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Gary Shteyngart's 'Super Sad True' quest

Shteyngart uses his brand of sharply perceptive humor to examine the Digital Age and its effects on reading and literacy.

August 09, 2010|By Daina Beth Solomon, Los Angeles Times

He also created an online video "trailer," the perfect venue to exhibit his spirited, at times over-the-top personality. "Gary is quite the performer," according to Franco. "He has tons of energy, and his teaching style is animated."

In the video, which has been re-posted on a variety of websites, Shteyngart acts like a Russian peasant with a low-brow sense of humor. He affects an exaggerated accent, frolics with a dachshund and makes self-deprecating goofball comments like "I can't read!" while holding a book upside down. Authors Edmund White, Jeffrey Eugenides and others give lighthearted comments about the book. Franco appears too, pretending to teach Shteyngart how to read the cover of a Hemingway novel.

The author acknowledges that the video had nothing to do with "Super Sad True Love Story." But he wanted to convey that he doesn't take himself too seriously and, moreover, is an entertainer. As well, Shteyngart says he's driven by the motive of doing anything to get people to read.

"Once we begin to slice and dice our attention with gadgets and the Web," he says, "novels are the first to go."

But he hasn't given up quite yet.

"You have to do everything you can to attract the attention of readers that have hundreds of thousands of authors vying for their attention," he says. "Things cry out, 'This is free! And short!'"

daina.solomon@latimes.com

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