The hero of Gary Shteyngart’s novel Absurdistan is Russian-born, American-educated, and vastly overweight Misha Vainberg. And nobody who crosses Misha’s wide path is safe from Shteyngart’s affectionate skewering: Central Asian warlords, overeducated literature professors, undereducated Bronx babes.

Shteyngart, whose first novel, The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, covered somewhat similar terrain, is himself a Russian Jewish immigrant, though considerably smaller than Misha. We visit with him at his apartment on the Lower East Side to find out where fact ends and fiction begins in his portrayal of expatriate life in the post-Soviet Wild East. Also up for discussion: Nabokov, Oblomov, and the author’s Hasidic neighbors.