“The Luck of Kokura,” by Gary Shteyngart
Excerpted from Lake Success, published in the New Yorker (June 25th, 2018) and on The Writer’s Voice
A portrait of an asshole who doesn’t know he’s an asshole, and perhaps for that reason is strangely likable. And of a friendship, limited though it is, a genuine friendship between two assholes.
The title underlines the thoughtless assholery of the two men—Jeff Park’s pleasure at the good fortune of Kokura at Nagasaki’s expense. Is that the whole point of the story, the way we can fail to recognize our own selfishness and smallness (I can’t come up with a better word than smallness, somehow—I mean a certain narrowness of outlook)? Barry doesn’t learn anything from his experience, does he? He’s simply defeated. I suppose there’s hope that he will return to his wife and make a not totally unsuccessful attempt to be a good father. Have to read the novel to find out.