Reports of Gary Shteyngart’s hairiness have been greatly exaggerated. The first and best Russian-immigrant novelist out of the gate in his generation, Shteyngart has long perpetuated those ugly rumors. During interviews plugging his sprawling 2002 comic debut, The Russian Debutante’s Handbook (which he now insists on calling “The Russian Debutante’s Handjob”) and its messier follow-up, Absurdistan, he said he’d grown up “small, furry, and poor” in Little Neck, Queens. In both profiles and fiction, he created a mythically sad upbringing to which he credited both his sense of humor and his flagrant displays of self-hatred. The truth about the hair, and the self-loathing, emerges at Spa Castle, a hard-to-reach five-story Korean spa emporium in College Point, Queens. Creepily modern and intensely relaxing, the destination has a few tenuous connections to his third book, a dystopian satire called Super Sad True Love Story. But the main reason we’ve come here to soak, sizzle, and float in saunas and whirlpools is that Shteyngart himself suggested it, in the following e-mail, reprinted in full: “we go to korean bathhouse in queens and catch new social disease …”
more from Boris Kachka at New York Magazine here.