Super Sad True Love Story Paperback – 2 Sep 2010
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'Shteyngart's ventriloquism is remarkable, cleverly observed and highly amusing'
'Gary Shteyngart's wonderful new novel is a supersad, superfunny, superaffecting performance' --Scotland on Sunday
'A fine contribution to dystopian literature' --The Times
`Shteyngart balances spiky, knowing social commentary with bucketloads of tenderness' --New Statesman
`The writing is never less than stylish and witty, and the sense of disaster is unfailingly lyrical'
About the Author
GARY SHTEYNGART was born in Leningrad in 1972 and moved to the United States with his family seven years later. He is the author of two previous novels: The Russian Debutante's Handbook, named one of the best debuts of the year by the Guardian, and the bestselling Absurdistan.
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At one level it's just what it says on the tin. A love triangle story. But it has depths and richness, a delight in its knowing superficiality, that makes it so much more.
Rampant capitalism and its aggressive and unbeatable logic are the targets here. But no longer is it the dollar that rules. Instead, the mighty yuan controls all it surveys.
And so it's hard to miss the wide variety of connections and resonances with the real world. Like all the best fictional universes, this parallel helps us see our own far more clearly. And it's not a pretty sight...
A fascinating and gripping read
Firstly, it is a love story between the author (in very bad disguise) called Lenny Abramov - or Rhesus Monkey - and a much younger Korean girl Eunice Park. It is fairly conventional. The air headed Eunice trades her beauty for security, first by attaching herself to Lenny, and ultimately to Lenny's boss, the incredible Joshie Goldmann. She is a vain, heartless woman, and very un-PC. All the characters are hard to like and relate to, so the narrative loses a star - the love story does not surprise in any way, but it still is bizarre enough to reveal the heart of Lenny, the most compelling character in the novel (not surprisingly).
Secondly, it is more successful satire on the shallowness of our society, the horrible climate of America, the ludicrous double speak of politicians, and mostly, human vanity. This is what gives the novel it's edge and where Shteyngart scores most of his hits.
Lastly it is the undercurrent about mortality that permeates all of the novel, what some people will do to escape the reality of life - the human condition - that makes it such a winning read.
It is difficult to stay with all the time, but has a rewarding originality that lets you slide over some of the less successful plot elements. I know I will read his other books, its good enough for that.
That the other characters can be described as flat is actually a tribute to book. It portrays a future society where everything is available to be scanned (never read) about anybody in the society. Every detail about past loves, sexual prowess and their perceived desirability is open available to all around. The people are so immersed in their virtual lives enabled by the communications devices that they fail to see how much their society has decayed around them. With the locked up inside it's digital devices its a capitalist dream but a shallow reality. It's a world ruled by the media, but a new personal media rather than the old world media corporations. This is the instant youtube world that surely awaits us.
The arc of the story covers the meeting of our hero and his love, their relationship and the end. During their tryst the US goes berserk, becoming a strict totalitarian version of itself with the adjunct to 'deny and comply'.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. Some of the passages are a bit long winded, too much description of food, more meat on the pages than meat in the story. The vision of the future US is intriguing and tantalising, a vision that doesn't frighten me, but perversely amuses and pleases me.
Is it a love story? Yes. Is it a super sad love story? Actually, I didn't think so. It's a very grown up story which has a strong love interest.