The Russian Debutante's Handbook

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9781573222136: The Russian Debutante's Handbook
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The Russian Debutante's Handbook is infused with energy and wit and a brilliant use of language. Hilarious, extravagant, yet uncannily true to life, it follows the adventures of Vladimir, a young Russian-American immigrant, whose capitalist dreams and desires for a girlfriend lead him off the straight and narrow and into uncharted territory.

Taking us from the dreary confines of New York City's Emma Lazarus Immigrant Absorption Society to the hip frontier wilderness of Prava-the Eastern European Paris of the nineties-whose grand and glorious beauty is marred only by the shadow of the looming statue of Stalin's foot, The Russian Debutante's Handbook is both a madcap adventure and a serious look at what it means to be an outsider in America, and what it means to be an American.

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Review:

Vladimir Girshkin, a likeable Russian immigrant, searches for love, a decent job, and a credible self-identity in Gary Shteyngart's debut novel, The Russian Debutante's Handbook. With a doctor-father of questionable ethics and a manic, banker mother, Vladimir avoids his suburban parents and their desire that he pursue the almighty dollar as proof of success. Vladimir gets by as an immigration clerk, eking out a living in a cruddy New York City apartment while accumulating an array of quirky acquaintances, from a wealthy but disheveled old man (who claims his electric fan speaks to him) desperate for citizenship to Challa, a portly S/M queen. As a love interest, Challa is replaced by Francesca, a graduate student whose friends welcome Vladimir for the status he brings their bohemian clique, and whose parents encourage them to shack up (she lives at home) as visible proof she can maintain a steady relationship.

The Russian Debutante's Handbook is a quirky amalgam of dead-on American absurdities, albeit with somewhat stereotypical characters. While Vladimir flounders with how to improve his state, he becomes an expatriate in a trendy European city, becomes somewhat of a mobster himself, and generally has a good time. While many of the central characters remain elusively thin, Vladimir is a delight, and Shteyngart's wit is merciless: Russian women wear "wedding cakes of blond hair" and graduate students lounge in a bar "as if waiting for funding to appear." Reminiscent of Gogol and other Russian satirists, The Russian Debutante's Handbook is a genuine, sublime social commentary. --Michael Ferch

About the Author:

Gary Shteyngart was born in Leningrad in 1972, and came to the United States seven years later. His novel, The Russian Debutante's Handbook, won the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction, was named a New York Times Notable Book, and was chosen as a best book of the year by the Washington Post Book World and Entertainment Weekly. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, and many other publications. He lives in New York City.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9781573229883: The Russian Debutante's Handbook

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  1573229881 ISBN 13:  9781573229883
Publisher: Riverhead Books, 2003
Softcover

9780747568193: The Russian Debutante's Handbook

Blooms..., 2004
Softcover

9780747561026: The Russian Debutante's Handbook --2003 publication

Blooms..., 2003
Softcover

9780641559839: The Russian Debutante's Handbook

Riverh..., 2002
Hardcover

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