Sunday, January 23, 2011

Super Sad True Love Story- Gary Shteyngart

Interesting title and an interesting author and an interesting canvas- I was intrigued by its title, read its review at Amazon and picked it up instantly. The author of this book is Gary Shteyngart-His other popular works are Absurdistan and The Russian Debutante’s handbook.

The story revolves around multiple themes but it is predominantly a combination of satire and love story set up in future- Gary spins a satire on the future of our world by taking what is happening currently (capitalism, US dominance, US functional literacy/illiteracy, social networking, gadgets, live-streaming, manual books etc) and elaborating it to a future dystopian state. In that mix, he has cleverly interspersed a love story in an unique manner. I had a feeling that some parts of this book were auto-biographical but cannot validate that with Gary!

We can call this book in whatever genre as I am unable to slot it - That’s what makes it more curious and fun to read! I can call this as a futuristic book, as a romantic book in a different age or a simple satire that extends the current trends in a bizarre manner! The whole story revolves around Lenny Abrahmov and Eunice Park who are the chief protoganists. Lenny, aged 39 works in ‘Post Human Services’ that sells immortality to High Net Worth Individuals and Eunice, aged 24 is a Korean immigrant in the US who has graduated with a major in ‘Images’ and minor in ‘Assertiveness’. Lenny falls for Eunice’s youth and tries everything to ensure that he gets her love. Eunice at the same time, quite aware of Lenny’s age takes him for purely transactional reasons- basically to get a space in his apartment in NY city. Gary has also portrayed a different picture of America in the future where there is an impending war at Venezuela, ARA (American Restorative Authority) taking control and the Chinese Yuan taking over the dollar. Saudi Arabia, Norway and China are the potential takers of America [!]- This was well emphasized in the beginning of the book when Lenny, an American citizen enters US and is being questioned by the Otter!

The whole story is narrated between Lenny’s dairies and Eunice’s IM or social emails to her set of people- So it is almost all the events unfolding from the lens of Lenny and Eunice with two extremes of communication. Lenny on the normal manual diary manner and Eunice on the social networking platform. This style was different and I loved it! Lenny speaks through his dairies which are philosophical or auto-biographical- His point based methodology on life is dreadful and funny; For instance, his Point 3 on ‘loving Eunice’ ,Point 1 on ‘working hard’ for his boss, Joshie and Point 5 on ‘being nice to parents’ bring back the nerd mentality and lack of social maturity in which the world is heading at! Some of the abbreviations used by Eunice in regular conversations are again hilarious viz., TIMATOV (Think I am about to openly vomit), JK (just kidding), TMS (temp motion sickness). There is a clear tinge of immigrant mentality strewn across both Lenny and Eunice character- The part where both of them meet their parents are written very well. The way different cultures especially in a different country collides are clearly seen.

There is also this device called, “apparat” that streams real time data about everything right from credit rating, ranking, worthiness, social interactions with others, likeability etc. This apparat has got a “Rate Me Plus” feature which can rate on multiple parameters on a real-time basis [***-ability 700/800, personality 800/800, */*/* preference 1/3/2]. I was really scared to enter in the dystopian world of Gary but at the time could not resist the fact that there are certain aspects aligning in that manner if you look at the current trends. Personality score depends on how ‘extro’ the person is- and the apparat streams images, multimedia thingy on your childhood, runs on the stuff that the person has downloaded and comes with a score. This is going to be reality for sure- I am sure Mark Zuckerberg must be thinking of it already and we will be using it in the near future!

Lenny and Eunice conversations are really funny- How they respect their families? The old carrot and stick method of parenting? The aspect of Lenny liking ‘physical’ books (I use the term physical here) in a world where your social group thinks that you are ‘nerd’ if you read physical books. Lenny likes to read ‘physical’ books and his rendering/reading of Tolstoy is made fun by Eunice to her friend, Precious Pony. It is not just the fact about Lenny reading the books but the SMELL of the books that irritate the next generation! I don’t know what can Tuna-brain and nerd face, Lenny do to avoid the smell! The conversations between Eunice and her friend Grillbitch a.k.a Precious Pony are page turners- It typically happens in the Global Teens account (facebook in future!)! The way Eunice starts loving Lenny and her ambiguities with Lenny start coming out clearly in her conversations- The satire is visibly coming out there! Fashion Trends are moving in a different direction in the future; (Onionskin jeans)- I don’t want to give a sneak peek here as it will spoil the party when you read the book.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book even though I did not like the ending that much- It could have been better! I loved Gary’s style of writing! Folks who are in social media and are closely following the trends will love this book and the satire!


Anonymous said...

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Prakash Gurumoorthy said...

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