Lake Success
When his dream of the perfect marriage, the perfect son, and the perfect life implodes, a Wall Street millionaire takes a cross-country bus trip in search of his college sweetheart and ideals of youth in the long-awaited novel, his first in seven years, from the acclaimed, bestselling author of Super Sad True Love Story.Myopic, narcissistic, hilariously self-deluded and divorced from the real world as most of us know it, hedge fund manager Barry Cohen oversees $2.4 billion in assets. Deeply stressed by an SEC investigation and by his 3 year-old-son's diagnosis of autism, he flees New York on a Greyhound bus in search of a simpler, more romantic life with his old college sweetheart, whom he hasn't seen or spoken to in years. Meanwhile, reeling from the fight that caused Barry's departure, his super-smart wife Seema, a driven first-generation American who craved a picture-perfect life with all the accoutrements of a huge bank account, has her own demons to face. How these two imperfect characters navigate the Shteyngartian chaos of their own making is the heart of this biting, brilliant, emotionally resonant novel very much of our times.

Lake Success Details

TitleLake Success
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 4th, 2018
PublisherRandom House
ISBN-139780812997415
Rating
GenreFiction, Contemporary, Novels

Lake Success Review

  • Emily May
    January 1, 1970
    The roof garden was divided into roughly two demographics: capital on one side, and cultural capital on the other. It wasn’t quite as split as a Hasidic wedding, gender-wise, but it was close enough, and Barry worked up the gumption to leave some of his Wall Street bros behind and wade into the more dangerous territory of feminine culture-meisters. Lake Success contains some interesting themes and I can see why the critics are eating it up. It's also a good candidate for any number of literary The roof garden was divided into roughly two demographics: capital on one side, and cultural capital on the other. It wasn’t quite as split as a Hasidic wedding, gender-wise, but it was close enough, and Barry worked up the gumption to leave some of his Wall Street bros behind and wade into the more dangerous territory of feminine culture-meisters. Lake Success contains some interesting themes and I can see why the critics are eating it up. It's also a good candidate for any number of literary awards. That being said, this is just the kind of bland emotionless literary book about obnoxious people that I have never been able to get into.I've gotten the occasional finger-wagging telling off in the past for daring to suggest that smart literary books that offer some clever satire on our current society should be emotionally engaging. It seems that some people feel that certain books - because they are "literary" and "important" - should be approached by packing up our emotions and caging our boredom. I don't agree. I think many books that fall under the snooty umbrella of "literature" are, in fact, some of the most emotional and compelling books of all time. Whether it be Dostoyevsky, Atwood, Murakami or Morrison.This is not, in my opinion, one of those books. One of the many things on his marriage checklist was to marry a woman too ambitious to ever become fat. Barry Cohen is something of a Trumpian figure-- he has billions of dollars of assets under management, he is married to a beautiful and younger immigrant, and he is largely clueless about what's going on in the America outside of his 24 carat gold bubble. When his three-year-old is diagnosed with autism, he runs away on a cross-country Greyhound bus, leaving his wife to handle their son.As Barry goes on his journey, buoyed by memories of an old girlfriend from college, his wife, Seema, begins an affair with a Guatemalan writer. Meanwhile, the 2016 presidential campaign and election play out in the background.It's a book that may be somewhat interesting to analyze but is difficult to enjoy. The characters are virtually all insufferable and I don't feel like Barry's worldview changed much over the course of the novel. Lake Success is evidently supposed to be a satirical look at American capitalism and materialism. It is arguably a book about how the twinkling exterior - of a person, a family or, indeed, a nation - can often mask something broken within. Yet I enjoy this idea of the book far more than I ever enjoyed reading it.The prose through the eyes of these characters, especially Barry, is deliberately unpleasant and overwritten. It is done to emphasize the ugliness of excess, such as when Barry "eye-sodomized" Seema "over a plate of tuna tataki hors d’oeuvres". Additionally, the weak and - sometimes, it seemed - random plot is often broken up by discussion of Barry's Hedge Fund business, which is as eye-glazingly dull as it sounds.Occasionally, timely and insightful snippets broke through that made me sit up and take notice. It is very much a book for right here, right now, which is most evident when Barry observes: It wasn't America that needed to be made great again, it was her listless citizens. And then Seema wonders: A man that rich couldn't be stupid. Or, Seema thought now, was that the grand fallacy of twenty-first-century America? Sadly, though, these moments were few. I'm glad I tried a Shteyngart book, but I think I can conclude his work is not for me.Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube
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  • Liz
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 starsLet me start off by saying the main character, Barry, is a total and complete asshole. If you don’t like books where you dislike the main characters, this is one to steer clear of. Barry, to me, was fingers on the blackboard grating. I mean, what is it with the bloody watches? This is someone you want to feel something for, in a positive way, but I couldn’t. His son is on the severe end of the autism spectrum. All those dreams of a normal family have gone away. He’s incapable of even te 3.5 starsLet me start off by saying the main character, Barry, is a total and complete asshole. If you don’t like books where you dislike the main characters, this is one to steer clear of. Barry, to me, was fingers on the blackboard grating. I mean, what is it with the bloody watches? This is someone you want to feel something for, in a positive way, but I couldn’t. His son is on the severe end of the autism spectrum. All those dreams of a normal family have gone away. He’s incapable of even telling people his son isn’t normal. And he’s an investor in the mold of Martin Shrekeli, making money off other people’s problems. I had mixed feelings about this book. There are some great points made, some thoughts that I totally understood. “But Shiva would be a permanent immigrant. His encounters with the world would always contain the unexpected. Even his young mother’s love would need subtitles.” But I struggled with it. It’s like the author was trying to have a private joke between himself and the reader about a rich guy trying to leave his life behind to go find himself but still couldn’t jettison the outward accoutrements of that life. I knew when it was attempting to be humorous, but I didn’t find it funny. More pathetic. This is bitter humor. Although I did find the epilogue humorous, especially when it pertains to folks believing he had learned his lesson. That reminded me all to much of those banks that gave Trump loan after loan despite all his bankruptcies. I am definitely in the minority in not loving this one. But that’s not to say I didn’t appreciate it. I found myself thinking about it. A lot. And it definitely grew on me as it went on. My thanks to netgalley and Random House for an advance copy of this book.
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  • Ron Charles
    January 1, 1970
    Adjust your expectations when you pick up Gary Shteyngart’s “Lake Success.” His new book is not insanely funny nor hilariously absurd.It’s better than that. A mature blending of the author’s signature wit and melancholy, “Lake Success” feels timely but not fleeting. Its bold ambition to capture the nation and the era is enriched by its shrewd attention to the challenges and sorrows of parenthood.Barry Cohen, the glad-handing protagonist of “Lake Success,” repels our sympathy even while laying cl Adjust your expectations when you pick up Gary Shteyngart’s “Lake Success.” His new book is not insanely funny nor hilariously absurd.It’s better than that. A mature blending of the author’s signature wit and melancholy, “Lake Success” feels timely but not fleeting. Its bold ambition to capture the nation and the era is enriched by its shrewd attention to the challenges and sorrows of parenthood.Barry Cohen, the glad-handing protagonist of “Lake Success,” repels our sympathy even while laying claim to it. Barry is a 40-something hedge-fund manager who lives high in the clouds of his own narcissism. He sips $20,000-a-glass whiskey and imagines that his palatial Manhattan existence is well deserved. The very incarnation of white male privilege, Barry is the “friendliest dude,” made all the more exasperating by his misimpression that he’s a man of deep moral wisdom and empathy, despite the vampiric nature of. . . . To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post:https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...To watch the Totally Hip Video Book Review of 'Lake Success,' click here:https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/...
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  • Jill
    January 1, 1970
    There has been a lot of talk about what constitutes the American novel but for my money, Success Lake is the American novel for these times.Although the Trump election is not front and center it pervades everything; it’s a time when amorality and greediness are “punished” by a slap on the wrist. Into this poisonous atmosphere leaps Barry Cohen, a hedge fund manager of a This Side of Capital (lifted from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise.) By all outward appearances, Barry lives the Ame There has been a lot of talk about what constitutes the American novel but for my money, Success Lake is the American novel for these times.Although the Trump election is not front and center it pervades everything; it’s a time when amorality and greediness are “punished” by a slap on the wrist. Into this poisonous atmosphere leaps Barry Cohen, a hedge fund manager of a This Side of Capital (lifted from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise.) By all outward appearances, Barry lives the American dream: a beautiful immigrant wife, an adorable 3-year-old son, billions of assets under management and more. But scratch the surface and it’s all a mirage: his wife fancies someone else, his son is severely autistic, and the SEC is breathing down his back.So Barry takes off on a Greyhound bus journey to discover the “real America.” He believes he is having authentic experiences but in fact, the “real America” is severely divided, hopelessly lost and struggling to survive. And, much as Barry wants it to, it is not a mirror to his past or future.Alternating between satire and poignancy, Gary Shteyngart never makes the mistakes of throwing his characters under the proverbial bus. The yearning and emptiness redeem Barry and his wife Seema to some extent. This accurate portrayal of America on the brakes—a faulty America that confuses capitalism with success and possessions with meaning—is spot-on. And, the ever-present wristwatches that Barry collects and hoards is tangible evidence that time is marching on and cannot be possessed
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  • Dan Friedman
    January 1, 1970
    In Lake Success, Gary Shteyngart channels what Philip Roth called “the indigenous American berserk” with sympathy, humor, and pathos. Always funny, Shteyngart encapsulates his deep understanding of contemporary America into the lives, loves, and failures of Barry and Seema Cohen ”during the year 2016, at the start of the First Summer of Trump.” Barry and Seema live in rarefied Manhattan in which the mother of a three-year-old boy worries that ”’If he doesn’t do well, forget Hunter, forget Ethica In Lake Success, Gary Shteyngart channels what Philip Roth called “the indigenous American berserk” with sympathy, humor, and pathos. Always funny, Shteyngart encapsulates his deep understanding of contemporary America into the lives, loves, and failures of Barry and Seema Cohen ”during the year 2016, at the start of the First Summer of Trump.” Barry and Seema live in rarefied Manhattan in which the mother of a three-year-old boy worries that ”’If he doesn’t do well, forget Hunter, forget Ethical Heritage, we’re talking maybe Bright and Happy Schoolhouse. And their HYPMS is what?’ ‘PMS?’ Seema asked innocently. ‘HYPMS. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Stanford. The good schools can already tell you what percentage of their kindergarten class get into one of those five. Brearley’s is thirty-seven percent.’” Barry’s a ”a man with 2.4 billion dollars of assets under management” , an owner of ”a batch of the forty-eight-year-old Karuizawa single cask whiskey. . . thirty-three thousand dollars a bottle, if you can find it,”, and he’s a veritable market basket of obsessions. He’s from a modest middle-class background, Princeton-educated, and self-made due to a combination of his obsessive determination to learn how to make friends and his obsessive mathematical skills. Barry’s no natural with other people: referring to the Hong Kong-born physician who invited Barry and his wife to dinner, ”in the five hours they would spend together, Barry would never remember her name; he never remembered women’s names”. He takes pride in mentoring the bros who work for him in his hedge fund, perhaps even more than in his hedge fund’s once outstanding AUM and RoI’s. He seeks solace in his obsessive collection of unimaginably expensive wrist watches: his Universal Genève Tri-Compax from the early 1940s, his Nomos Minimatik, his Audemars Piguet pink-gold Royal Oak, his Patek Philippe Calatrava 570, his F. P. Journe, and his Bao Dai Rolex. Unfortunately for Barry, the IWC Pilot’s Watch that he yearns for just isn’t for him, because despite his ”wide swimmer’s build, his thick shoulders” he has ”his two feminine wrists, a liability at any point in history, but never more so than during the year 2016”. Kicked out of his home, injured, bleeding, Barry wanders to Manhattan’s Port Authority bus terminal in the middle of the night—I mean, who in their right mind would go there in the middle of the night? Barry’s falling apart and knows it: ”Like your first ankle monitor bracelet or your fourth divorce, the occasional break with reality was an important part of any hedge-fund titan’s biography”. Barry embarks on a 2016 road trip like none other, from New York City to Baltimore, Richmond, Raleigh, Atlanta, El Paso, and then to Phoenix and finally San Diego, all on the omnipresent Greyhound buses, surviving ”on pork rinds and off-brand coffee” and ”learning about America” all the way. Until the very end of Lake Success, Barry finds more comfort trying to recreate his memories of the past than forging a new life. Barry’s an interesting and nuanced character, with his obsessions, his rigid rules for making friends, his touching desire to connect with his son and his former girlfriend’s lonely son by teaching them to swim, and his cockamamie idea to start an ”Urban Watch Fund for inner-city kids morphing into ”a map-drawing program for shy suburban kids.” But Shteyngart’s true triumph in Lake Success is Barry’s wife Seema, her parents, their relationships with each other, and with Seema and Barry’s son Shiva, a boy who’s ”not just ‘on the spectrum’ but on the ‘severe’ end of it”. Seema’s a Yale Law School graduate, clerking for the Eastern District: ”Unlike white wives, she could wear many grams of gold around her neck, the miraculous hue of her skin catching its glow. She was, Barry sometimes noted in disbelief, a twenty-nine year old beauty with whom only one person in the universe had failed to fall desperately in love, that person being himself.” Seema’s mother, an immigrant from south India like her husband, displays the ethnic status hyperawareness so typical of striving immigrant and first generation parents: ”Freshman year in high school she had drawn Seema a chart of the social acceptability of her friends. Jews and WASPs fared at the very top, one had ‘money (increasing)’ and the other ‘social power (decreasing).’ The Asians were separated into several tranches, with the Japanese—who had bought up so much of our country just the previous decade—leading the pack. Tamils hovered several blank spaces above Hispanics, who themselves rested on the shoulders of blacks. Her mother circled ‘Jews’ times and wrote ‘accessible,’ ‘liberal,’ ‘emotional,’ and ‘sober’ next to it.” Seema ”loved her mother just enough; she loved her father ninefold.” In Lake Success, Seema’s father—with his innate ability to relate to Shiva and understand his totally Americanized daughter—may be the father that we all yearn for and the father that we want to be. And Seema’s mother represents the mother so familiar to many of us: ”’Oh, Mommy,’ Seema said, ‘I wish you could say a nice thing right now.’ ‘Try to be a better daughter,’ her mother said. ‘That’s not a nice thing.’ ‘Nice is not my specialty. Call your father if you want to hear something nice.’” And then there’s Seema herself who, after Trump’s elected, finds that ”With her country dying, she found herself wanting to be a little less American and a little more Indian, to search for her roots the way her mother had her whole life. She needed to nail down who she was. Barry wasn’t the only one who could pursue that privilege. She tried to learn Sanskrit for the millionth time, attempted to memorize her father’s favorite slokas, and took a car service out to Flushing once a week to feast on upma at the Ganesh Temple Canteen.”Lake Success is full of wonderful bits, some comic, some perfectly reflective of today’s America. Barry’s relieved when he discovers that Seema’s lover the novelist has an ”Amazon ranking—1,123,340—and after reading one page of his novel, Barry could see how the ranking came to be”. And here’s an exchange in Atlanta between Jeff Park, Barry’s hedge fund colleague, and Barry: ”’That guy didn’t even care about ogling my car in front of his girlfriend. I wasn’t a threat to him, because I’m an Asian man.’ It took a while for Barry to unpack that statement. ‘In this town, you’re either black or you’re white,’ Jeff Park said.”With Lake Success, Gary Shteyngart has created a memorable and uncategorizable novel well-suited to the contemporary U.S., part satire, part comedy, part acute social observation, and all compelling and affecting. I would like to thank NetGalley and Random House for providing me with an e-copy of Lake Success in exchange for an honest review.PS: I was fortunate to attend Shteyngart's reading to a full and appreciative audience from Lake Success. The event started with screening of the Random House book trailer featuring Shteyngart and Ben Stiller. Both the trailer, which I highly recommend, and Shteyngart's reading and discussion featured the comedic aspects of Lake Success. It is an uniquely novel, but the pathos, sadness, and insight into the dynamics of two very different families that I remember best from my reading of it. Shteyngart was charming and generous in his comments, responses to questions, and his signing. Shteyngart and I share an unlikely academic background, so it was especially enjoyable for me.4.5 stars
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  • Susan Kennedy
    January 1, 1970
    Nope, I can't do it; I can't continue to try to read this book that I hate. I despise the characters and the story isn't captivating at all. I've tried to give it a chance, but when I look at the book and try to read another page it is painful to think about. Definitely not the book for me. Maybe for someone else.I don't get them at all. Rich and snobby? Completely withdrawn from their child because he is Autistic? They are shallow and nothing is making any kind of sense at all. I'm just not sur Nope, I can't do it; I can't continue to try to read this book that I hate. I despise the characters and the story isn't captivating at all. I've tried to give it a chance, but when I look at the book and try to read another page it is painful to think about. Definitely not the book for me. Maybe for someone else.I don't get them at all. Rich and snobby? Completely withdrawn from their child because he is Autistic? They are shallow and nothing is making any kind of sense at all. I'm just not sure there is a point.
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  • switterbug (Betsey)
    January 1, 1970
    SUPER SAD TRUE LOVE STORY, Shteyngart’s 2010 dystopian masterpiece, will remain one of my 50 favorite books of all time. Its haunting prescience convinced me that technology and social media had already dominated and intruded on our lives to chilling, sinister effect. Some of it is already dawning—the way we can destroy lives with Facebook or Twitter is just one example of the way we live now. LAKE SUCCESS isn’t quite as epic, and although there is a nod to the dystopian—just a sprinkle--this is SUPER SAD TRUE LOVE STORY, Shteyngart’s 2010 dystopian masterpiece, will remain one of my 50 favorite books of all time. Its haunting prescience convinced me that technology and social media had already dominated and intruded on our lives to chilling, sinister effect. Some of it is already dawning—the way we can destroy lives with Facebook or Twitter is just one example of the way we live now. LAKE SUCCESS isn’t quite as epic, and although there is a nod to the dystopian—just a sprinkle--this is largely a story of the divisive present.A wealthy, educated, but severely dysfunctional couple splits up. Barry Cohen is a successful investor, a secular Jew who made it rich through his adamancy and timing, but right now his wealth is being challenged by an SEC investigation. His wife, Seema, a beautiful first generation American, was a law school grad who gave it all up. Their three-year-old son, Shiva, has recently been diagnosed with autism and is on the extreme end of the spectrum—-non-verbal; poor eye contact; displays no affection; unable to play with others; and barely plays at all.Shiva (which means destroyer) essentially cleaved their perfect family fantasy. Three children, three high-end separate sinks—that was Barry’s dream. And Seema insists that nobody know about Shiva’s diagnosis—not even her parents or their closest friends. They sequester Shiva away from everyone and keep the truth locked up with the childcare assistant they hired and all the professionals that the government will provide.Barry decides, in an impulsive moment of desperation, to abandon his credit cards, iPhone, business, and family to take a Greyhound across the country and find his college ex-girlfriend. He decides to live like a pauper and make it on his resources of contrived charm and canny goodwill. The author’s absurdist portrait of Barry’s fundamental blind spots (of which there are many) had me laughing, squirming, and wanting to slap him upside the head. But, on the other hand, Barry’s recessed humanity eked out in some of the most surprising moments, like helping a socially awkward but genius young boy come out of his shell. Barry may be too self-deluded, egotistic, and self-indulgent to be authentic with himself and others at this point, but there are disarming moments when his fury and pathos collided and touched me truly, madly, deeply. Like when he tried to help others he thought less fortunate, even if his moves were calculated and self-centered. Shteyngart’s finesse of human comedy and tragedy slips sideways with absurdity, and shimmies in a calypso odyssey, while Barry lurches toward his darker nature and the bus chugs and rattles across the dustier parts of America.In the meantime, Seema embarks on an affair that Shteyngart brilliantly portrayed to squeamish an awkward effect. Her downstairs neighbor, a published poet and novelist, steps in to capture Seema’s heart, even while his wife makes a surprising and heartfelt transformation to Seema’s life. As Barry and his estranged wife continue on separately, we wait tensely for the penny to drop. Along the way, a vivid cast of drop-in and secondary characters kept me hooked to the narrative. I wasn’t installed and engulfed like I was during Super Sad. I wanted to feel like a passenger on the bus or contained in Seema’s apartment and New York streets, but I was nevertheless on board for the ride of the Cohen’s lives. Moreover, the author has done his research on autism; Shiva was flawlessly credible. In lesser hands, this “Trump World” backdrop would shriek its cautionary tale counter-message. But, Shteyngart is a master of turning tirades into sensibility, and existential dread into wisdom. The characters, not the author, own their political rants and righteous indignation. The themes don’t pontificate on politics. It’s all about Barry and Seema, and how “the best fiction is the fiction of self-delusion. It contrasts the banality of our self-made fiction against the hopelessness of the world as it really is.” But still, there may be hope. And, by the way, Lake Success is a real place! 4.5 rounded up
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  • Drew
    January 1, 1970
    Hmm. It's either a brilliant Candide-esque satire of the clueless wealthy idiots who got us into our current mess (maybe they didn't vote for Trump but they thought about it!, etc) or it's a tone-deaf straight white liberal male asking questions about how we got here. And if you finish a book and wonder which one it is... chances are the answer isn't going to be positive.Gary Shteyngart is the first of his cohort to bang out a proper Trump-responding novel - although this only tangentially conne Hmm. It's either a brilliant Candide-esque satire of the clueless wealthy idiots who got us into our current mess (maybe they didn't vote for Trump but they thought about it!, etc) or it's a tone-deaf straight white liberal male asking questions about how we got here. And if you finish a book and wonder which one it is... chances are the answer isn't going to be positive.Gary Shteyngart is the first of his cohort to bang out a proper Trump-responding novel - although this only tangentially connects to our 45th President, mainly taking place over the 6 or so months leading up to the 2016 election - and while the book displays everything you'd expect from a Shteyngart novel (humor, pathos, lovely sentences), it just feels misguided. Barry, the main character, is too dumb and too naive to truly be engaging and the supporting cast is almost universally reduced to a single if-not-stereotype-then-pretty-damn-close. And everything about Barry's journey reeks of the "how did this happen" series of questions that clueless liberals over the age of 40 have been asking for the last 18 months. I wish I could've loved this book more - and I'll bet that it'll get a great run of reviews in all the right places, not to mention commercial acclaim. But this was a misguided novel from start to finish and here's hoping it's the only one we have to deal with - because, so help me, once Franzen and Eugenides et al get into the game, we'll deserve everything coming to us.
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  • Rebecca Foster
    January 1, 1970
    (2.75) I’ve rarely felt so conflicted about a book. When I started writing up my Pittsburgh Post-Gazette review (published here this past Sunday), I had little idea of what arguments I was going to make. (You can tell me whether you think I succeeded in making them!) I could almost have written the whole thing as a series of questions. What did I actually think of Lake Success?I could appreciate that it was a satire on the emptiness of the American Dream – Shteyngart has many cutting lines about (2.75) I’ve rarely felt so conflicted about a book. When I started writing up my Pittsburgh Post-Gazette review (published here this past Sunday), I had little idea of what arguments I was going to make. (You can tell me whether you think I succeeded in making them!) I could almost have written the whole thing as a series of questions. What did I actually think of Lake Success?I could appreciate that it was a satire on the emptiness of the American Dream – Shteyngart has many cutting lines about how money doesn’t reward intelligence or goodness – but that doesn’t make up for just how disagreeable it is to spend time with these characters.It would be easier to sympathize with Barry’s professional crisis were he not so chauvinistic towards women and condescending towards minorities. And if there’s a smug ‘how the mighty have fallen’ satisfaction at what he’s driven to during his bus tour of the real America, that fizzles later in 2016 and on into the epilogue, when it’s clear that the Trump era is dawning and Barry’s not going to experience true or lasting punishment. Seema makes dubious choices, too.I particularly took issue with the metaphorical use of Barry and Seema’s severely autistic, nonverbal son, Shiva. He seems to be meant as a symbol of the voiceless in America. Then, on another issue, Seema is always confused for an immigrant even though she was born in Ohio. Luis Goodman, the Guatemalan-American novelist she starts sleeping with after Barry leaves, is also second-generation. What’s the argument here? That everyone is an immigrant, or no one is? Or are such distinctions immaterial in the post-truth landscape? It’s unclear to what extent Shteyngart is in control of his themes. Are they just so unruly they shot out in all directions?(It’s always dangerous to equate a protagonist with his creator, but Barry rhymes with Gary, and the date stamp and acknowledgments reveal that Gary did indeed take a six-month Greyhound bus tour of America in the months surrounding the 2016 election.)Despite my misgivings, this is an accessible novel. The title refers to a Long Island town Barry has been obsessed with since childhood; it’s now nothing but a crummy strip mall. What better symbol of the emptiness of wealth? I’d say this is a pretty solid read for Jonathan Safran Foer and Tom Perrotta fans. It’s packed full of noteworthy quotes and talking points that could keep book clubs busy for hours, and it will fizz in the brain for weeks more.A couple of favorite passages:“Barry began to suspect something about our country. That we were, at heart, heavily regimented and militaristic. Despite our cowboy ethos, we were really all under orders, and anything we said or did in protest could be construed as ‘talking back,’ and we could all be thrown off the bus. The Greyhound was like a branch of our armed forces. And Barry was a buck private.”“Even his dreams of crossing our country by bus were supplemented with the possibility of one day setting his journeys down on paper. On the Road but in thoughtful middle-aged prose.”
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  • Donna Davis
    January 1, 1970
    “’All I know is I never had any advantages,’ Barry said. ‘I wasn’t even lucky enough to be born to immigrant parents.’”Schteyngart’s wry new novel takes a swift kick at the funny bone of the American ruling class. My thanks go to Net Galley and Random House for the review copy. Barry grew up as the son of the pool guy, the man that serviced the swimming pools of the wealthy. Now between one trade and another—some of it inside, some of it legal—he has become one of the wealthiest men in Manhattan “’All I know is I never had any advantages,’ Barry said. ‘I wasn’t even lucky enough to be born to immigrant parents.’”Schteyngart’s wry new novel takes a swift kick at the funny bone of the American ruling class. My thanks go to Net Galley and Random House for the review copy. Barry grew up as the son of the pool guy, the man that serviced the swimming pools of the wealthy. Now between one trade and another—some of it inside, some of it legal—he has become one of the wealthiest men in Manhattan. His entitlement and vast privilege rubs up against his flimsy social conscience; meanwhile he tries to avoid coming to terms with his two-year-old son’s Autism. (When the children of the very rich are Autistic, it’s referred to as “on the Spectrum.”) His midlife crisis comes to a head when rumblings suggest he may be held accountable for his dubious business practices, and with his marriage teetering on the brink and the law breathing heavily down his collar, Barry flings himself onto a Greyhound bus and rubs elbows with the hoi polloi. Obsessed with becoming a mentor to someone with brown skin, Barry takes his rolling case of impossibly expensive wristwatches and embarks on a series of failed friendships and romances as he hurls himself due south and then west to San Diego. Who knows? Maybe he will even start an urban watch fund so that children that live in poverty can learn to appreciate fine timepieces. Humor is a hard field for many authors. Some get stuck on a single joke, which is funny at the outset but tired by the end of an entire novel; others simply bomb, and unlike stand-up comics, the bad humor is enshrined forever in published form. So I approach humorous novels cautiously; but Schteyngart is no novice, though he is new to me, he has a good sized body of humorous work before this. The result is smooth and professional, but also original and at times laugh-out-loud funny. The ending is brilliant.This book will be available September 5, 2018.
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  • Kasa Cotugno
    January 1, 1970
    We meet Barry Cohen in the summer of 2016, an early middle aged hedge fund manager. His life is about to implode, and actually has EXploded in a less than civilized way as he flees his enviable digs in the Flatiron District sporting scratch marks on his face, headed for the Port Authority and a Greyhound that will deliver him, he hopes, to a simpler, cleaner, more fulfilling life with his college girlfriend. The fact that the suitcase he has hastily packed doesn't contain changes of clothing, bu We meet Barry Cohen in the summer of 2016, an early middle aged hedge fund manager. His life is about to implode, and actually has EXploded in a less than civilized way as he flees his enviable digs in the Flatiron District sporting scratch marks on his face, headed for the Port Authority and a Greyhound that will deliver him, he hopes, to a simpler, cleaner, more fulfilling life with his college girlfriend. The fact that the suitcase he has hastily packed doesn't contain changes of clothing, but a prized array of wristwatches costing upwards of $70,000 is an indication of how ill-thought-out this odyssey is. Gary Shteyngart amps the action with each stop along the way. Barry's encounters on his road to hopeful redemption provide him increasing insight that in some cases is hilariously skewed, kind of like what the country is experiencing as it lurches toward November of that year. Alternating with shorter chapters that follow Seema, Barry's wife, and how her life progresses during his disappearance, the novel brilliantly illuminates the era just before the Trump Administration takes the reins. Exception could be made that their extreme wealth make it possible for these two to forge their paths (e.g., a saintly Philippina nanny sees to their severely autistic three year old son). But Barry deliberately rids himself of the accoutrements of his privileged existence starting with his phone and then his black Amex, attempting to lose himself in "real" America. With mixed results. While I couldn't exactly root for any of the characters, I didn't wish them ill either. Shteyngart's prose carries his trademark wit and snap ("The woman in the mesh ears was talking to a trans woman eating a bag of Lay's with a lot of emphasis." "The best fiction is the fiction of self-delusion. It contrasts the banality of our self-made fictions." "It took a while for Barry to unpack that statement." ".... he looked like he was renting space within his own body.") In an epilogue that takes Barry and Seema 10 years into the future, Shteyngart wisely does not address the consequences of the Trump era, but does slyly slip in a result of climate change.
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  • David
    January 1, 1970
    I don't quite know what this novel wants to say about ourselves and our times, but I can say that my Kindle told me I was 44% of the way through the book (about 145 pages) before I looked up from this novel and said “Why I am actually concerned about the fate of all these loathsome people?” I think that is a sign that this book can be read for the sheer love of good story-telling, no matter what you think about the book's characters, or its message. I also laughed sometimes, which redeems almost I don't quite know what this novel wants to say about ourselves and our times, but I can say that my Kindle told me I was 44% of the way through the book (about 145 pages) before I looked up from this novel and said “Why I am actually concerned about the fate of all these loathsome people?” I think that is a sign that this book can be read for the sheer love of good story-telling, no matter what you think about the book's characters, or its message. I also laughed sometimes, which redeems almost any other fault a book might have, in my sight. I say this because I noticed that someone wrote here that she couldn't read this book because the main character abandons this autistic son (that's absolutely true, he does), which is a behavior so repellent that she could not bear to continue. I think that abandoning books simply because the hero engages in non-admirable behavior means that you are going to deprive yourself of the company of a lot of great stories, which is your loss, really. However, I also sympathize with the person who says, in effect, if I wanted to spend a long time in the company of repulsively selfish behavior, it'd turn on the news.In any event, this book starts off at a great gallop and continues that way for quite a way, so I didn't fret too much about whether or not it was supposed to be to the Trump era what Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities was to the Reagan era, or alternately a book whose message is: “If F. Scott Fitzgerald were alive today, he'd turn over in his grave.” Both of those are possible readings.Like Wolfe's Sherman McCoy, Barry Cohen is an inexplicably big deal in the investment world, even though we, the reader, can see he is a dolt. I give the author some credit for not giving into a Wolfe-like hidden sympathy for either his rich knucklehead hero or his wife, who turns out to be almost Barry's equal in the production of grievance and self-regard. Brand-names-as-social-identifiers, which I also associate with Wolfe, come hot and heavy throughout the book, especially brands of watches, about which Barry has quite a lot to say (usually to himself in his interior monologues). As for Fitzgerald, the hero also waxes nostalgic about reading same, before and while attending Princeton in his long-ago youth, but I think the difference between the two books can be adequately summarized by contrasting the following quotes:Gatsby: “Just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had.”Lake Success: “All I know is I never had any advantages. I wasn’t even lucky enough to be born to immigrant parents.”A satirical detail I enjoyed: Baltimore (the first city that Barry takes to on the lam) being overrun by German tourists eager to photograph scenes of urban degradation they've seen on the TV series The Wire.Finally, I want to discuss something that is the most spoilery spoiler of all, dealing as it does with the absolutely final sentence of the novel. You have been warned. (view spoiler)[Toward the end of the book, the hero acquires the nickname “Bird Daddy.” The final line of this novel is: “And the Bird Daddy watched over all of it, satisfied with the remains of the world, before he, too, picked himself up, washed the oil and dirt off his steady hands, closed up his light-filled mausoleum, and flew home for good.” I said to myself: I guess that means he died. I consulted the Long-Suffering Wife, and she confirmed that this was probably what the writer intended to say. I ask: why not say so? The rest of the novel has been pleasantly free of incomprehensible flourishes, why go all goopy in the last sentence? For example, when the author wants to let you know that Barry is getting off a bus, he writes something like “Barry got off the bus.” I guess just saying “He died” is considered insufficiently profound, but it seems like, my whole reading life, I've been looking up from the end of novels and saying, “Did he just croak, or I am once again missing something that is painfully obvious to everybody else?” (hide spoiler)]I received a free electronic advance review copy of this book via Netgalley and Penguin Random House.
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  • SueKich
    January 1, 1970
    Gary on Greyhounds. Gary Shteyngart writes with an energy that makes most other writers today look like they use their keyboards as pillows for resting their sleepy heads. He chooses the archetypal symbol of capitalism through whom to tell his story, a financial wunderkind who has a complicated relationship with his (now dwindling) wealth. But the real subject here, beneath the topline plot, is the state of the nation. Or, to be more precise, the state of the people living in that nation. The bo Gary on Greyhounds. Gary Shteyngart writes with an energy that makes most other writers today look like they use their keyboards as pillows for resting their sleepy heads. He chooses the archetypal symbol of capitalism through whom to tell his story, a financial wunderkind who has a complicated relationship with his (now dwindling) wealth. But the real subject here, beneath the topline plot, is the state of the nation. Or, to be more precise, the state of the people living in that nation. The book is set just prior to the 2016 election when the smart money was on Hillary. There’s no hanging about with Shteyngart. Woosh – and we’re in: Barry Cohen founder of hedge fund This Side of Capital is having a moment. His son has just been diagnosed with an extreme case of autism. His marriage to the beautiful statement-diverse daughter of Indian immigrants is wobbling. And the financial authorities are peering into the ethics of the company business.Barry packs a case – not with clothes but with his expensive watch collection of security objects – and heads off on a Greyhound bus to Baltimore and all points south. He’s a man who works hard at being sociable (he has ‘friend moves’) and he gets a kick out of meeting the underbelly of society. (For instance, he’s thrilled to bits when a one-eyed Mexican falls asleep on his shoulder.) But is his road-trip just chasing the dream of lost youth? Or will it lead to him becoming a more successful human being? Success, after all, is everything.Shteyngart’s satirical edge is much in evidence: “Nobody loved poor black children more than white billionaires.”“Gun violence…was a cost priced into living in America.”“If he had to describe poverty in one word, it would be ‘itchy.’”“Shaved White Truffle Night down at the club”The author also has serious things to say amongst the studded witticisms. But, for me, this story of a conflicted middle-aged man in a changing American landscape lacks the originality of this terrific writer’s earlier work. It’s not quite a ‘super sad true love story’ though the elements are there – and a new Gary Shteyngart novel is not to be missed. My thanks to Random House for the review copy courtesy of NetGalley.
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  • Gene
    January 1, 1970
    Some unique, puzzling aspects of this book:Virtually every character is identified, immediately, by their race or ethnicity. The narrator is whatever the opposite of colourblind is: colour comes first, then everything else. I’m unsure of the purpose of this.Objects, on the other hand, are assigned dollar values. This actually makes sense much of the time as Barry, the protagonist, has a limited amount of cash on him on his trip, but it’s still jarring. It reminded me of the end of each episode o Some unique, puzzling aspects of this book:Virtually every character is identified, immediately, by their race or ethnicity. The narrator is whatever the opposite of colourblind is: colour comes first, then everything else. I’m unsure of the purpose of this.Objects, on the other hand, are assigned dollar values. This actually makes sense much of the time as Barry, the protagonist, has a limited amount of cash on him on his trip, but it’s still jarring. It reminded me of the end of each episode of the repulsive show 2 Broke Girls, where they ran what was ostensibly a running tally of their savings.This novel goes about assigning race to characters according to old stereotypes: there’s a Chinese doctor, a Filipina nanny, a Tamil lawyer, a black crack dealer, a Jewish hedge fund manager (Barry), and a Latino gardener. I could be wrong but I believe 100% of the wasps in the book (I counted four) are aging hippies. I mean come on. All this is possible but what’s striking is the near complete lack of characters who don't fit crude stereotypes. I’m not sure what the point of this is, or if it’s even intentional, but if it’s supposed to be subversive it did succeed in making me cringe.More broadly, I’d say that the novel lacks in characters drawn empirically from real people; rather, the characters seem to be patched together to fill a role in the plot. This would include Barry. Seema, Barry’s wife, is an exception, she’s a well-rounded, conflicted, complicated character. She’s also, to me, probably for that reason, the only character who could be described as human, and the only one I find sympathetic. I found Barry to be an unconvincing character. He's a hedge fund manager in the way Ross on Friends is a paleontologist: you keep being told he is one, but you never see him actually doing it. You’re also told that Barry excelled at swimming and lacrosse in college, which is similarly unconvincing given that he’s a 44-year-old guy who passes out from a trip on the Greyhound, and who never actually plays a sport or gets any exercise in the book, even in flashbacks, apart from a few laps in a pool when he’s teaching children to swim, this while wearing “swim trunks”. The latter reminded me of a phrase in an Alice Munro story, “athletic outfit”, which struck me as a dead giveaway that Alice Munro has never played a sport in her life.The book’s writing style may be described as ninth grade level. This isn’t necessarily bad - Picasso painted in a childlike way as they say. There’s a hint toward the end of the novel that’s it’s intended to be in the style of Hemingway, but come on. Hemingway used simple language to tell simple stories. Shteyngart uses simplistic language to describe a juvenile story about a very rich man who loves expensive watches and sexy girls who takes a Greyhound bus ride across America during which he meets super poor people. If this book’s style is reminiscent of any writer it would be Donald Trump.One final point, this time in the book’s favour: I was expecting that given the sloppy writing and flimsy plot, I’d find lots of continuity problems. For instance, a massage parlour from Barry’s past is called “Seoul Cycle”, which I assume is an unfunny pun on “SoulCycle”. I thought that he’d slipped there, as SoulCycle is relatively new, but it turns out that while the timeline of the book would have put him at Seoul Cycle sometime before 2010, SoulCycle actually dates back to 2006. Also, I found it potentially inconsistent that Barry as a kid had begged his father to take him to the R-rated Wall Street, as I figured he’d have been over 18 when it came out, but no, he would have been around 15. I also thought it potentially anachronistic that Barry listened to Aphex Twin in college (roughly 1990-94), but it turns out Aphex Twin has been around since 1985. Who knew? Wow … Aphex Twin really was before his time! Anyway, I couldn’t find any errors of this nature.Despite the general negativity above, I actually had a good time reading this book. Honestly, I turned against this book around halfway through and hate-read the rest, which was frankly more enjoyable than reading, say, the novels of George Eliot or Proust, which I greatly admire but find too boring to get through. Basically I liked this book in the same way I love watching Donald Trump rallies and reading the YouTube comments section afterward.
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  • Kalen
    January 1, 1970
    **** 1/2I've never devoured a book so quickly in which I hated all of the characters. I need some time to think about this one because I read it so fast (today) and there is so much to process. Fantastic, complex book.
  • Kristen Beverly
    January 1, 1970
    This is probably Gary Shteyngart’s most accessible novel to date. It is like a re-coming-of-age story of an older Jewish man of wealth, as his marriage is falling apart and his son has been diagnosed with autism. In this book, Barry is one of the most honest characters I’ve ever read. Nothing is held back and there are no niceties. All his faults & thoughts are laid out for the reader to pick apart. But by the end, I was still rooting for him to be happy and reconcile with his family.
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  • Mary Lins
    January 1, 1970
    “Lake Success” was the first novel I’ve read by Gary Shteyngart, and what thought-provoking, heartbreaking, fun it was!Our protagonist, Barry Cohen, a rich, watch-obsessed, hedge fund manager, staggers into the NYC Port Authority drunk and bleeding. Well now, I think, this is an intriguing start to a novel. So I let Shteyngart, via Barry, sweep me along with him on his bildungsroman across the US of A, via Greyhound Bus. On the trip, phone-less and mainly penniless, “One Percenter” Barry, is exp “Lake Success” was the first novel I’ve read by Gary Shteyngart, and what thought-provoking, heartbreaking, fun it was!Our protagonist, Barry Cohen, a rich, watch-obsessed, hedge fund manager, staggers into the NYC Port Authority drunk and bleeding. Well now, I think, this is an intriguing start to a novel. So I let Shteyngart, via Barry, sweep me along with him on his bildungsroman across the US of A, via Greyhound Bus. On the trip, phone-less and mainly penniless, “One Percenter” Barry, is exposed to the other 99% of the population, and the cast of characters he encounters are wonderfully varied. Plenty of hilarity and cringey-ness - as all good satires are.When we aren’t following Barry, we are following his abandoned wife, Seema, who is struggling to help their severely autistic son, Shiva. Seema is struggling with Shiva’s prognosis and keeping it a secret from everyone but Shiva’s therapy team.Baked into all this is a mystery; Barry is in trouble with the SEC because of “the other thing”, some kind of video evidence that is regularly referenced in ominous terms. What IS this “other thing” that is hanging over Barry’s head like the Sword of Damocles? Just how much trouble is he in?The naming of Barry and Seema’s son, “Shiva”, is intentional and interesting; Shiva is both a principal deity in the Hindu religion, and also the term for the Jewish mourning period. (Barry is Jewish and Seema is Indian-American.) Shteyngart uses Barry’s obsession with rare and expensive watches as a pretty obvious metaphor about control; plan to find out a lot of arcane information about elite timepieces. (I did find myself noticing people’s watches – but I work at NASA so it’s 99% Nerd watches around here. At least they are practical!)I thoroughly enjoyed this well-paced journey with both Barry and Seema (and Shiva)!Barry is extremely Politically Incorrect throughout the novel, sometimes humorously and sometimes tragically; but that doesn’t mean that he’s always wrong.
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  • Jan Thullen
    January 1, 1970
    Barry Cohen, hedge fund guy, is on the run from his so-shiny life, autistic son and some very poor decisions. It's a strange and funny road trip. I loved most of it and enjoyed this as a break from a lot of serious fiction. Look elsewhere if you want a morality play or an admirable main character.
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  • Jo Dervan
    January 1, 1970
    Barry Cohen was a 40 something Princeton grad who had grown up with a working class father. He had fantasized about what would make the perfect life: wealth, an attractive accomplished wife and three perfect children. As the head of a once successful hedge fund, he had the wealth even though the Feds were breathing down his neck about financial misconduct. His wife Seema was a younger, beautiful, first generation Indian American who had a successful legal career when he met her. She had left her Barry Cohen was a 40 something Princeton grad who had grown up with a working class father. He had fantasized about what would make the perfect life: wealth, an attractive accomplished wife and three perfect children. As the head of a once successful hedge fund, he had the wealth even though the Feds were breathing down his neck about financial misconduct. His wife Seema was a younger, beautiful, first generation Indian American who had a successful legal career when he met her. She had left her job after their son was born. The boy, Shiva, was an attractive 3 year old child who was on the low end of the autistic spectrum. Shiva did not speak, look anyone in the eye and was afraid of being touched. Seema kept the diagnosis from family and friends. One night Barry and Seema were at dinner with neighbors when the neighbors’ precocious 3 year old son performed a song for the guests. Then, after the husband, mentioned that he was writing a book about wealthy hedge fund owners, Seema informed them that “people in finance have no imagination. They have no soul.”Barry was very upset and that night decided to leave his life in NY, pack up some treasured watches and take a Greyhound bus to visit Layla, his old Princeton girl friend who now lived in Texas. Along the way Barry threw away first his cell phone and then his credit cards. He pictured himself a modern day Jack Kerouac and the trip his own version of On the Road. He decided to live the same impoverished life that all the others on the various buses he took. Barry first visited Layla’s parents in Richmond, VA. Then he spent a few days in Atlanta at the spectacular home of a former employee. Some of the people he met on the trip were Javon, a black boy who he wanted to empower and Brooklyn, a young woman who wanted to leave her Southern family and move to a big city.Meanwhile Seema was back in NY with Shiva and his nanny, his therapists and the personal chef. Her life was centered around the difficult job of caring for Shiva. She and Luis, the author neighbor, began an affair and eventually Luis’ doctor-wife, Juliana, befriended Seema. When Barry finally arrived in El Paso, he found Layla, a divorced but bitter college professor and her introverted son. Barry bonded with the boy and helped him overcome some of his social problems. However Barry could not repair his relationship with Layla. So he stole her debit card and continued traveling to California to see his father’s grave. The majority of the novel takes place before and right after the 2016 presidential election. The author captured the sadness and frustration of the folks who were Hillary supporters and then worried that America would never recover from Trump’s presidency. Barry had been a socially maladjusted child who worked hard to make friends in middle and high school. As a result, many in the NY finance scene considered him the friendliest person on the street. Eventually Barry’s luck worked in his favor even though he was not able to repair his marriage. This is the first book I have read by this author. I enjoyed his writing style and hope to read some of his other works in the near future.
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  • Matt Trowbridge
    January 1, 1970
    Lake Success tracks the mid-life crisis of Barry Cohen, a "struggling" hedge fund manager with a crumbling marriage and a severely autistic three-year-old son. After a brutal dinner party and subsequent nervous breakdown, Barry gets on a Greyhound to find his college girlfriend in El Paso, Texas to set his life back onto what he believes to be the correct course.Gary Shteyngart takes the reader via Barry through an intimate tour of several major American southern cities, each of them a stop on h Lake Success tracks the mid-life crisis of Barry Cohen, a "struggling" hedge fund manager with a crumbling marriage and a severely autistic three-year-old son. After a brutal dinner party and subsequent nervous breakdown, Barry gets on a Greyhound to find his college girlfriend in El Paso, Texas to set his life back onto what he believes to be the correct course.Gary Shteyngart takes the reader via Barry through an intimate tour of several major American southern cities, each of them a stop on his protagonist's own romanticized On the Road, every city and encounter meaningful in some way to Barry's detached literary fantasy of his life and quest. The individuality of everyone he encounters is only relevant to Barry to the extent that they fit into his imagined narrative, his aloofness and selfishness evident to everyone except him. Shteyngart skillfully makes Barry's romanticism cringe-inducing in a subtle way, rather than constantly having secondary characters pointing out how out of touch with reality he is.Lake Success bounces back and forth between the narration of Barry's misadventures and the story of Seema, his much younger wife, left behind in New York City with their son and her own slew of identity issues. After an extra-marital relationship fails to be the connection she thought it would be, Seema turns to the reality of her situation with her missing husband and struggling child and finds herself at the end of a path on which she never saw herself. Shteyngart does a good job of rendering Seema's isolation and loneliness, though not because of Barry's absence; rather, it is her youth and education and intellect and ethnicity that isolates Seema from the life she leads: spouse of an excessively wealthy older man for whom she is merely an accessory. In my opinion, Seema and Barry's marriage could have used a little bit more depth. The reader learns a bit about their courtship and some about their marriage by way of flashbacks to vacations-gone-wrong, but it was difficult to comprehend what it meant for their marriage to be failing without knowing more about how they related to and interacted with each other.This story is set against the backdrop of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, which Shteyngart explores largely through the eyes of Barry, the "moderate fiscal republican," as he travels among the American citizenry. He explores issues of race and religion as they relate to political motivations, as well as location and finance. Shteyngart writes with insight and passion about the climate and culture surrounding the election, clearly having been experiencing it in real time as he wrote this book. Pro-Trump/anti-Trump is an inciting litmus test, but his characters are nuanced enough to encourage thought instead of reactive emotion either way.Shteyngart's prose is smooth and intelligent. His humor is both forthright and subtle and perfectly deployed in the minds and mouths of his characters. His descriptions of the cities through which Barry travels are raw and tangible, particularly Ciudad Juarez. The sense of danger and despair and near complete misunderstanding are present in his description of the violent city, and the nearness of its desperation is keenly felt.I found Barry to be mostly unsympathetic. Shteyngart wavers between making it seem like he is redeemable or not. It's difficult for me to know where to stand on the protagonist, because, while he is unlikable, his complete obliviousness makes it tricky to dislike him in the way one would a more deliberately selfish character. Ultimately, Barry represents the challenge that comes with empathy, particularly among those who have much. I think Shteyngart is wondering about what it takes for something to be felt by someone who has no real skin in the game. How can the wealthy understand the plight of the poor? How can white people grasp the concept of racial profiling and injustice in law enforcement and the criminal justice system when they are biologically exempt from these things? How can men understand the effects of the patriarchy? Barry embodies the cluelessness of the people who benefit from these concepts, sometimes by without realizing it and sometimes by willfully ignoring their own privilege.Aside from one or two unnecessary jaunts and a somewhat rushed conclusion, Lake Success is a strong outing from Gary Shteyngart. Thanks, Goodreads, for the giveaway. 3.75 stars.
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  • Charlie
    January 1, 1970
    So much of Gary Shtenygart's new novel Lake Success, his first since the 21st century masterpiece Super Sad True Love Story, feels like a series of blatant writing challenges affixed to each other, as if the Oulipo had sent Shteyngart a hefty packet in the mail threatening him to fulfill these requisites or he can never write about sadsack Jewish men ever again. What are these challenges, then?1. Write a novel about one of the most hated types of people in your American society.2. Write a novel So much of Gary Shtenygart's new novel Lake Success, his first since the 21st century masterpiece Super Sad True Love Story, feels like a series of blatant writing challenges affixed to each other, as if the Oulipo had sent Shteyngart a hefty packet in the mail threatening him to fulfill these requisites or he can never write about sadsack Jewish men ever again. What are these challenges, then?1. Write a novel about one of the most hated types of people in your American society.2. Write a novel in response to the 2016 election, in real time. (These could be 1a and 1b, really).3. Write a novel about a cross country road trip.4. Write a novel about a character with an intense autistic profile.5. Write the next Great American Novel.GO!So, Shteyngart manages to do 1-4 while making an honest attempt at #5, but it doesn't quite hang together as well as I wish it could, mainly because there are all of these separate concepts that need to be what the novel is about, and it strains to be about all of them, meaning the project as a whole feels somewhat misguided. I can see why an author like Shteyngart would find writing about a hedge-fund manager appealing, as that type could be mined for pitch-dark comedy gold, but making him a sympathetic buffoon with a redemptive arc? In 2018? C'mon, man. We don't really need that right now. For all that Barry Cohen goes through in Lake Success, for every indignity and insipid decision, it still feels like the novel plays it a bit too safe with his character. I do really appreciate that Gary Shteyngart builds a good deal of the novel around Barry's non-verbal son who is on the autism spectrum, and it doesn't feel like he short-changes this character or the situation at all. (It is a bit convenient that the characters' massive wealth means they can also leave the kid with the nanny whenever they need to take a cross-country bus ride or have an affair with a quasi-successful author, though). Barry's disregard for Shiva during his road trip did get to the bilious part of my reading soul more than anything else. Shteyngart's trademark humor is still here in spades, and there are individual scenes and lines that still work great. I just can't help but wish that this novel, like the one before it, was an absolute stunner. Instead, it's a series of narrative experiments that work to varying degrees. I'm looking forward to the release date to see if this does stir up more discussion and debate than your average American literary blockbuster. Thank you to NetGalley, the publishers, and author for the advance reading copy.
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  • Diane Payne
    January 1, 1970
    I'm relieved this satire had some Anti-Trump characters I could relate to, since I had a hard time conjuring any connection with these millionaire hedge-funders. Even though the novel was relatively fast-paced, and somewhat humorous, for me, the best writing was at the end when our main character finally returned home. We had to hear so much about his Greyhound bus adventure, as he was on the bus adventure, then again after the bus adventure was over (I'm sure this was intentional for the satire I'm relieved this satire had some Anti-Trump characters I could relate to, since I had a hard time conjuring any connection with these millionaire hedge-funders. Even though the novel was relatively fast-paced, and somewhat humorous, for me, the best writing was at the end when our main character finally returned home. We had to hear so much about his Greyhound bus adventure, as he was on the bus adventure, then again after the bus adventure was over (I'm sure this was intentional for the satire to show the arrogance of our main character, but once we got to the end, and after ten years had passed, and we see the son with autism at his bar mitzvah, I rather wish we had seen more of the son throughout the novel. When the mother's parents came to live with her (since husband was off on Greyhound trip (notice the repetition? maybe it was to show the main character's autistic-traits of repetition?), we start to see the son interact with his grandpa in ways we hadn't seen earlier in the novel, when the characters seemed more like caricatures than real. It isn't until the end of the novel, when the father actually seems more like a human and less than a tool, but, unfortunately, by then the novel is over, and perhaps this will be a novel that becomes a Netflix movie, and after people see the movie, they may read the novel, and, hopefully by then, Trump will not be in office, but many more of us may have to use Greyhound because the market may tank, and hopefully we won't be thinking about Kerouac and Hemingway, because enough of those two already, and we may remember one of the endless stories about a dude with one ear falling asleep on his lap on a bus, and we will wonder if that was what was what happened, since we had read the book so long ago, but there was something, and it wasn't Van Gogh, but someone, a distant memory of a man who spent millions of dollars on watches and was briefly broke and on a bus.
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  • Katie
    January 1, 1970
    2 1/2 stars really, rounded up for some decent writing and an author I really love. I will preface this by saying I really enjoy Gary Shteyngart's writing. I have a special place in my heart for Super Sad True Love Story. I enjoyed the sad funniness of Little Failure, and was thrilled to meet him years ago. He is expert at writing the sad-sack, clueless, male doofus character, that ultimately becomes lovable along the way. Barry is not that character, though I think that was the intention. Barry 2 1/2 stars really, rounded up for some decent writing and an author I really love. I will preface this by saying I really enjoy Gary Shteyngart's writing. I have a special place in my heart for Super Sad True Love Story. I enjoyed the sad funniness of Little Failure, and was thrilled to meet him years ago. He is expert at writing the sad-sack, clueless, male doofus character, that ultimately becomes lovable along the way. Barry is not that character, though I think that was the intention. Barry Cohen is a multi-millionaire hedge fund guy, who has made some major financial mistakes. He is married to a beautiful Indian woman, is horrified by the autism diagnosis his toddler son just received, and is obsessed with expensive watches, expensive whiskey and his perceived status. He thinks he can mend his life if he abandons his wife and autistic son, throws away his wallet and cell phone, and embarks on a Greyhound trip to try to win back his college girlfriend. What could possibly go wrong?The difference between Lake Success and Super Sad True Love Story is that the sad-sack, clueless, male doofus character never becomes lovable. Barry embodies the worst of wealthy, white, American men and never redeems himself because his values never really shift much. The damage is done. I hated Barry from page one, and was waiting for the moment that I empathized, or at least felt sorry for him, which never came. Instead, I truly blame the Barrys of America for a lot of what I find detestable about American culture and I couldn't look past that. Thank you to Random House and Gary Steyngart for the advance copy of this book. I wish I liked it more.
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  • Jake
    January 1, 1970
    I got a free copy of this from goodreads. It is the story of a clueless hedge fund multi-millionaire who self-destructs his family and hits the road on a Greyhound bus to see America and try to recover his college days. The book kind of has a Franzen feel, with deeply flawed characters who you still root for, but they feel a bit more comic. This is particularly true of the protagonist, Barry, who is great at making money even when he loses other people's. While being a natural moneymaker, Barry I got a free copy of this from goodreads. It is the story of a clueless hedge fund multi-millionaire who self-destructs his family and hits the road on a Greyhound bus to see America and try to recover his college days. The book kind of has a Franzen feel, with deeply flawed characters who you still root for, but they feel a bit more comic. This is particularly true of the protagonist, Barry, who is great at making money even when he loses other people's. While being a natural moneymaker, Barry is borderline delusional in many other ways almost like a metaphor for the USA. The story moves along nicely, keeping you thinking that things just might turn around for Barry and America.
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  • Maren
    January 1, 1970
    I should start with the admission that I deeply love Gary Shteyngart's writing. If I had a knack for writing, I would work to write like him. But I don't, so I read him instead :)Lake Success flies through a lot of topics: wealth, status, parenthood, lost relationships, autism, America, etc., etc. but I think it's ultimately a book about time, and how it only moves in one direction, forward. Once the main characters accept the forward motion of their lives, they are truly able to live. It's a te I should start with the admission that I deeply love Gary Shteyngart's writing. If I had a knack for writing, I would work to write like him. But I don't, so I read him instead :)Lake Success flies through a lot of topics: wealth, status, parenthood, lost relationships, autism, America, etc., etc. but I think it's ultimately a book about time, and how it only moves in one direction, forward. Once the main characters accept the forward motion of their lives, they are truly able to live. It's a terrific book, full of sharp observations, hilariously overdrawn yet recognizable characters and some poignant thoughts on all of the above, and more. 5 stars for Gary.
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  • Roxanne
    January 1, 1970
    Barry and his wife Seema face a crossroads of whether a marriage built on ostentatious beginnings can survive the harsh reality of day to day care of a child on the spectrum. The beautiful delusion Barry clings to involving a college sweetheart is a fantasy that many harbor when faced with newlywed strife. Meanwhile his wife also contemplates the road less traveled within their swank Manhattan condo building and its neighborhood’s romance inducing surroundings.A fun Odyssey type story worth a re Barry and his wife Seema face a crossroads of whether a marriage built on ostentatious beginnings can survive the harsh reality of day to day care of a child on the spectrum. The beautiful delusion Barry clings to involving a college sweetheart is a fantasy that many harbor when faced with newlywed strife. Meanwhile his wife also contemplates the road less traveled within their swank Manhattan condo building and its neighborhood’s romance inducing surroundings.A fun Odyssey type story worth a read!
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  • randy
    January 1, 1970
    Totally disgraced, middle-aged, self-absorbed hedge fund manager abandons his family and takes a Greyhound bus cross-country in search of his college sweetheart during the 2016 election? Ridiculously funny. And per usual, Shteyngart has his thumb on the often ludicrous and always true pulse of our times.
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  • Lori L (She Treads Softly)
    January 1, 1970
    Lake Success by Gary Shteyngart is a highly recommended thought-provoking tale of a mid-life crisis.Hedge-fund manager Barry Cohen has packed his suitcase full of expensive watches (and no change of clothes) and is running away from home via Greyhound. There are several reasons for Barry's exit: he is drunk; he had a fight with his wife, Seema; he is distressed over his son's diagnosis of autism; and he is facing a SEC investigation. His decision to run away has turned into a goal of finding his Lake Success by Gary Shteyngart is a highly recommended thought-provoking tale of a mid-life crisis.Hedge-fund manager Barry Cohen has packed his suitcase full of expensive watches (and no change of clothes) and is running away from home via Greyhound. There are several reasons for Barry's exit: he is drunk; he had a fight with his wife, Seema; he is distressed over his son's diagnosis of autism; and he is facing a SEC investigation. His decision to run away has turned into a goal of finding his old college sweetheart and creating a good story for his future biography. Barry is in parts self-deluded and self-important, but with an inferiority complex. He is out of touch with how regular Americans live, but he taught himself how to make friends when he was in junior high and these techniques that have served him well while making his millions should work when relating to regular people too. He even throws away his cell phone and credit cards. Barry's odyssey on Greyhound buses takes him across America, from New York City to Baltimore, Richmond, Raleigh, Atlanta, El Paso, Phoenix, and San Diego.Seema is seething. She's angry at Barry's departure and is overwhelmed with their three-year-old son Shiva's diagnosis. She is a very intelligent younger woman and first generation Indian American who left her law career for Barry. Now she is trying to keep track of all the therapists who work with Shiva. She begins an affair with their downstairs neighbor, a writer named Luis Goodman. Barry and Seema were having dinner with Luis and his wife, Julianna, the evening of the fight with Seema that marked Barry's decision to leave.The narrative follows both Barry and Seema's lives in alternating chapters. While writing about what they are experiencing, it is also clear that Shteyngart is capturing the basic inability it is for various people/groups to understand what others are enduring based on abilities, income, sex, race, age, profiling, success, etc. The bulk of Lake Success is set in the summer of 2016 just before Trump is elected President, so it also depicts the differences voiced by supporters on both sides of the political divide, with the main focus being pro- and anti-Trump discussions. It should also be noted that it appears that Barry himself is likely on the spectrum, undiagnosed and highly functioning, but still.While well-written, I vacillated back and forth on how I actually felt about the story - after all I read books for entertainment, not just for the literary merit. Parts of the novel are very entertaining, heart-breaking, and revealing. There are funny and insightful moments. Other parts, much like the endless miles spent riding the bus, were a bit-too-drawn-out. Barry doesn't really experience growth on his Kerouac-like bus trip or come to any life-changing self-awareness.We also have two imperfect characters and they are both struggling, although with very different questions. It is difficult to see Barry leave his son with Seema for his own selfish misguided trip. He is, ultimately, a rather lost man who has too much wealth observing those around him. But on the other hand, Seema also does some selfish actions. I did love Seema's father and his connection to Shiva. There is so much to this novel and I think I need some more thinking time before I settle on a final rating - one of the best of the year or just a very good novel. Hmmmm. I'm going with 4 stars for now just based on the general disagreeableness of the characters.Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.http://www.shetreadssoftly.com/2018/0...
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  • Matthew Budman
    January 1, 1970
    In person, Gary Shteyngart is so extemporaneously funny that I always find his fiction a bit of a letdown—for whatever reason, the comic sensibility doesn't quite translate to the page. But that's OK—he deftly juggles whimsy and melancholy, and the result is always readable. I never considered giving up on Lake Success even though I truly didn't care for it.The central character is another Shteyngart sad sack, except not lovable in the slightest. Hedge-fund millionaire Barry Cohen is a genuinely In person, Gary Shteyngart is so extemporaneously funny that I always find his fiction a bit of a letdown—for whatever reason, the comic sensibility doesn't quite translate to the page. But that's OK—he deftly juggles whimsy and melancholy, and the result is always readable. I never considered giving up on Lake Success even though I truly didn't care for it.The central character is another Shteyngart sad sack, except not lovable in the slightest. Hedge-fund millionaire Barry Cohen is a genuinely unpleasant companion as we follow his implosion and impulsive cross-country bus ride to find his college girlfriend, and we're stuck with the guy the whole way. He makes bad decision after bad decision in a frenzy of self-destruction, with the shallowest of motivations and learning almost nothing along the way, yet he's somehow confident all will work out, and hey, it does. None of it carries much weight. To cite just one example: Barry is obsessed with expensive wristwatches, and his obsession isn't particularly amusing, or contemptible, or anything else. It's just there.Barry's wife and autistic son are far more compelling characters. Despite the author really getting to know the world of big money and Princeton (in April, he published a long New Yorker article about a guy not unlike Barry), Seema and Shiva seem much more authentic to me, especially Seema's efforts to negotiate being the parent of a special-needs child. What never makes sense is how Barry convinced her to marry him in the first place. I missed her every time the perspective shifted back to his seat on the Greyhound.The element of Lake Success that I find truly odd is the frame of the 2016 election: Shteyngart makes it a big deal that Barry is a moderate Republican who doesn't support Trump, and the narrative regularly brings up others' anxiety about the election, but it doesn't link to anything. Even Barry's bus trip, with encounters far more diverse than his pampered Wall Street life, doesn't really tie in. It's a little baffling. But I'll be seeing the author at a Barnes & Noble event next week, so perhaps he'll explain it all—and will no doubt be more entertaining than on the page.
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  • Anneke
    January 1, 1970
    Book Review: Lake SuccessAuthor: Gary ShteyngartPublisher: Random HousePublication Date: September 4, 2018Review Date: August 27, 2018I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Here’s the blurb description:“Narcissistic, hilariously self-deluded, and divorced from the real world as most of us know it, hedge-fund manager Barry Cohen oversees $2.4 billion in assets. Deeply stressed by an SEC investigation and by his three-year-old son’s diagnosis of autism Book Review: Lake SuccessAuthor: Gary ShteyngartPublisher: Random HousePublication Date: September 4, 2018Review Date: August 27, 2018I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Here’s the blurb description:“Narcissistic, hilariously self-deluded, and divorced from the real world as most of us know it, hedge-fund manager Barry Cohen oversees $2.4 billion in assets. Deeply stressed by an SEC investigation and by his three-year-old son’s diagnosis of autism, he flees New York on a Greyhound bus in search of a simpler, more romantic life with his old college sweetheart. Meanwhile, his super-smart wife, Seema—a driven first-generation American who craved the picture-perfect life that comes with wealth—has her own demons to face. How these two flawed characters navigate the Shteyngartian chaos of their own making is at the heart of this piercing exploration of the 0.1 Percent, a poignant tale of familial longing and an unsentimental ode to what really makes America great.”I will come straight out and say I had an extremely visceral response to this book. I have to remember to separate my negative response to the protagonist from how the book was written. The book was very well written. Unusual, exceptional plot. Characters so well written that they filled me with disgust, particularly Barry Cohen, the protagonist. The language and imagery were first class. And funny? God, what funny sentences throughout the book. Laugh out loud funny. Not one thing about the writing to fault in the least. I found Barry Cohen to be vile and loathesome. It is rare that I have such a strong negative emotional response to a character in a book. Narcissistic and self-deluded just barely scratches the surface. I can’t think of a more self-centered fictional character. What I don’t understand is why such an accomplished author would choose to write about such a vile person. About the world of the 1-Percent, particularly centered in the Manhattan hedge fund world. To me it seems such a waste of the author’s talent, to focus on this kind of person and his world. But he did it so well, I guess, for me to respond so intensely. Most of the book took place during the 2016 election year, back when we were all still so sure Hillary had it in the bag and Trump was just an irritating gnat. Before we’d arrived at the nightmare we now find ourselves in. Hopefully, you will not respond to this book as I have, because it’s pretty uncomfortable. Despite my personal feelings, this is A+ writing. 5 Stars, highly, highly recommended with the caveat about the protagonist’s disgusting character. This review will be posted on NetGalley, Goodreads, Instagram; and Amazon and Barnes and Noble after publication date.
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