DC
04/20/2012 08:39 am ET

Gary Shteyngart: 'I'm Not Totally In Love With Our Species'

WASHINGTON -- Gary Shteyngart's last novel, "Super Sad True Love Story," tells the story of love and neurosis amidst economic, social and fashion collapse.

The book, set in the near future, features a camp of financially downtrodden New Yorkers living, and protesting, in a small Manhattan park. Sound familiar?

The much-ballyhooed New York-based author of three novels, prolific blurber and renowned dachshund-lover will be appearing -- with the writer Adam Ross -- at the Folger Elizabethan Theatre on Friday.

The Huffington Post caught up with Shteyngart by email to find out his thoughts on the Occupy movement, dogs and D.C.:

The Huffington Post: "Super Sad True Love Story" basically predicts the Occupy movement. Did you follow the Occupy movement? Are you surprised at how it's turned out?

Gary Shteyngart: Sure, I follow it. It's down the street! I'm not surprised by how it turned out, I'm surprised by how many ex-middle-class people seem to shrug and say, "Meh, so we're poor now. Off to the food bank, I suppose." In other countries, and I'm not mentioning Greece by name, overturned cars would be set on fire by now.

HuffPost: You come give readings here in D.C. every so often. Do you spend any time here? If so, what do you do while you're here?

Shteyngart: I see some friends. It's fun to be in DC because people start their sentences with things like "So the Sultan of Brunei, he says to me, he says 'Larry'..."

HuffPost: You seem to really love dogs. But there aren't many dogs in your books. Why is that?

Shteyngart: Dog love has come to me very recently. It's part of my new "I'm Sort of A Human Being, So Love Me" campaign. Literary authors are often considered aloof, but me, I'm just cuddling with my dachshund [Felix] day and night on the streets of Manhattan.

HuffPost: Your main characters seem to have pretty bleak views on the world. Do you share that bleak view? If so, isn't it hard to maintain in the face of so much critical praise and reader adulation?

Shteyngart: I love my readers and critics, but I'm not totally in love with our species. I can't help but think we could have turned out better. Once we trash this planet once and for all and the dachshunds take over, I bet the next civilization will be brilliant and inquisitive, as well as long and short and furry.

HuffPost: You turn up giving praise on a lot of authors' book jackets. There's even a Tumblr about it. Why do you think you get asked to do so many? Do you actually read all the books? What's the value of an author quote on a book, and who would you love a quote from on your next book?

Shteyngart: My goal is to blurb 24% of all literary books out there. Eventually, my blurbs will be so devalued that publishers will stop asking me for them. Then I will be able to return to my memoir.

HuffPost: Speaking of, how is your memoir coming along?

Shteyngart: (see above)

HuffPost: Who was the cute bear in your author photo for your novel "The Russian Debutante's Handbook"? Is that your bear? Please say yes.

Shteyngart: He's my bear, in the sense that Russian bears legally belong to all people born on the territory of the Russian Federation. Kind of like all fava beans belong to all members of every Oberlin food Coop. Except the bears generally taste better.

HuffPost: D.C. would seem like a good setting for one of your books. It's got the odd power structures that you seem interested in, the megalomaniacs that your more sympathetic characters seem to be reacting against. Any chance you'd set a book here?

Shteyngart: D.C. is its own ecosystem and I am not an animal that could breed well within its confines. Also, I seem to have misplaced my camouflage, i.e. Dockers pants and striped Oxford shirt.

Gary Shteyngart and Adam Ross will appear at the Folger Elizabethan Theatre (201 E Capitol St. SE) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available here.

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