Fiction far from one’s own experience can be transporting
“Our Country Friends” is Gary Shteyngart’s fifth book. Photo: Tim Davis I recently attended a significantly numbered reunion at my high school in an affluent, primarily white suburb of New York City. When it came time for the group discussion of how the place where we’d grown up had affected our lives, many felt compelled to mention the volunteer/social justice work they’d done, atoning, it seemed, for all the privileges we’d been afforded.
Some of the snarkier among us labeled it “virtue signaling,” but I felt the descriptions of work with the disenfranchised was, in large part, sincere – with the exception of one guy who, according to himself, was a combination of Desmond Tutu and Mahatma Gandhi.
I mention this to discuss the fact that I always love reading fiction about people and places outside my own experience. Yes, there are great novels about white middle-class and even wealthy characters, and their struggles and triumphs and despairs. (“The Great Gatsby,” anyone?) But it’s when I’m transported out of my own frame of reference into a totally different world that I get really excited. “Our Country Friends,” by Gary Shteyngart. Photo: Penguin Random House That’s why I had trouble with Gary […]