by Gary Shteyngart
In A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole created one of literature's greatest comic characters in the bloated form of Ignatius J. Reilly. As you can see from the picture above Simon Schama feels that Gary Shteyngart has repeated the feat with his hero Misha Vainberg, aka Snack Daddy. Son of the 1,238th richest man in Russia and weighing in at 325 pounds (just over 23 stone in old money) he is certainly a striking figure. In thrall to Western values and culture he longs for nothing more than a return to the United States and his love Rouenna, but with a visa out of the question after his father's involvement in the murder of an American citizen he has to resort to slightly more convoluted measures to get what he wants.
Or I think that's how it goes, because I couldn't finish it. I got about 135 pages in and I simply wasn't getting the laughs or 'scathing satire' that had been promised on the blurb. The humour was pretty puerile, the satire a little old and tired and there was something soft about the target, the whole East/West politics/oil exploitation thing has reached self-paordying proportions by now. So maybe I just came to the book too late (although it was only published last year) but I couldn't really be bothered to carry on. But if anyone tells me that things really get going on page 136 I can always try again.