Booklicious: Booklicious Reviews: Super Sad True Love Story

November 05, 2010



Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story (Random House) is exactly as the title suggests. Maybe. This quirky, satirical tale of a possible (and maybe not-so-distant) future concerning the United States is a super sad story, and a super love story. But is it true? Only time will tell.

Lenny is the loveable loser of the story, a middle-aged, slightly overweight man who doesn’t quite fit into the world that has formed around him. The son of immigrant parents, he has the classic angst of first-generation Americans — of wanting to acknowledge his homeland respectfully though his parents, but still desperately wanting to fit into his homeland. He still reads books, which is a habit seen as beneath most everyone, mostly because the paper apparently emits a putrid ‘smell.’ When we first meet Lenny, he doesn’t seem to quite understand what he needs to do to officially fit in, whether at work or in his social life. He has grand ideas, though, and begins his tale with: “Dearest Diary, Today I’ve made a major decision: I am never going to die.” With this statement, the reader is then shown to what lengths Lenny will go to make this attempt at immortality a reality, and also the extraordinary feats he must overcome to accomplish this goal.

He meets a girl. Eunice Park, to be precise. Eunice Park embodies all that Lenny is not. She is young, she is overly thin, and she lives her life through a virtual screen. (She is also Asian, which seems to be a fetish for a few men in the States.) They meet overseas at a party and begin an awkward relationship. It is one in which Lenny feels he is not good enough for Eunice and in which Eunice seems to not be able to help herself in how she reacts to Lenny. She alternates between being complacent, horrible, and lovely throughout the story, with Lenny consistently wanting an exclusive relationship with her that she cannot seem to settle into.   
This sardonic novel certainly takes its jabs at society in general, with GlobalTeens and apparats – the first being a poke at Facebook, and the second loosely being modeled after smartphones and the iPad. In their apparats, individuals can stream their own live talk shows or “socialize” on GlobalTeens. They are mostly oblivious to the physical world around them in their efforts to engage in the virtual world that is created on their apparats, where, among other things, you can rate people on virtues such as ‘Male Hotness’, ‘Personality’, ‘Sustainability,’ or ‘Fuckability.’ Talk about Facebook on steroids, eh?

These two examples are just the surface of the satire for which Shteyngart first aims and consequently nails. He discusses governments vs. militaries, materialism, family relationships, national debt, international negotiations, and everything in between. While satirical in its bent, the novel still manages to exude heart, a quality that is ultimately its greatest selling point. Shteyngart finds a way to make his points without being didactic, but he also causes us to feel sad for these alternate versions of — dare I say it — us. 


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