I tried really hard to hate Super Sad True Love Story. My past experiences reading Gary Shteyngart have left me feeling vaguely offended and greasy. So when I dove into this new novel, the darling of just about anyone who dares open its cover (including Christa), I was extra wary and hyper vigilant.
But try as I might, I could not help but fall in love with this near-future love story. This was not a grown-up kind of mature love filled with secret smiles and a sense of security. Oh no. This was the fifteen-year-old kind of puppy love where you bring up the object of your affection into every conversation you have regardless of if your love is germane to the topic at hand or not.
Lucky for me, Super Sad True Love Story covers a lot of ground — finances, consumer debt, sexuality, technology, books, youth and body image, self-worth, the internet, class, and just about everything else you might discuss with people. And make no mistake, I did.
“In that book I’m reading, Lenny is on a plane reading a book and the guy sitting next to him complains about how bad it smells. It has like a book smell that people find offensive.”
“In this book I’m reading, people are judged by their credit scores and not only is it public information but there are these poles that you walk by and your credit score flashes for everyone to see.”
“This book I’m reading takes place in a ‘post-literate’ America where people aren’t taught to read anymore, but to scan for information. It’s super scary.”
“In this book I’m reading America has gotten over race and gone back too good ol’, blatant classicism where people low-net-worth individuals are routinely discriminated against.”
Make no mistake though, this book is awful and offensive but only because the future Shteyngart is writing about isn’t so hard to foresee. While reading, I often felt as though Shteyngart was more psychic friend than storyteller.
For those of you who love the plot synoposis: Lenny Abramov is a nearly forty-year-old dude, son of Russian immigrants with a big, crooked nose who works in the Post Human Services division of the Staatling-Wapachung Corporation. While on a sort of sales trip to Europe he meets and falls in love with Eunice Park, daughter of Korean immigrants with an eating disorder, an abusive father, and no post-college plans whatsoever.
The two fall in “love” (or whatever passes as love in this fucked up world where woman where onion-skin jeans and a person’s fuckability is constantly rated whenever they go in public) during the waning days of the American “democracy.”
Here’s the thing, this book is good. Really fucking good — so good that it kicked the ass of my pre-book ill will towards Shteyngart’s writing, which is not an easy thing to do. It’s the kind of good that gives you acute post-book depression because nothing else seems to be as compelling or vibrant or important.