Monday, August 02, 2010

Gary Shteyngart in Seattle, Ballard

Gary Shteyngart gave a reading from his new book in Ballard at the Sunset Tavern as part of The Stranger's "Verse Chapter Verse" series, with "Orkestar Zirkonium", a Klezmer band, book ending his reading. Shteyngart proved to be the same sort of cutting self, seeing through the bullshit, that he puts across in his books, taking the rather insipid questions from Paul Constant of the Stranger, who's, like, I'm guessing, twenty two years old? and providing some zinging commentary. The reading, from "Super Sad True Love Story", brought Shteyngart's storytelling back to the small stage, from, as the New York Times review that I just read a few days ago put it, the big stage of Absurdistan, back to the simple story of a few normal people in a somewhat exotic, yet homely, environment, in this case an immigrant household, with a couple meeting the folks, in post-apocalyptic America.

Orkestar Zirkonium were entertaining in a sad kind of way, a very sad kind of way. They're the typical white bread Eastern Europe infatuated Klezmer band who think that it's cool to don fedoras and try to sound exotic for American ears, in this case Seattleite ears in a Norwegian neighborhood. Well, they had to try. I think at the end when I left the singer was emoting in disconnected syllables strung together to sound vaguely herbrew-ish. They struck me as exactly the sort of people who Shteyngart savaged in "The Russian Debutante's Handbook".

And Paul Constant, wonderful Paul Constant, who at twenty two years of age has had extensive experience as a 'bookseller'. My understanding of the term 'bookseller' is that it refers to someone who owns a bookshop and sells books. What Constant likely was was a clerk in a bookstore. There's a slight difference there, you know, between being an employee at Barnes & Noble who feels good about themselves because they've been told that they're now a 'bookseller' and a team member as opposed to a clerk and a cashier, and someone who answers questions, and someone who really has, say, fifteen years experience as an actual book dealer. But, be that as it may, Paul no doubt deserves the accolades that The Stranger gives him.

Anyways, a fun night out.

**Klezmer, it's Jewish and Eastern European, thus giving the performers a chance to fail in two areas simultaneously.

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