What do you do if you’re a wealthy hedge-fund manager, the subject of an SEC investigation, and avoiding dealing with your son’s autism diagnosis? If you’re Barry Cohen, you escape to the country with an ex-girlfriend. Lake Success, a social satire, skewers everything from the New York City finance-bro culture to…well, lots of stuff — but the finance skewering is really good! The conceit may sound like a downer, but Gary Shteyngart’s clear wit makes sure it’s anything but.
The multiple-time-New-York-Times-bestselling author has written several tomes that hit the perfect note of very funny and very true and he continues that pattern in Lake Success, on shelves now. EW wrangled Shteyngart to find out his answers to our burning book questions and his insights provide a sneak peek of the chuckles you’ll find in the aforementioned Barry and his ridiculous antics.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What is the first thing — ever — that you remember writing?
GARY SHTEYNGART: A book called Lenin and His Magical Goose. I was living in the Soviet Union. It was about how Lenin met this socialist goose and they invaded Finland together. Hey, it was the 70s!
What is the last book that made you cry?
Toni Morrison’s Beloved. I mean, how could it not?
What is your favorite part of Lake Success?
The ending. But I can’t tell you what it is! Please read the whole thing. Oh, now I’m nervous you won’t like it. Oh boy. Never mind.
Which book is at the top of your current To-Read list?
I don’t have a To-Read list. I stumble into one of my local independent bookstores, sometimes inebriated, sometimes not, and then buy a whole bunch of books. Then I sober up and try to read them.
When do you write?
11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a nice hour-long break for lunch. You gotta eat.
Which book made you a forever reader?
I guess 1984. Dystopia — check. Horrible love affair — check. Bad haircuts — check. It’s a keeper.
Pick a GIF that you think, in this moment, best describes you and your book.
What’s a GIF?
What is a snack you couldn’t write without?
Georgia peaches. Mhh-hmm. I sure do love my Georgia peaches. Did you know a chapter of my new book is set in Atlanta? It’s because of the peaches.
What was the hardest thing to write in Lake Success?
The book takes place on a Greyhound bus so I had to take a Greyhound bus from coast to coast. And I have a bad back. So that part was tough.
If you could change one thing about any of your books, what would it be?
I’d make my first book just a little bit shorter. Maybe twenty pages. I had too many thoughts and feelings when I was a youth.
If Lake Success had a movie poster tagline, it would be:
“A shmuck flees his family and the law. Will his family and the law catch up with him?”