Hardly cheesy

Little Failure: A Memoir

The author of the hilarious, honest and heartbreaking Super Sad True Love Story tells the story of his life in Little Failure: A Memoir ($27, Random House), which is no less hilarious, honest and heartbreaking. Gary Shteyngart was named Igor and born in Leningrad, Russia, where he wrote a novel called Lenin and His Magical Goose for which he was paid in cheese. That fact may or may not explain everything that he's written since. He details his family's emigration to the United States as part of the deal that President Jimmy Carter struck with Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev to allow Russian Jews to leave, and how he was so unwilling to fulfill his parents' dreams that his mother coined a new term for him: Failurchka, the “little failure” of the title. One part Yakov Smirnoff and one part Philip Roth, Shteyngart is anything but.