Books: Absurdistan: From Russia, with Love

Gary Shteyngart's hilarious, virtuosic Absurdistan nails the tragicomedy of foreign relations

American fiction is in a satirical mood. Sometime in the 1990s--David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest makes a handy point of reference for weary travelers-- the earnest, rock-hewn realism of the Raymond Carver school gave way to a more fluid, molten hyperrealism. The widespread conviction that truth has become stranger than fiction triggered a kind of strangeness inflation, an arms race of exaggeration, wherein novelists satirically augment and amp up and overclock their fictions in an attempt to keep up with the sheer implausibility of real life.

Which is great if you're into satire, a genre that's easy to like but hard to...

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