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Author Gary Shteyngart on Working for TV: "Put Me in a Writers' Room and I Really Shine"

Gary Shteyngart
Gary Shteyngart
Photo by Brigitte Lacombe

Gary Shteyngart has achieved plenty of respectable goals: teaching at Columbia, speaking at Google, being featured in publications such as Rolling Stone and the New York Times. But mainly, he writes award-winning satirical fiction. Super Sad True Love Story, his 2010 novel following a budding relationship against a backdrop of dystopian consumerism, appeared on dozens of lists of that year's best books.

Now the author, who was born in Leningrad (present-day St. Petersburg, Russia) and raised in New York from the age of 9, has returned with Lake Success, which follows hedge fund manager Barry Cohen, a Big Apple-based 1-percenter, on a narcissistic journey via Greyhound bus as he tries to escape his First-World problems.

Shteyngart will read at Books & Books in Coral Gables this Thursday. He recently spoke with New Times about his new work, his involvement in a new HBO dramedy, and being an immigrant in Trump's America.

New Times: Could you bestow a newly created genre upon your new novel, Lake Success?
Shteyngart: Greyhound onboard literature. Huge chunks of the book were written on the Hound while waiting for the lavatory to open up.

You’re consulting for HBO’s Wall Street dramedy, Succession, by The Big Short director Adam McKay. How do you see your involvement evolving?
Oh God, I love TV. Put me in a writers' room and I really shine. Novel-writing is so lonely. It’s enough to make one drink. Hell, I’m drinking now.

Can your immigrant writers' class at Columbia survive six more years of the president's immigration policies?
I think I may not survive six more years. Wait until my ass gets denaturalized.

Can you describe your mental-health regimen?
Lots and lots of therapy. Our analysts are our true heroes. I have two now and a rapid-response team of social workers. By the way, I love Miami’s mental-health scene. Well done!

Does modern literature need humor more than modern cinema needs it? Favorite films of late?
Humor is the best and the hardest to pull off. That’s why Glow or anything with Alison Brie is so great.

Is it fascism yet?
Almost there! Just a few White House press conferences away.

Gary Shteyngart. 8 p.m. Thursday, September 27, at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables; booksandbooks.com. Admission costs $28 and includes a copy of Lake Success.

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