AWP ended with an entertaining evening, a conversation with Amy Hempel and Gary Shteyngart. The moderator was worried — what in the world could these 2 have in common, the minimalist Amy who can compact an entire story in one paragraph, and max-to-the-max Gary?
Answer: Russian ancestry, of course.
I’ve never seen either before, and almost skipped the event. But I’m glad I dragged my tired self down to the ballroom. Amy read first. A story about volunteering at a full-service animal shelter, full-service meaning they kill on schedule. Honest to god I could barely keep it together, could have bawled like a baby. I even tried to stop listening at one point, it was that overwhelming. A day later there are lines I wish I’d never heard, as they’ve stuck horribly with me, and I wish they hadn’t.
Gary followed and had us all laughing before he even started. I think we were so relieved to LAUGH! And he just got funnier and funnier from there. I’ve never read a Shteyngart book — Absurdistan, Super Sad True Love Story — and I don’t know if I will, but I would get out of bed at 3 a.m. and drive through a snow storm to see him read again. What an entertainer.