Idris Elba di­rects Yardie

Esquire (UK) - - Contents -

“Barry Co­hen, a man with $2.4bn dol­lars of as­sets un­der man­age­ment, stag­gered into the Port Au­thor­ity Bus Ter­mi­nal. He was vis­i­bly drunk and bleed­ing. There was a clean slice above his left eye­brow where the nanny’s fin­ger­nail had gouged him and, from his wife, a teardrop scratch be­low his eye. It was 3.20am.” And with that — boom — you’re in to Gary Shteyn­gart’s new novel, Lake Suc­cess.

As you might ex­pect from the author of Ab­sur­dis­tan and Su­per Sad True Love Story, when it comes to the tar­gets of his dark satire, the Rus­sian-born Amer­i­can writer drags ev­ery­one along for the ride.

This time, his main fo­cus is Barry, would-be Master of the Uni­verse, whose mar­riage is col­laps­ing un­der the strains of rais­ing a se­verely autis­tic son, and whose for­tunes have been made on in­vest­ments that are prov­ing any­thing but sound.

Af­ter the heated en­counter with which the novel opens, Barry sets off on a dystopian Grey­hound bus trip across Trump’s Amer­ica in search of a col­lege girl­friend in Texas, on a mis­guided one-man mis­sion to “Make Barry Great Again”.

Mean­while, in al­ter­nat­ing chap­ters, Barry’s wife, Seema, a for­mer lawyer and be­stower of the “teardrop scratch”, is strug­gling to man­age her son’s re­cent di­ag­no­sis, and her bur­geon­ing aware­ness of her hus­band’s use­less­ness and moral bank­ruptcy, or rather, a re­al­i­sa­tion that she’d known about it all along. It’s a sur­prise to ap­prox­i­mately no one when her head is turned by a smooth Gu­atemalan writer who lives with his wife in a neigh­bour­ing apart­ment, and who of­fers some no­tional es­cape from this life of which she’d al­ways dreamed.

Shteyn­gart, how­ever, re­serves his keen­est and fiercest barbs for Barry, an an­gry, in­ef­fec­tual al­pha male who finds it eas­ier to demon­strate af­fec­tion for his watch col­lec­tion than for his own child. And the satir­i­cal lay­er­ing is mas­ter­ful: in one dizzy­ing set-piece, Barry is ac­costed by a crack dealer in Bal­ti­more, runs away in fear, only to find out the dealer is await­ing a minibus of Ger­man tourists who have come to see key lo­ca­tions from The Wire. Barry, em­bold­ened, and brim­ming with plea­sure at his own mag­na­nim­ity, re­turns to the dealer and buys a lump of crack, which has “the sharp yel­low tinge of a new­born Parme­san”. Dark — so dark — yet de­li­cious.

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