I got two books by young novelists in the mail today, From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant by Alex Gilvarry and The Fallback Plan by Leigh Stein. Both of them had blurbs by Gary Shteyngart.
Anyone who works in a bookstore or frequents bookstores or somehow encounters books written by young novelists will know one simple truth about the publishing industry: Gary Shteyngart blurbs EVERYTHING. His endorsement has become the Diane von Furstenberg of the book world, just one wrap dress away from going straight to Marshall's. Wait, that doesn't make sense. What I'm trying to say is that Gary Shteyngart really likes young novelists and is really nice to a whole lot of them.
Gary Shteyngart is a bestselling novelist who hangs out with James Franco in Manhattan. I haven't had a haircut in three months. This interview is fake. I talked to him for real once, but not this time. (Thanks to Videogum for freeing me to do fake interviews.)
PageViews: Hey Gary Shteyngart! Thanks for taking time out to talk to me! I'd imagine you're in the middle of something really fabulous, like antiquing with Jeffrey Eugenides or eating sturgeon in authentic Russian restaurants with James Franco, or something.
Gary Shtryngart: No worries! I actually just disembarked Jay McInerney's private jet, so perfect timing on your end.
PV: That's just great! First of all, I'd like to say I really enjoyed your novels. I thought The Russian Debutante's Handbook did a great job of showing what it's like to be a self-conscious liberal arts grad. And Absurdistan? Forget about it! That book was so hilarious. And I ended up liking Super Sad True Love Story, even though I found it somewhat self-satisfied. I mean, you won me over even though you came across as a total old fogey technophobe. So yeah, keep on writing!
GS: Thanks! I'm so glad you liked my books!
PV: So the reason I'm calling is because I got two books today and you had blurbed both of them. You seem to blurb every single book by young, somewhat cool authors! It's almost like if a publisher goes with a whimsical jacket design for a debut young novelist, that book will also likely be blurbed by you.
GS: Yes, that's certainly true. I do blurb a whole lot of books.
PV: I noticed! But the thing is, Gary Shteyngart, we all know that there are only one or two good books -- I mean really good books -- that come out every year. And you seem to blurb more than that. And also, it's like, everyone who doesn't live in New York and keeps up with fiction imagines these very swanky cocktail parties in Manhattan apartments, and you're there, and Paul Giamatti is there, and like maybe Padma Lakshmi...
GS: Yes, those happen all the time.
PV: And then you can sort of imagine your agent, or maybe someone else's agent, bringing a bright young novelist along. And all the people at the cocktail party want to talk to the young novelist because the young novelist uses Twitter and listens to Das Racist and still has dewey, pliant skin and bright eyes and hasn't tried every variety of olive yet. And the young novelist looks up at you with their large, young-person eyes and tells you about his novel -- of course, you have to draw it out of him, because he's shy and you're a New Yorker 20 under 40 person and a New York Times bestseller and you know James Franco, so of course they're going to look up to you. But anyway, you draw it out of him, and you're cast back to a decade ago, before the brunches with Michelle Williams, and you see yourself when you were just a struggling liberal arts grad, working on your novel on your lunch break and dreaming of going to grad school someday, maybe.
GS: There might be an element of truth to that, yes.
PV: But if that's true, is it also true that you can't possibly like all these books? I mean, as I said, there are only one or two actually good books that come out every year -- five, tops -- and you must blurb at least 28 books every month. Do you have any standards, Gary Shteyngart? Do you even read these books, or do you just glance at the covers to make sure the titles are written in a font that looks sort of hand-lettered, and maybe there's a silly drawing somewhere on the cover, also?
GS: This interview is over.
PV: Well thanks, Gary Shteyngart! Say hi to James Franco for me.