Gary Shteyngart

In this follow-up to his novel The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, Gary Shteyngart continues the misadventures of Misha Vainberg, the vaingloriously obese expat and heir to the 1,238th wealthiest man in Russia. Returning to St. Petersburg to attend the funeral of his father (who has turned up dead after whacking a U.S. businessman himself), Misha finds himself unable to leave Russia by conventional means, and finds himself estranged from his beloved and on a interminable side trip through the eponymous—and aptly named—Absurdistan, where the perception of American values is even more perverse than within America itself. With a delirious attention to subplots and madcap satire and the mutual skewering of American and Russian peas-in-a-pod sensibilities (and love affair with Halliburton … albeit more in line with a hooker falling in love with her pimp), and even self-satirization, Shteyngart’s Misha Vainberg makes for a perfect 21st-century counterpart to John Kennedy Toole’s Ignatius J. Reilly.