“The Luck of Kokura”
by Gary Shteyngart
from the June 25, 2018 issue of The New Yorker
While I recognize Gary Shteyngart is funny, I’ve yet to really take to his fiction as presented in The New Yorker and, consequently have never read one of his novels, the last of which was 2010’s Super Sad True Love Story. I remember the excerpt of that novel that we got in The New Yorker, back when the magazine did their “20 Under 40.” It came off to me as a glib and, well, not particularly imaginative vision of the near future.
This week’s fiction is another excerpt, this time from Shteyngart’s forthcoming Lake Success, which arrives on September 4. Shteyngart’s focus in this book, I gather from the blurb, is a hedge fund manager who tries to escape to a simpler life. I’m curious how everyone responds to this piece. I think I’m a bit in the minority when it comes to Shteyngart, so I’m particularly excited to hear from those who like his work.
Here is how the excerpt begins (nothing that makes me want to keep going, I’m afraid):
Barry was trying to focus, but on what? Shapes began to materialize. Circles. Triangles. Three panels in outrageously bright colors. It was that squiggly aidspainter guy from the nineteen-eighties. A figure fell into his head. Something he had once discussed with Seema at a gallery—1.8 million. O.K. He was on a bed. He was hungry, but at the same time beyond hunger. He turned his head. There were magazines displayed on a nightstand: a Bentley mag and a Patek Philippe mag and a Nat Geo. He scanned the room quickly. The Rollaboard with his watches and Shiva’s rabbit toy and his passport was neatly placed at the foot of the bed. There was also a glass coffee table topped with a bottle of Fiji water, a jar of salted almonds, and familiar-looking bars of seventy-per-cent-cocoa Chocolat Madagascar. Barry crawled the length of the bed to the coffee table. He began stuffing the food into his mouth, the nuts and chocolate crunching sweet and bitter over his tongue, then poured the water into his mouth. He burped ferociously, his whole being coming back to life.