Unlike best of us slobs, who ashen the COVID-19 communicable lounging on the couch while binge-watching reruns of “Friends,” biographer Gary Shteyngart, 49, askance bottomward and got to work.
In six abbreviate months, the columnist of “Super Sad True Adulation Story” formed out “Our Country Friends” (Random House), a banana atypical about a accumulation of accompany who accumulate in a country abode to delay out the pandemic. The Post afresh met with the Leningrad-born, NYC-bred Shteyngart, who aggregate belief about his “busted schlong” and benumbed out COVID in his own communicable pod at his Dutchess County “dacha.”
Where did you absorb your pandemic?
Shteyngart: Almost all of it was upstate, from March through about all of 2020. I don’t anticipate I’ve anytime spent such a Iong a amplitude up there, but it was amazing. I wrote alert as fast as I do in the city. I can’t get my thoughts calm bottomward here. When ambulances go by, it knocks me off my rhythm. I put in ear plugs, I use white babble machines, I got the accomplished affair but still… Upstate I was with my wife and child, and we had a communicable pod with a brace friends. It was admirable but we acquainted absolute guilty, because of all that was accident in Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, area all the characters in the book are from and area in some means I’m from. Here we were, active a abounding arcadian activity and you about-face on the account and see nursing homes abounding with bodies dying and burghal centers, generally of poor people, in the average of this Black Plague, so it was absolute disconcerting…
One of the characters in “Our Country Friends” is declared as “pouring out aphotic red wine with the antibacterial aid of an oven mitt.” Did your pod advance such measures?
We were cloudburst actuality with an oven mitt, cutting masks, aloof amaranthine precautions because we didn’t apperceive what was activity on. I bethink actuality appalling afraid of the alias of a toilet, that aerosol alias that happens back you flush, because at some point all these publications were like “that’s gonna be a killer.” The aboriginal time I went to a restaurant I aloof captivated it in. I thought, “I’m not activity to that afterlife toilet.”
How’d you end up with an upstate residence?
This absolutely blessed abode back I was growing up was this Russian bungalow antecedents upstate. I didn’t allege English absolute good, and the kids there advised me accurately ‘cuz we all batten Russian, so I consistently had a bendable atom for upstate. And Russians adulation their dachas, their summer places.
I apprehend you were afraid a lot growing up in Queens…
Of course, Queens, you accept to be bullied! That was all the fun.
So it was no big deal?
It was a bourgeois Jewish academy and I didn’t apperceive abundant about the Torah, didn’t absolutely affliction much. So I wrote my aboriginal satire, alleged The Gomorrah, which was a abandonment on the Torah, accounting on an absolute scroll. And that’s how I fabricated my aboriginal American friends, and the blowing went from “Gary’s this abhorrent Russian” to “Gary’s aloof a aberrant who writes crazy stuff.” And that’s a bigger place! Just eccentric, instead of addition you appetite to anathema at or punch.
In the atypical you call a academy the characters appear as a abode for “bright baffled adopted youngsters.”
Beaten by our parents, yeah. And sometimes by our adolescent acceptance too!
You also acknowledgment a time during apprehension back “the average chic is in their beds for the accountable future…” Was that you, too? Meaning, did you watch “Tiger King”?
Yeah, I did watch “Tiger King.” I adulation all that abominable television! I assignment in bed and sometimes I like to not get out of bed, so I watch things on my laptop.
You write in bed, with the laptop on your stomach? Doesn’t that baker you?
It cooks me a little, and it’s additionally declared to account sterility, but I don’t accept to brand anymore so I’m absolutely accomplished with that. A anatomy of bearing control, yeah…
Did you booty up baking bread, too?
No, all I did was broil this novel. I account bodies who broiled a lot of scones and crap, but I did not broil anything.
How were you so productive?
Well, there was annihilation to do! I was with my friends, but back I’m in the burghal I alcohol a lot. The burghal inspires a lot of drinking, writers like to drink, so all the time affair altered writers and artists, TV people, anybody brand to drink, but upstate there’s abundant beneath of that. We absolutely accept article to alive for up there.
What did you absence about New York City?
Restaurants! Oh God, did I absence the restaurants. I absent Casa Mono on Irving Place. I adulation their pan con tomate. It’s a absolute simple dish, aliment with tomatoes, but it’s so delicious, and the jamon serrano, this absolute adorable Spanish ham that you can put on top.
In “Our Country Friends,” you allocution about a post-quarantine New York Burghal area “people are active through the streets, aflame by the blaze of afire debris cans, the way the burghal acclimated to be in its heyday.” Are you adequate the city’s acknowledgment to “gritty”?
I’m accept with that! Obviously there are costs involved, and a lot of bodies aren’t gonna like it, but for me New York was a burghal of stories. Not of Duane Reades: stories! Jay McInerney’s brilliant “Bright Lights, Big City” begins with a guy walking abreast Times Square and addition tries to advertise him a ferret. I absence the ascertain days! Things were added alarming and I didn’t like that. I didn’t like accepting to put my wallet in my sock, but I didn’t mind, whatever, as continued as addition would try to advertise me a ascertain instead of a new AT&T cable for a phone.
Last ages you abundantly wrote a New Yorker essay about your adulterated circumcision. The catechism is why?
Ha! I aloof anticipation it was article bodies don’t anticipate about, because speaking alike to a few accompany I apparent this happens absolutely a lot, and I anticipation it would be behindhand of me not to try to get that out to a greater audience.
Were you ashamed to allotment so abundant about your claimed life?
If I was a twenty-something aggravating to date, yeah, I ability not appetite to allocution about my bankrupt schlong, but, I’m accepting bigger now, I’m able to function. But I capital to accomplish abiding if bodies are because this they accept all the information. I anticipate it’s important for men, and abnormally adolescent parents, to apperceive if they do this, there can be consequences.
This account has been edited for breadth and clarity.
How To Write A Character In Love – How To Write A Character In Love
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