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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Absurdistan and Marginalia

One thing I will miss about paper books is finding things in them when I buy them used.  I frequently find things like business cards and addresses.  I always wonder if the book affected the person who read it before the same way it affected me.  I'd love to have a conversation with the previous owner and tell them how much I enjoyed the sacrifice they made by donating it or to tell them how much I agree with the decision to purge it from their shelves.

My favorite things to find are inside cover inscriptions and notes.  That's when you really get a chance to know a bit about what the previous owner - or the person who bought it for them - really thought about the book.  Here's what I found inside Absurdistan:

[caption id="attachment_432" align="aligncenter" width="224" caption="Mary's note."][/caption]

Absurdistan is another novel by Gary Shteyngart the same author who wrote Super Sad True Love Story.  The main character, Misha Vainberg, is another Russian Jewish man like the main character in Shteyngart's other novels.  Misha is fat, way fat, and spends almost the whole of the book having sex with larger women.  I don't know if that was the grossness that turned Mary off or if it was Misha's constant eating.  This book is the penthouse letters of Russian cuisine.  Misha eats platefuls of sturgeon, caviar, boiled eggs and all manor of sausages and pickled vegetable relishes before this novel winds down.

The general plot of the novel is that Misha is trapped in Russia because of his mobster father's crimes.  He had attended college in America thanks to his father's insistence that he become an American Jew.  He also spends a good share of the novel trying to come to come to grips with his botched back alley circumcision that his father arranged after rediscovering his Jewish heritage (I'm sure that Mary wasn't impressed with the detailed descriptions of Misha's mangled member either).  His father is assassinated and Misha is offered a deal by the "family" to take his share of the money and get out of the family business.  Misha hears that he can buy a passport in a small country on the shores of the Black Sea called Absurdistan and decides to go in order to get out of Russia and return to his beloved New York City.

Once Misha arrives in Absurdistan, a war breaks out.  Through his travels throughout the tiny country it is revealed that the war is orchestrated by the U.S. department of defense and Halliburton.  At first I thought Mary was totally off base about how this is a parody of the crazy world stage but after I finished I decided to do a little googling of some of the terms that Stheyngart's Halliburton characters used like "cost plus" and "logcap".  After that I started to feel a little ill.

The book comes to a satisfying  ending which actually made it a little better than Super Sad True Love Story. I've actually Started on another Shteyngart novel and if I finish in a timely manner Shteyngart will be the first multi-novel author who's books I will have read in entirety in a long time.

So RD, I'm glad you decided to pass this book on to the used book store.  I throughly enjoyed it.

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Hey I appreciate you leaving your thoughts behind! Be well my friend.