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Sep 17, 2014 Posted in Buffalo Rising
Author: Erik Seeman

Buffalo’s literary community is abuzz about Gary Shteyngart’s upcoming appearance Friday, September 26, at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

“Gary Shteyngart is one of the smartest, most original, and funniest writers in America,” says novelist Mick Cochrane, professor of English and Lowery Writer-in-Residence at Canisius College. “For readers and students of literature here in Buffalo to have the chance to see and hear him as part of the Humanities Festival is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. My students and I couldn’t be more excited.”

Shteyngart, author of three popular novels and the New York Times–bestselling memoir Little Failure, speaks at the Albright-Knox at 8:00pm on the 26th. The event features a reading, on-stage interview, and book signing. A limited number of VIP tickets are available for a wine-and-cheese reception with the author, beginning at 7:00pm.

Shteyngart’s visit kicks off the first Buffalo Humanities Festival, presented by the University at Buffalo Humanities Institute in cooperation with Canisius College, Niagara University, SUNY Buffalo State, and SUNY Fredonia.

The Festival continues the next day with talks, music, conversations, films, and food, at the Burchfield Penney Art Center and SUNY Buffalo State. The Festival’s theme is “Migration Nation: Moving Stories.” Tickets for all events are available at buffalohumanities.org.

Born to a Russian-Jewish family in Leningrad in 1972, Shteyngart migrated to the United States seven years later. His three novels – The Russian Debutante’s Handbook (2002), Absurdistan (2006), and Super Sad True Love Story (2010) – all explore the immigrant experience using dark humor and powerful storytelling.

But many critics feel that his memoir, Little Failure, is his greatest achievement. Zadie Smith, author of White Teeth, calls Little Failure Shteyngart’s “finest book yet.” The Los Angeles Times says it is “as vivid, original, and funny as [anything] contemporary U.S. literature has to offer.”

Readers interested in discussing Little Failure in advance of Shteyngart’s appearance are invited to join the Humanities Festival Book Group on Monday, September 22, from 7:30pm to 9:30pm at Betty’s Restaurant, 370 Virginia Avenue. Joseph Conte of UB’s English Department leads the conversation. Tickets, available on the Festival website, are $8 each and include drinks and light fare.