Monday, January 31, 2011

Super Sad True Love Story

We read Super Sad True Love Story, by Gary Shteyngart, for book club. I really enjoyed it and encourage everyone to read it - it was really hilarious and such a novel of our times (even though it's futuristic!)

It's written fromt he perspective of Lenny Abramov's diary and the electronic correspondence of Eunice Park. They live in the (not-so-distant) future, when everyone wears an äppärät (a device worn around the neck that makes an iphones look like an Apple II) which most people live their lives through - shopping, communicating, and assessing the vital stats - credit and "fuckability" - of everyone else.

Lenny works for Post-Human services, which helps HNWI (high net worth individuals) extend their lives indefinitely. Terrified of death, he's drawn to the young, lithe, Eunice and practically worships her into being his girlfriend. I was a bit leary that this was going to be one of those old-man-resurrected-by-youthful-tail tales, almost always completely unbelievable and largely if not exclusively written by aging old men, but Eunice is such an unlikable character she hardly resurrects anyone.

Shteyngart's novel is less sci-fi and more of a dead-on satire of today's culture. Consumerism, corporations infecting politics, hyper-sexualized people (he writes about "Juicy-Pussy for Men" and Onionskin pants - clear pants!), youth obsession - all are examined to hilarious (and terrifying!) extremes:
At least your Lenny lvoes you so much he'll never ever cheat on you. I can't understand why you're feeling so insecure about him. So he's brain-smart. Who cares??? It's not like he's some superstar Media guy or VP and LandOLakes. So he REALLY, REALLY READS instead of scans. Big whoop. Maybe you guys can read to each other in bed or something. And then you can sew your own clothes. HA HA HA. Anyway, looking good is the new smart, and I don't think you should have kids with him because you'll have really ugly children.
This book reminded a lot of us in book club of Feed - in which "book smart" intelligence is not only undervalued but ridiculed. What's coming across is a real sense of anxiety from some writers about the future of, I think, not just reading (physical) books, but reading at all.

I loved the juxtiposition of Lenny's style with Eunice's, and their telling of the same events. Shteyngart's structure and plotting were really clever and I admired it so much. There's actually so much to discuss I can't really fit it into a blog post and I don't want to give away to much of the story except to say: You must read this!

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