My Secret Life: Gary Shteyngart, author, 38


My parents were... They both weighed in at under 70kg a piece.

The house/flat I grew up in... It was filled with light. Because we couldn't afford a roof.

When I was a child I wanted to... I wanted to become a hamster. Specifically, I wanted to become a white male hamster – because white male hamsters are very privileged in America.

If I could change one thing about myself... I would just do everything – the whole thing. I would change to something a little more ambulatory.

You wouldn't know it but I am very good at... sleeping, I'm a great sleeper. I won a championship. The championship was called the American Sleep Association 2010 Snooze Award.

You wouldn't know it but I'm no good at... writing books and stuff like that.

At night I dream of... Sarajevo, Rwanda, the Republican National Congress... I have bad dreams.

What I see when I look in the mirror... I see a man slowly approaching mortality.

I wish I'd never worn... pants – they don't look good on me. By pants I of course mean trousers.

My favourite item of clothing... the ancestral codpiece.

I drive... I don't drive or ride, instead I just walk.

My house is... very mid-century modern. That means it looks sort of like the set of Mad Men.

My favourite work of art... I don't really look at art, I can't afford it.

My secret crush is... Tony Blair's wife, whatsherface. Cherie Blair. I think she's cute.

My favourite building... They don't really let me inside buildings anymore. What is my favourite building from the outside? I like the foreign ministry, one of those Stalinist buildings in Moscow.

Movie heaven... Blade Runner. Over and over again.

A book that changed me... Dianetics by L Ron Hubbard. That's a joke. Nothing has seriously changed my life.

My greatest regret... Learning to read: it all went downhill from there.

My real-life villains... The guy who sold me a bad kebab the other week; if I find him, I'll kill him.

The last album I bought or downloaded... I do not buy or download music, I just listen to it for free at the gym. The gym that I go to plays really horrible music – listening to it motivates me to work harder and get out of there faster.

The person who really makes me laugh... Condoleezza Rice – she's very funny.

The last time I cried... was during my own childbirth.

My five-year plan... First I'm going to quit drinking, and start smoking. Then I am going to go back to drinking, and then I'll stop smoking. And then I will go to rehab in Vermont.

What's the point? There is no point, that's what is so sad. And that's one of my serious answers.

My life in six words... bladder control: harder than you'd think.

A life in brief

Gary Shteyngart was born in Russia in 1972 and moved to the US seven years later. He has published three critically acclaimed novels, including his award-winning debut, The Russian Debutante's Handbook, and Absurdistan, as well as writing for The New Yorker, Granta and The New York Times. His latest novel, Super Sad True Love Story, was awarded the Bolinger Everyman Wodehouse prize at this year's Hay Festival; its video trailer featured his former pupil, the actor James Franco. Shteyngart teaches creative writing at Columbia University and lives in New York

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