing up there were,uh five i grew up in a,russian bungalow colony uh and um,[Music],we had these little bungalows where all,the kids stayed and that was the best,part of the year for me because i didnt,speak any english when i came here so,for me this was a big deal going upstate,hanging out with other russian kids,speaking the language i felt like i was,normal instead of everyone making fun of,me because i had these big fur hats and,all these other russian accoutrements,that,werent exactly hip in 1980s uh you know,america so um that was sashas dream,growing up was to have this little,bungalow colony sort of my dream too i,mean im not crazy enough to build five,bungalows uh one guest house is enough,but i decided to you know sort of hang,out,uh and to write about,the world around me which was,sort of being lonely missing my real,friends who were all over the world uh,but were no longer able to you know hang,out with me because people usually come,up for the summer and stay in my house,and the guest house and also um kind of,listening to nature in a way id never,had before like just falling in love,with the silence,uh i ive spent lots of time in in my,upstate house but never for about a year,in a stretch,so i decided that and i was also reading,a lot of chekhov lord i was reading a,lot of checkup both in russian and in,english and sort of seeing how those,sentences fell and again what i was,saying about not having an imagination,you know good writers bad writers borrow,good writers just steal so i just kind,of took that tone and began to apply it,dude i went hunting for this in my own,bookcase the other day just,i think you might have the same addition,i mean its really really old its the,yeah its an old one theres a new one,by the people that did the uh anna,karenina and these translation the,balkans i think yeah uh theyre its,really good its a really great,translation i think its called 20 or 40,stories too but its a new translation,very good okay i will go hunt that down,hey harry in the background can we,launch the first poll question im,curious to see how many people who are,joining us today have read,um check off i dont know if we can,launch im asking these questions out of,order so im hoping we can,launch the poll question out of order we,might have to go in the order i gave,them to harry i dont know were trying,a new feature guys so bear with us for a,second but im just curious to see so if,you have the latest version of zoom you,will be able to participate in this poll,question as soon as we get it up and,running,um,and ron gutierrez i will try and get to,your question because thats a really,good question i have all sorts of,screens open while we wait for the poll,questions to to launch,um,gary you have written while were,waiting for the tech to back us up here,a really beautiful novel about,friendship which isnt something we,often see i mean family right family is,like,the thing that is really kind of,reliably book group territory right like,yeah its got a family everyones got,yeah everyones got a family,variations,of yeah,but but why fam uh why friendship for,you yeah i think you know especially,since my first couple of books dealt,with the immigrant experience and thats,something im really interested in and,obviously six out of the eight,characters uh in the book are are,immigrants but yeah i was i was really,interested in ive done so many books,about family and ive done so many books,about romance about people falling in,love with each other i mean one of my,books was called super sad true love,story right,uh yeah see my books always advertise,what theyre about like you know thats,a book about love and our country,friends is a book about friendship uh,you get what you which you you know what,you see on the tin uh and i think its,because in my a couple of things first,of all im in my late 40s im about to,be 50. and at this point friendship,means even more to me i mean so many of,our,of my contemporaries their pirates have,either passed away or have moved to,florida which is also very far away you,know in a kind of seinfeld sense they,dont really see them uh very often um,and so i think our friendships have,become more important to us uh also to a,lot of immigrants they are kind of,important because as much as we love our,parents they werent always able to give,us advice that really kind of worked in,the american context like i have a great,indian american friend and his father,would tell him,son you know your muscle tone is so low,no woman will ever love you so you have,to go to engineering school uh and do,really well you know that was his advice,that he had such low muscle tone and he,had to go to engineering school so stuff,like that i got plenty of that and that,was completely useless right so uh we,kind of became each others parents and,siblings sometimes lovers as well and,all these groups of friends coalesced,around sort of a need like that and so i,just took that and kind of made that,kind of like a big chill type of,scenario right where th

Are we ready for pandemic novels? Gary Shteyngart has written a great one in Our Country Friends

the great john gardner once wrote that a,writer must enable us to see and feel,vividly what his characters see and feel,and gary steingart lake success,absurdistan enables the reader to see,and feel the characters every emotion in,his new novel our country friends random,house,336 pp half out of four out tuesday he,accomplishes this by chronicling the,life of eight friends who sequester,themselves at an extate in upstate new,york during the spring of 2020 to escape,mentally and physically the daily,cruelties of covid19,[Music],our country friends is a,character-driven novel and steingarts,prader-natural ability to compose unique,characters is on full display here first,there is alexander sasha sandorowski a,russian-born writer professor and broke,owner of the estate who waited until he,was 45 to get his drivers license he is,married to masha a free-spirited,psychiatrist whom he has known since,childhood in russia their adopted,daughter natasha nat is a precocious,genderfluid child who is really,exceptional like that swedish girl with,the,aspergers has the right perspective on,life and so will you after reading it,how pastors daughter angela merkel,became the worlds most powerful woman,[Music],vinod meda is a high school friend,former professor and one-time short,order cook who is battling an illness,another high school friend is karen cho,who made her fortune by inventing a,phone app that helps people fall in love,then there is ed kim a pretentious,korean man who toted a leather stone bag,wore aviator sunglasses and kept his,hair dark,dee an assayist is a quintessential,southern beauty and former student of,sashas all the women are infatuated,with the actor or the exalted one who,was visiting to work on a screenplay,with sasha,steingarts talent is further displayed,in his description of the setting he,places the reader on sashas property,which abuts a sheep farm and is always,in earshot of the loud gobbles of wild,turkeys he also writes accurately about,the tragic events unfolding 90 minutes,south there were vinod realized a series,of refrigerated trucks parked behind his,local hospital in queens collecting the,forklifted bodies of the dead,but it is the authors ability to move,the plot with moments of arguing,partying cheating and reminiscing about,high school days that entices the reader,turn the page the reader even questions,if one of the friends traveled to the,estate to die,at its core our country friends is a,pandemic novel but steingart still,manages to thread his trademark,criticisms throughout while addressing,social issues that require immediate,attention including police brutality,diaspora and sexual orientation,fittingly a check of play serves as a,coda to steingarts virtuoso performance,about the human condition,[Music]

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Oblong Online: Gary Shteyngart, OUR COUNTRY FRIENDS, in conversation with Darin Strauss.

hello and thank you for joining us this,evening im helen soslowski im the,events director for oblong books um if,youre not familiar with oblong we have,two independent bookstores based in,rhinebeck and millerton in new yorks,hudson valley,before we introduce our guests this,evening if you have any questions at any,time during the program please type them,in the chat,or in the ask a question module at the,bottom of your screen and theyll be,addressed,at the end of the program or in the,middle of the program or,whenever,our participants feel theyre ready to,open things up to questions,signed copies of our country friends are,available at oblongbooks.com,for those of you who prefer to listen to,their literature we also have the audio,book which is narrated by rob shapiro,and links for both the sign books and,the audio book are available in the chat,we are very pleased this evening to be,joined by new york times best-selling,author gary steingard will be talking,about his new novel our country friends,with author darren strauss,our country friends has been hailed as a,virtuoso performance by usa today and,the washington post called it an homage,to check off with four romances and a,finale that will break your heart,conducting the conversation with gary,this evening is best-selling author,darren strauss welcome darren whose work,has earned a number of awards including,a guggenheim fellowship and the national,book critics circle award he is the,author of the 2011 autobiography half a,life which won the nbcc award for memoir,and he currently teaches as clinical,professor of creative writing at nyu and,with that i will hand over to darren,all right thank you for having uh me im,very excited,to be um,introducing gary its pleasure to be,here um,so ill just start by saying i think,gary steinberg may be,um pound for pound,the best writer of his,my,r generation i mean,hes not the biggest guy and i havent,weighed myself,or zadie smith more to the point lately,but,i think its true no one can do more,than gary can hes like a three-tool,player in the nba,but instead of pass shoot rebound its i,dont know joke,simile,make you cry,um he can do he can be as funny as,saunders he can work a big cans of,canvas like friends and he can be,lyrically pyrotechnic like schaebon he,can go,as far out there as lethal he can pull,you up short like zadie,he can hit as hard as close and,whitehead so,yeah i think he can you can do,anything and and this new one,uh,yeah,our country friends no i havent quite,finished yet i just got it in the mail,uh i think its up there with his best,somehow he managed,a masterpiece pandemic novel during,the pandemic i mean,i guess he has those maskless unboxed,jackasses to thank for dragging all this,arms so he couldnt make his deadline,but our country friends is moving and,spirited and funny and sad and fun,and great so um its a real pleasure to,be here talking to gary about it hello,gary,hi there its so great to see you again,and thank you for that really wonderful,introduction i i am not worthy but but i,really appreciate all those very kind,words and comparisons to uh our,generations best and i am a huge fan of,your work um,ive read it since since chang and eng,right i read it since yeah weve known,each other a long time yeah yeah we go,back um you know and,literally circles in new york can be,pretty competitive but were were were,nice friends yeah,i dont think thats true i mean yeah,its true but everyone seems pretty nice,you know i mean,youre right youre right i mean i,remember when i was starting out things,were a little more it was still that,transitional period when norman mailer,was still alive so you know you could,still go to a party and he would punch,you uh you wouldnt feel it because he,was he was old at that point yeah he was,pretty old at that point so it was more,like a,yeah him push your chin a little bit uh,but yes today most uh writing parties as,you know its just a bunch of,people drinking cheap white wine and,talking about health insurance so,were you at that there was an event and,then well get to your book but it was,an event um a long time ago where uh,richard ford spit on colson whitehead,ive heard about it i have not witnessed,this event but i was there it was some i,cant remember it wasnt a party it was,some,i dont know some,pen thing or something but,what was interesting was coulson had the,greatest comeback so coulson had given a,bad review to richard ford richard,before he came over and spit on him,and then page six heard about it so the,new york post called him,and he said uh they said you have a,comment he said,you know what ive been around a lot old,people im used to them drooling on me,so that was all,oh thats horrifying,pretty good oh my gosh well i i am so,lucky never to have been spit upon ive,never done any spitting i i i ive,missed that on all those uh although you,know well you know,ive eaten near you maybe,okay so well lets get to the book so,i i joked about this being a pandemic,book during the pandemic but it is,amazing that you did this so quickly how,did i mean how,did the process change i mean,or did it change it just seemed like,its so it has a real kinetic energy,that seems like something that was done,at speed,yes it was really much done at speed so,what was happening and and youll like,this part because you teach at nyu is i,had started out writing a dystopian very,humorous dystopian novel about a future,in which most of manhattan was taken,over by nyu,uh,yes exactly and um,and and you know so instead of blue,helmets the troops were like violet,helmets its violet right or,uh yeah something,something like that yes exactly so yeah,i have to wear this contractually,exactly so you know it was that kind of,comedy like uh sort of a farce about,futuristic academian dystopia uh i,myself also teach but not nyu uh so i,was working on that and you know the,hahas were coming it was pretty funny i,thought,um and then the pandemic began and,i guess coming from the soviet union i,have this very,um im just very attuned to disaster on,a societal scale,because i saw the soviet union fall,apart before my eyes when i was a teeny,weeny kid so im kind of pre-programmed,to see things go to hell uh,how old you were when when you came here,and when i came here seven seven uh in,1979.,so,uh pre-glossness yes it was the depth of,the brezhnev era we were all telling,brezhnev jokes because he was very,senile at that point,it actually was drooling at many many,events um so uh for me um,you know i i kind of feel like,when i when the pandemic started the,first thought i had is this is not going,to be over anytime soon,and this became a concern when people,said youre writing a novel about the,pandemic its going to be over by,september you know,itll just be a little you know flash in,the pan but i had a feeling it would go,on for quite a while because i kind of,see,um,[Music],sorry somebodys asking me to tilt my,head more so i,wont be glaring oh boy okay thats,better look at this people are very,vocal about glare okay how about this,less glare can you see my eyes i cant,even take my glasses,how about this yeah now you can see the,rings under my eyes oh boy,um so yes so i began to um,write,uh,the book in late march i would say right,around the end of march early april uh,because i thought that my nyu novel was,just being over 2020 but in 2020 correct,sorry about that yeah and so because i,thought we were being overtaken by,events so it was time to get with the,real dystopia uh and especially not just,the pandemic but also the fact that the,government was completely incompetent we,had a another president at that point as,you may remember and things were really,falling apart and that kind of,confluence of both a tragic uh you know,a viral event combined with a political,disaster i thought was inspirational in,helping me write uh our country friends,but just uh,caution i mean the book is a pandemic,novel in some ways but the pandemic is,mo

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Gary Shteyngart, in conversation with Fred Savage, discusses Our Country Friends

good evening everyone my name is maggie,and on behalf of book soup id like to,thank everyone for joining us for our,virtual event this evening with gary,steingart in conversation with fred,savage discussing our country friends,were so excited and grateful that our,bookstore can continue to bring authors,and their works to our community during,this time,well be hosting more virtual events in,the near future and you can learn about,them on our website booksheep.com as,well as our social media at booksuit,our next event is tomorrow november 14th,with joan knuckles wilson in,conversation with timothy knuckles and,andromeda romano lux discussing the book,of timothy the devil my brother and me,support our bookstore and our authors,and purchase a copy of tonights,featured book just click on the green,purchase button that reads our country,friends directly below the viewer screen,the link will redirect you to our,website where you can continue your,checkout process were also selling,digital audio books and ebooks through,librefm and kobo for those who are,interested,just so you know the books purchased,tonight will come with signed book,plates this is an instant new york times,bestseller so please please please buy,them while we still have it,if you would like to ask a question,during the event please click the ask a,question box at the bottom of the screen,and type it in please do not use the,sidebar chat to ask a question,a little more about our presenters,gary was born in linengrad in 1972 and,came to the united states seven years,later his debut novel the russian,debutants handbook won the stephen crane,award for first fiction and the national,jewish book award for fiction,his second novel absurdistan was named,one of the top 10 books of the year by,the new york times book review,his novel super sad true love story won,the bollinger every man wodehouse prize,and became one of the most iconic novels,of the decade,his memoir little failure was a national,book critic circle award finalist and a,new york times bestseller um i think,youre seeing a trend,his most recent novel is lake success,um actually that was his penultimate,recent novel um,his books regularly appear on the best,of lists around the world and have been,published in 30 countries,um fred savage is an american actor and,television director known for his role,as kevin arnold in the beloved american,television series the wonder years he,earned several awards nominations such,as a peoples choice award and a young,artist award,without further ado im going to turn,the camera over to gary and fred thank,you so much,thank you so much uh gary its so good,to see you,its so good to see you were in um,were both in california but in,different cities,im in atlanta im in atlanta,oh are you filming or something im,working here in atlanta ive been here,since july ill be here until march so,if your tour brings you here we have to,cut you have to come,um i think im doing a virtual thing,like this in atlanta which is too bad,because it is one of my ultimate,favorite cities i love the oh god i love,the food i love the people its such a,sweet place i have to get some,recommendations to you um,yeah have to meet a friend of mine,i cant people are watching theres a,hundred and seven people a hundred wow,108 people are already out in this group,oh my god,hi everybody,um,so gary uh congratulations on the book,its incredible,um thank you i,i love you as a friend but uh hates you,as someone who really,uh is winning quarantine i think we all,were like oh were gonna do something,great,i still have i made a note in like april,of 2020 to buy a sourdough starter,because i was like oh no,oh my god,still on the to-do list,but you wrote like i cant imag theres,theres im sure,thousands hundreds of thousands of,people are like im gonna sit down and,write the great american novel during,quarantine and you did it and its,amazing and congratulations,thank you,but this was,a pivot right this was not what this was,not this was a yeah not the project you,were working on was this yeah,mid-quarantine youre like what when did,you decided what did this kind of,generate in your room when did it,generate yeah um,i would say that it started right during,march because,one thing that happened first of all i,cant bake bread or anything i can,barely make tea im just not handy with,these,these myths so um,around march i actually had about 240,pages of a novel all set and ready to go,uh and it would it was uh one of those,kind of you know,funny novels um,it was set in a dystopian future in new,york but it was about how nyu new york,university took over most of manhattan,and had its own army and navy and,you know it was that kind of haha kind,of book uh so my dystopian satire wasnt,all that dystopian actually it would be,nice if they took over you know yeah,its not that far theyre they kind of,are,theyre almost there i live in a little,building surrounded by nyu dormitories,so maybe that was just my way of,processing my own anger at nyu,so it was kind of an academic satire,with uh nyu as the um,the target and then the pandemic started,and we were already going through some,perilous political times um but combined,with the pandemic i thought oh my god uh,this really is much more dystopian,than my silly nyu takes over the world,novel,so,i decided i cant keep writing this,thing even though i have 240 pages i,dont know if this has ever happened to,you fred where youre doing a project,youre so far along and youre like,this whole thing must stop you know,so i did that i trashed all 240 pages,and i decided to pivot,uh to uh a novel which would be about,the very present day and it really,became ive never done this before ive,either written about the recent past or,the,you know the near future uh i have never,written contemporaneously with what was,actually happening and the book,literally you know i wrote three pages a,day so it took about,150 days including weekends to do it and,during that time everything that,happened in real life is in the book so,the pandemic begins and were all,wearing gloves because we think you know,that its all any surface is going to,get us sick i remember being scared to,death of toilet,plumes i think they were aerosol plumes,from toilets like i remember going to a,restaurant when they opened and,you know doing my business and then,hitting that flusher and then running,out of there and running to another,bathroom to wash my hands you know so,all of that is in there um and then of,course all the political,turmoil that happened the the,protests after george floyd everything,kind of made it into the book but,hopefully made it into the background of,the book not the center of the book,because what i always think is that,books should be and and tv series and i,mean the wonder year kind of comes to,mind too you know theres the personal,relationships and then theres the,history thats in the background you,know and you cant have one without the,other but at the same time you kind of,need both to draw the viewer or the,reader in so thats how it happened i i,you know couldnt bake bread,and had a failed novel about dystopia,that seemed too mild to really do,so you know,and also im doing a lot of chekhov and,chekhov is you know all about the,countryside etc so that was another huge,inspiration,yeah i think that i think i think the,pandemic as background um,it it definitely works and also speaks,to,you know the ideas of uh you know of,distancing uh,thats a huge theme and then you know,who to let in and who to let close and,why right,um right when um how quickly people are,uh can be to um,uh your ability or willingness to,abandon people you know when theyre no,longer uh,or well you know i mean i feel like,there was there was a joke that i think,was so um,so relevant about like humanity and our,relation to one another during the,pandemic and still you know even now is,that you know um in you know from the,beginning of time till 2020 when you,sn

7 #booker Eligible Recent Reads: Case Study, Tell Me How To Be, Spies in Canaan, Our Country Friends

hello my name is fraser simons this is,my channel springboard thought today im,going to be talking about a few more,booker eligible,titles,some more dnfs some more five stars,its a mixed run going through these,books but,lets start with,a low note kind of,lets start with glory by no violet blue,wyo,this book i dnfd but i didnt actually,rate it because the problem that i have,with it,is the central conceit,of the sort of african um,animal farm,where all the characters have been,anthropomorphized into a certain animal,presumably because of their nature but,honestly i didnt get that far enough,into it to even ascertain that,because,i have,im hyper fantasic and so,in my mind it was looking like i dont,know some kind of weird disney movie,thing in there,and they were,doing human activities such as drinking,tea adding honey,my brain was just like how work how do,so i just yeah it it wasnt anything,really against the book it was just,something that i thought i would try was,pretty sure i wasnt gonna like,and i didnt so i dnfd it didnt rate,it and get my news about the book,elsewhere where it seems to be,fairly glowing in terms of what people,are seeing from it um,so,thats that the next book is tell me how,to be by neil patel,and,the,narrator for this audiobook is,vicus adam and,this is adult fiction,its about a queer man who grows up in a,indian family in which he,knows that its not good to be queer,specifically a gay man presumably in,this one he has a partner he lives away,from his family hes very like estranged,and ever since then theyve been living,in separate worlds hes not been very,well mental health-wise he is,essentially,its not really gone into but it seems,like he has substance abuse problems,with alcohol in order to cope it is,never his true self hes always sort of,proving one thing or another not getting,attached to other people,replicating bad patterns with his,friends his lovers stuff like that,he is trying to break into the music,industry and hasnt had much,success,and what ends up happening the impetus,for the story is that the mother calls,him in order to,tell him to come to the house and get,whatever he wants because the house is,being sold and shes moving back to the,united kingdom london i believe,from america,and,it alternates chapters between him and,the mothers perspective each of them,have a core central secret to their,story,that are kind of being teased out,and its why they act the ways in which,they do usually not very nice,to each other,and,are,misunderstood in certain ways,and then theres the tensions of pulling,together family,into a,somewhat toxic dynamic because,everybodys sort of performing the roles,or performing the social roles that they,have invented for their,family in order to sort of get by on,this holiday and,unpack the stuff but of course things,get unearthed as they are packing things,up and each person is telling their,story uh of their past leading up to the,present day and alternating more or less,timelines it works really great i give,it five store stars i,i really loved the story how it came,together i thought it was very nuanced,um and,it,does a really good job of showing just,how much damage,it did to him,to repress,aspects of him but on the flip side it,also gives a lot of perspective from the,mother,why and how she does things how shes,kind of misconstrued,and,that she had a life before being a,mother and,what was happening there and that,informs her relationships going forward,so theres a bunch of things at play and,i thought it was just really good it,doesnt overstay its welcome it makes,the points and themes,that it attempts to do very well i had,no complaints,the next book that i dnfd was in olive,grove and ends by moses mckenzie i got,this from netgalley so its un um,corrected proof for one but,um,i was just i didnt like anything about,this book at the craft level even though,the actual story was very interesting,its about a black teenager in ends,which is like,being gentrified theyre sort of losing,their culture for white people coming in,and trying to,make the new starbucks and all this kind,of stuff his one life goal is to buy a,house on a specific hill,and,everything starts kind of unraveling for,this when he witnesses an act of,violence in the community and he has at,least ostensibly perpetrated it,a different one at the very beginning,like,on the first few pages he mentions that,he,killed somebody essentially or he thinks,that he killed somebody im not sure,because i dnfd it um but,it really feels like a debut it really,feels sort of why in certain aspects,theres some show dont tell stuff,basically all of the stuff that i look,for in a book it was kind of lacking in,this,a lot of pivotal moments were skated by,like,they were a sentence and then theres,granularity in,non-essential elements very superfluous,stuff,and it made for like a,disorienting very strange,absolutely always interested in the sort,of wrong stuff for me fiction,uh which is too bad because some people,very much like this book but it was just,not at all for me and i hate it even,more,discarding it as a dnf because i got it,from netgalley and it always kind of,sucks to get a book for free and then,give negative feedback for it but,thats how it is next book is,case study by graham,mcrae burnett this was a five star read,in a very surprising way,so where to begin with this this is a,layered story thats very meta um feels,kind of mfa,in some ways,it is about,an author who receives a communication,from somebody else about a,ostensibly real psychiatrist who existed,in a certain time who is very like,incendiary,known for,bad practices not actually a,psychiatrist but operating and doing,these wild things with people in a sort,of hedonistic,burn it all down,a,weird way basically and the author of,this story whos,it seems like its insinuating that it,is the real author burnett but in the,actual book it is a different author,thing so you you started to begin to see,the playfulness of the story um,basically hes very interested in,writing something about the psychiatrist,somebody solicits him,with a story thats really wild about a,woman who goes to see this man for,treatment,and starts like,sort of devolving um,as she begins to see him,he purports to,sort of see people with personality,disorders and other,mental illness as things that they need,to kind of lean into like,not quirks but,not absolutely everything is something,that needs to be cured and some,ostensible maladies in this time i think,its like the 40s or 50s in this book,are more,prescribed by society as being bad,and so should be cured when actually,theyre just normal symptoms of being in,modernity and stuff like that right,um,and this woman begins to,essentially,create an alternate personality in which,that she can like sort of,deal with her circumstances,in a different way,in a sort of like,identity crisis way,but,hes saying that it is more of a,positive change in her that she lean,into and take on these,these different changes to see what,her life becomes and the galvanizing,part for her story of why she is even,going to this man in the first place is,because she had a sister who ostensibly,committed suicide by,jumping off of a building or,sorry a bridge,um and it is sort of purported that his,treatment led to this and so shes sort,of,trying to do an entrapment thing maybe,to the psychiatrist,and get a beat on him but of course,things,get more complicated with that and then,additionally,the author,who received this story about this woman,who intersperses it into the actual,novel,intersperses also,a fictional,uh history of this psychiatrist like,sort of is,a buildings roman type situation like a,small boy to getting his degree in,a small college and and,elucidating those aspects of him so,theres the,overall meta story that is occurring,throughout it theres the womans story,and then there is the psychiatrist story,and it alternates its pretty short work,its quite quick,and it r

Gary Shteyngart presents Our Country Friends in conversation with Carolyn Kellogg

today we are thrilled to welcome,gary steingart in conversation with,carolyn kellogg talking about garys new,book our country friends,gary steingart is a multi-award-winning,new york times bestselling author whose,books regularly appear on best of lists,around the world and have been published,in 30 countries he is the author of the,memoir little failure and the the novel,super sad true love story like success,absurds absurdist and the russian,debutantes handbook as well as the book,hell be talking about today our country,friends,its march 2020 and a calamity is,unfolding a group of friends and friends,of friends gathers in a country house to,await out the pandemic,over the next six months new,relationships and romances take hold,while old betrayals emerge forcing each,character to reevaluate whom they love,and what matters most in our country,friends gary steingart documents through,fiction the emotional toll of our recent,times in a story of love and friendship,that reads like a great russian novel,set in upstate new york,today hell be joined by carolyn kellogg,a writer critic and former books editor,of the los angeles times,todays event will include an audience q,a so please use the q a button at the,bottom of your screen if youd like to,ask a question as well if someone else,has typed a question youd also like to,know the answer to please upload that,particular question by clicking the,thumbs up button,lastly please support these authors and,it mean pals by purchasing a copy of,this book from us a link to by our,country friends will be shared in the,chat a couple of times during this event,so gary and carolyn thank you so much,for joining us today were thrilled to,have you,hi gary its great to see you over the,zoo great to see you my fellow upstater,how are you,um well i have been busy re-reading our,country friends which i think is out in,paperback today is that right oh look at,this oh my god,i love a good paperback its so soft you,know,uh and what does that medallion say on,it,uh the medallion says one of the new,york times notable books of the year how,about that,and the hardcover says,quote uh a masterpiece end quote,by andrew sean greer,where are all these nice people giving,me all this stuff oh my god,wow im sure that theyre people who owe,you good blurbs thats true ive learned,over 500 books so people owe me a lot,yeah so when uh when so this is a book,about um uh sasha sandorowski,who uh uh is a,a,jewish russian uh,uh writer who moves who gets a place in,upstate new york that he calls his daca,daca,dacha thank you,and um and uh invites his friend he,lives there with his wife masha and,their uh child nat or natasha um,and,he invites his best friends to spend the,pandemic with them and you were working,on this you started this i assume in,2020,yeah i was writing a kind of um,a dystopian novel set in new york city,not upstate where uh nyu new york,university um,which has already expanded over my,neighborhood in the city but it decides,to take over all of manhattan and just,pushes everyone out creates its own,police force,uh and uh yeah nyu becomes the only game,in town which kind of is true in like,about the ten square blocks where i live,uh downtown uh so it was like an,academic satire you know haha but then,the pandemic started and i was like i,write about this kind of dystopia when i,can uh write about the real dystopia so,by that point i was already hunkered,down upstate,and i spent about six months out of the,year in a good year but this time i just,stayed on and was reading a lot of,checkup because thats what you do in,the country,uh having a lot of drinks but not too,many drinks which also helped a lot,because,i think in my usual kind of schedule of,writing and going out the going out can,take over things you know but it was the,pandemic it was the country uh in the,countryside,we our idea of a crazy party is like,going on until 8 pm you know thats,considered in country time thats like,wow so i would go to bed early uh and,rise early and i was able to write this,book faster than any other book ive,ever written because it was the pandemic,so pandemics are good for writers,uh yeah uh,as many writers in the past uh,prove to us but wait when you had any,fear when you were working on it that,the that the idea of the pandemic would,be like old hat by the time it made it,all the way into peoples hands i didnt,have that feeling i thought that given,the response of our former leader who,was then in charge that this thing would,just,not work out you know the problem,wouldnt be cured with sunlight or,bleach in three months uh that rather it,would continue for a very long time uh,and also that the country and the world,in general but our country in particular,was just not suited for a quick,emergency response so i thought that the,virus would continue on for a while and,if you look through history these,viruses dont go away in a year you know,they hang around but it was also this,exciting time as a writer not as a,you know citizen of the planet but it,was an exciting time to see what people,were like when they were stripped of,social contact when we were able to turn,inside ourselves the conceit of the book,of course is that six or seven people,show up at,sasha sanderovichs house sandorowskis,house and there they uh actually have a,friend named sasha cinderovich uh and i,used his name at first and he was like,please dont do that so i changed it to,sasha centenovsky from cinderella vich,but its weird because now im reviewing,the book by sasha cinderella shes a,scholar for another publication so its,all muddled in my head anyway lets just,call him sasha um sasha invites eight,people to his house,and i didnt quite have that situation,but i did form very tight bonds with,some of my best friends upstate,and um,we spent a lot of our time,hanging around by the pool but kind of,all separated across the pool and kind,of shouting at each other,but it was really kind of sweet uh i,know obviously a lot of people had much,worse encounters with with the pandemic,but uh for us it was very idyllic and,like i said you know um its good for a,writer to stay off the hooch and um,focus on her work,but you do have i mean theres wine uh,sasha drinks plenty,and uh his errand of like fetching wine,at the beginning of the book is sort of,like,like,battening down the hatches for this,pandemic that might last forever and,theres wine on the cover and i see that,you have wine behind you did somebody,make our country friends,its hard to find these but this is our,country friends the wine its a frisky,little riesling uh from millbrook which,is a,millbrook wine is a,a,winery upstate um i encourage anyone to,try to find one its okay its pretty,good you know uh we had a couple of,readings upstate and we uh we served,those,uh we served those and then we had a,reporter from the times came to the,house to do an article and we we got her,appropriately drunk on that so,really helped review,so yeah yeah um weve had some fun with,that um,yeah um,so many writers i know have left new,york have given up on living in new york,because its,you know they tried brooklyn now,brooklyn is more expensive than,manhattan the queens theyre being,thrown out of uh,the bronx is getting there but not there,yet staten island is,in staten island uh so many people i,know have left for,many writers specifically have left for,sort of rhinebeck kingston where i know,you are hudson all that kind of stuff so,i know that when you go out on the,streets of kingston you know theres a,writer on every block,yeah this is during the height of the,pandemic because all these brooklynites,had fled up there and they were all told,to go home and i was like yes i actually,am from here thats what it says on my,license so i felt good one of the things,that your uh book sort of talks about it,sort of maps out the,uh,the different,cultures of upstate the um sasha and,sashas place is next to like a,a sheep farm,so theres always i

Two New Books About Progress: Our Country Friends and Rationality

all right,well it is friday october 29th,2021,and i am happy to be here i being jeff,salzman,and here being at a new episode of this,week in the new york times,a post-progressive look,at our progressive paper of record,and today i want to focus on two books,that have been featured and reviewed in,the new york times recently and they,both sort of,exemplify,two sides of the polarity of apocalypse,versus progress,and in in in a fun way i think,so the first one,is a book by gary stengart,who is a novelist i had never heard of,him but i guess hes a very highly,regarded novelist and people love his,new book his new novel,called our country friends,and,i think i have a picture of him here,there he is,i like it i like this picture hes in,his swimming pool hes in the hamptons,in uh with a big,bronze,flamingo blown up and he seems like a,very fun guy,except for his dystopian view of the,world,and so anyway this is a feature about,him in his new book by alexandria alter,and it was published on wednesday,and it starts out the dystopia is now,gary stengart said in an urgent tone a,few decibels shy of a yelp,we were sitting in union square on an,unseasonably warm october morning as,people around us walked dogs pushed,strollers and scrolled their phones in a,poke in the post-apocalyptic sunlight,everything looked and felt weirdly,normal,not long ago a man ranting in a public,square about global collapse might have,seemed like a messianic crank,but given the state of things as we,linger in the nebulous middle of the end,or end of the middle of the pandemic,who could disagree,the dystopia is now,well i could disagree but,onward ill get to that uh so he she,goes on,she talks about his new book our country,friends which random house will release,next week is being lauded as quote the,great american pandemic novel unquote,and has drawn comparisons to chekhov who,hovers over the novel like a patron,saint,it turns bitingly funny and unbearably,sad,its among the first major works of,literary fiction to wrestle with the,psychological sociological and cultural,impact of the pandemic,and marks a new more reflective register,for stengart,for stengart the pandemic was not so,much a shock as a culmination of his,lifelong belief that were living on the,edge of disaster,the constant state where terrible things,are happening to every single member of,society where you cant escape,thats going to be the new normal so we,have to change the way we write he said,its a moment where we dont have the,political social,system and societal will to avert,catastrophe he added,how do you not write about that if,youre a writer,i,so im reading that and im thinking my,goodness gracious the the story is about,the the this,its a reflection of what actually,happened to him the pandemic came hes a,writer in new york he moved to his house,in the country with a pool,uh you know hes got his friends out,there and thats what is actually,happening to this gary steingart the,novelist and its how its the setting,of his novel as well people come friends,come to this uh,country estate he has,so im thinking this,does this guy have any i was just,watching a documentary on the siege of,leningrad you know in in the one of the,most horrible uh,two three-year sieges in history of,course and,um,many millions have died and the whole,world war ii calamity and im thinking,that does this guy have no sense of,proportion you know i mean whats up,with this,you know every single person whats he,say up here,the constant state where terrible things,are happening to every single member of,society where you cant escape i mean,that this is,that was actually happening in large,parts of human history so um so im,reading this and then,he i come to this next paragraph and it,just completely flips me on my head he,says it says he has spent most of his,life bracing for catastrophe,a stance he attributes partly to his,soviet and jewish heritage,born igor stuttgart in leningrad,now saint petersburg,his family immigrated to little neck,queens when he was seven and his parents,trained him to expect the worst you,think apocalyptically he said i think,thats hysterical,um,and to just show a little bit of his wit,he talked about you know he was born,igor stuttgart,and my name was changed to gary in,america so i would suffer one or two,fewer beatings,oh lord but its an argument for,inherited trauma,uh,whether that happens,in the,physical realm or not uh it certainly,happens in the memetic realm where,grandparents parents you know just the,subtle body energies of fear,can be transferred and perhaps genetic,material as well,um,so anyway he he,the article continues,he has a lot of self-awareness about his,apocalyptic stance which i think,forgives a lot,and hes very um,he has sort of an aesthetic of doom,that he he wears a smoking jacket and um,when the the author asked him about the,risk so hes you know hes gentrifying,this hudson valley the risk that the,hudson valley was becoming too much like,the hamptons with its rich inhabitants,and their infinity pools,he said proudly our pool is finite,so i think thats funny i did get a copy,of the book its not out yet so its,good itll itll come when it is i think,its a few matter of a few days but,uh based on a lot of reviews,including this one im going to read a,couple paragraphs from here uh it is,uh,its supposed to be really great and so,im going to give it a whirl,uh and this is this is uh,the first one was a sort of a profile of,uh this author and this is the actual,book review by molly young and just two,paragraphs and this is the last two,paragraphs of the review after she just,rhapsodizes about it,she says to read this novel,is to tally a high school yearbooks,worth of superlatives for stengart,funniest,noisiest,sweetest,most entertaining,to those i will add a few superlatives,that were not celebrated at my own high,school,most melancholic,most quizzical,most skilled at vibrating the deepest,string strings of the anthropoid heart,our country friends,is a perfect novel for these times and,all times,the single textual artifact from the,pandemic era i would place at a time,capsule as a representation of all that,is good and true true and beautiful,about literature,i hope the extraterrestrials,who exhume it will agree,so,uh thats um so anyway thats thats the,sort of,apocalyptic view even though again i,think it comes with a lot of,second-tier self-awareness and thats,you know we want the witness on board,most of the time,and thats a big move in consciousness,so anyway now we go to the sort of the,antidote the other side of the polarity,with stephen pinker,and hes of course one of our leading,public intellectuals and hes out with a,new book,and ill look at a couple reviews but,first i want to look at an interview,that,was conducted in the new york times by,david marquisi,and,the title of it is stephen pinker thinks,your sense of imminent doom,is wrong,and i like that,all right,so,he writes,in the introduction markeisy writes in,our uncertain age which can so often,feel so dark and disturbing,as opposed to other more certain ages,that were not dark and disturbing i mean,what,just the sort of,the this,um assumption that our age is,particularly dark and disturbing of,course it is but every stage is,particularly,specifically dark and disturbing,and also good true and beautiful anyway,in our uncertain age which can so often,feel so dark and disturbing stephen,pinker has distinguished himself as a,voice of positivity,this has been a boon for him as is books,like the better angels of our nature why,violence has declined 2011,and enlightenment now the case for,reason science humanism and progress,2018,these have been best sellers and,elevated the harvard cognitive,and elevated the harvard cognitive,psychologist who is 66,beyond academia and into the realm of,the public intellectual,and so we have now his new book,rationality,what it is,why it seems scarce,and why it matters,and uh i havent read the whole book b

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