How do people deal with the torrent of information that rains down on us all? What's the secret to staying on top of the news without surrendering to the chaos of it? In this series, we ask people who seem well-informed to describe their media diets. The following comes from a conversation with Gary Shteyngart, award-winning novelist and author of the new book Super Sad True Love Story.
The first thing I look at in the morning is the New York Times website. I check out the business section, the real estate section, those are fun. The city exists as one endless, ongoing real-estate transaction now, so you may as well. If it's Wednesday I'll be all over the dining section.
Throughout the day, I'll also look at Russian websites like Gazeta.ru and the St. Petersburg Times--that's my home town. I'm always fascinated by how the project to rebuild St. Petersburg airport is going, for example.
In print, I subscribe to the New Yorker. I also read the New York Review of Books and the Economist. I don't read any really niche literary publications. Granta, I read, it's quite good. All their issues have themes.
A lot of what I read is sort of pre-programmed to my tastes anyway. I don't read the Idaho Nazi Journal or anything like that. But maybe I should? Maybe there's some stuff in there that's good.
When I surf, I stumble onto things, but nothing that I follow. I'm not a big blog person. I do like the New Yorker blog on books, the Book Bench. I read the Slate blog on Mad Men. I like it a lot. It's four or five people.
I don't really care about people's opinions that much, I just want to know what's going on.
I do spend a fair amount of time online. I always look to buy real estate, although in the end I rarely do. It's a hobby.
Come to think of it, I have a very boring kind of Media Diet, in the sense that I read what people would expect me to read, nothing special. Most of the things I read have New York in the title.
Walter Kirn is a great critic. He's funny as hell. Not just well-read, but he has a great conception of the world. James Wood I'll read in the New Yorker.
David Remnick is a very good writer. He lets loose on various topics all over the map. The writing is witty, but you know that he's a good journalist. Journalism is in deep trouble in general because it's supposed to double as entertainment these days. And Remnick does the entertainment part very subtly. What I want from journalism is to finish reading it and have a take on the world. That's what he does.
Laura Miller at Salon, she's great. She talks about things that really seem like they mean something emotionally to her. I don't like when things get too theoretical. That guy Tony Judt who died--oh God, he was good. I was very sad. That reminded that there's not that many people I follow the way I used to. Whenever he published something, that would be the first thing I would read. Here's a man who could write about most any topic, about Europe, about Israel--really a renaissance writer, just wonderful.
There was that nice Atlantic Monthly guy who interviewed me about my iPhone--Alexis. I love the piece that came out of it. That was not a print thing but it was very good.
I like stuff that's international, that roams all over the place. I like long-form journalism. Jonathan Dee in the New York Times Magazine is very good. He's someone who very nicely switches between fiction and journalism and back.
You know who's great? Edwidge Danticat--she also has that ability to switch between those two things.
I don't Twitter. I have a Facebook account, but I mostly post pictures of dachshunds I enjoy. I love dachshunds, so it was a logical thing. What are you going to put up on this Facebook thing? For me, I thought, "Dachshunds!"
On TV, I watch CNN, stuff like that. Mad Men. The Daily Show and the Colbert Report. I saw the first part of their "Restoring Sanity" event--it sounds like a great thing. I wish I had time. Us normal people without craziness need to celebrate, too, in our relative normality.
I don't have an iPad or a Kindle. I think it may have to happen at some point, but not yet. I already do a lot of my readings on the iPhone.
I don't spend most of my reading time on fiction. I think probably more of it is spent on non-fiction these days. But I've been traveling a lot because of the book tour, so I haven't had time to look at long form texts. I'm just rushing from one place to the other. When I'm traveling it's hard to remember what the hell I do.
I loved the David Mitchell book, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. He's a great writer. And Edwidge Danticat’s Brother, I’m Dying. Vendela Vida is great, I'm reading her new book The Lovers.
What’s on my reading list? I don’t know where to begin. Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Allegra Goodman's Cookbook Collector. Maybe the new William Gibson book Zero History. I already read Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, it was wonderful.
Reviews can be very scathing, you know. Sometimes I'm shocked by how people attack other writers. When my first book came out, each review really hurt. Now it’s just part of what I do. Not everyone has to like your work.
Looking at things on the Internet is a way to fill in the boredom. We live in a world where you can’t just be bored. Every second has to be taken up with little bits of information. All of us are now conscripted to provide that information. I prefer looking out the window and just taking things in instead of looking at the Internet, but that's no longer possible.
I feel the effects. I’m getting dumber. Hard even to talk. It’s an effort. Very distracted.