It’s the future and our world has turned into a giant social media mess. From +800 statuses, to +1500 credit ratings, to communicating with äppäräts, teening, and staying young. Gary Shteyngart creates an hysterically frightening in-your-face plastic world that is nothing more than society today exaggerated. From the first pages of the novel we meet Lenny Abramov, a 39-year-old who works in the Post-Human Services Division of Staatling-Wapachung Corporation. This corporation is trying to make it possible to live forever, young, and seemingly at all costs. It’s through Lenny’s diary where we learn everything about him including what’s happening, who his friends are, what he’s feeling and doing. Lenny is verging on “old”, suffering from male patterned baldness, has too much LDL cholesterol, and to top all of that off reads smelly books. We are introduced to his first thoughts and those are on a certain Eunice Park, who as he puts it “will sustain me through forever” (Super Sad True Love Story, p. 2) Eunice is a 24-year “young”, sexy Korean girl who has no real prospects on life other than finding hot guys and spending her father’s money on online shopping. She’s trying to pass the LSAT but really wants to work in retail. Super Sad True Love Story is told in a succession of diary entries, emails, text messages, and some face-to-face episodes. Henceforth, the reader is plunged into this futuristic world, do or die. The unsuspecting meeting of Lenny and Eunice is Shteyngart’s commencement to critiquing today’s society’s relationship with social media and our relentless obsessional, rapport with being young and never ageing. Their love story is central to the novel but the real story is all that is surrounding them. Shteyngart has developed a world in which he can critique, American society (immigrant and racial stereotypes), social media and its contagious world growth, however he puts so much into the world building that the characters of Lenny and Eunice appear flat and not defined enough. By page 100 I didn’t care about either of them. Shteyngart’s writing style is very staccato. Each page is filled with so much information that sometimes I had to reread some of the passages to make sure I understood everything. There are myriads of eccentric characters and situations that happen that are crucial to understanding the plot of the book. You will be surprised by Shteyngart’s creativity with words and sometimes you will smirk. Knowing and understanding pop culture and intellectual culture will help in getting the jokes. If you’re squeamish about sex, abstain. The references could be considered very vulgar. I read the book in 3 days and at the end I was exhausted. Super Sad True Love Story is 329 pages but by 200 you just want it to end, especially since the ending is predictable! The overt use of racial stereotypes as a writing technique annoyed me enormously. I feel using stereotypes just reinforces them and unreservedly does not make them go away. On the whole, I would have liked this book a lot more if it would have been shorter. In spite all the bad and exasperating, I’m glad I picked it up so that I could see what all the love for this book was about. Not so sure I’ll pick up Shteyngart’s other novel, Absurdistan, because it sounds similar to this one humour wise,(gets old when 200+ pages) but I might pick up Little Failure so that I can see where he’s coming from with his writing. I gave this 2 stars over on Goodreads, but that’s probably 2,5 stars to be exact. If you read this one or any of Shteyngart’s other books, did you like it? Would you read any of his other books? If so, which ones? Love hearing from you guys!
Super Sad True Love Story
Book Club, Book Reviews / Sunday, June 29th, 2014
14 Replies to “Super Sad True Love Story”
I’d say you liked it more than I did. Mostly, I was just annoyed as I read. Felt like he was trying to be overly clever. I love your description of the book making you exhausted.
I liked how clever he was with words but it just seemed to be more of the same.
Yeah, don’t think I’ll be into this one. As soon as you started describing Eunice’s character something told me this was going to be a stereotype-reinforcement type book. Humor is so fragile, there’s that fine line between making fun of the societal norms that create victims (in the hopes of eliminating it) and making fun of the victims of the system (and upholding the system). The premise is interesting though!
Absolutely! I like that “humour is so fragile”. The use of stereotypes to poke fun and to try to say it’s wrong is where I usually have to get off the bus. It just keeps the whole thing going. I can’t bear it.
Sorry this one didn’t pan out so well for ya. I had considered trying it at one point, but given your review, I think a lot of this would drive me nuts, too. Think I’ll pass!
I do understand! It”s been on my shelf for a while (I,5 years). At least now I know. It sounds like all of his books are the same and he’s the main character. That’s frightening. Creepy reminds me of Woody Allen. 🙁 So now I’m back to The Painted Girls which is enjoyable for the moment. There are no surprises. Good old fashion 19th century lit written today. It’s spicier than expected. Review coping as soon as I finish it.
Woody Allen was my exact reaction to this too!
I picked up this book after seeing the author interviewed on either the Daily Show or Colbert and I like the dystopia genre so I thought I’d give it a go but I don’t think I made it more than 15 pages in before being entirely done with it. It’s been taunting me from the end table ever since.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, there was a part of me that kept thinking maybe I should give it a second chance but now I know to just chuck the damn thing.
It’s a funny little book. Packed full of stuff but by page 100 nobody cares anymore. Since I’ve done this post I’m finding more and more people who disliked this one. So don’t worry about it.
Hmm. Me too. Since I hadn’t come across him before your review, you haven’t tempted me. I’m not sure you wanted to…..
Oh Margaret you can always sense what I’m really trying to say. lol! No It really doesn’t sound like your cup of tea at all. 😉
Nice review! I appreciate your honesty about a book you found quite flawed. I tend to be unable to review them at all, unless I’ve agreed to do so with the author or publisher, etc.
I have been on the fence about trying this title, but the negatives you point out make it far less appealing to me. I’m allergic to predictable endings, and the writing style doesn’t seem like my cup of tea. If it falls into my lap, I may give it a try, and I won’t dismiss the author without actually reading some of his work, but I’m not feeling especially excited for this one. Too bad…I really like social critique, especially when it takes the modern world and shows it through an exaggerated or warped lense.
Thanks! Not easy to say such harsh things about a book. I was the one who suggested the novel to my book club so yes a little disappointing. ? Even though I will try his memoir one day. It’s no on the urgent TBR list.
I’m glad to hear I wasn’t the only one disappointed by this book. Some great ideas but ultimately I just didn’t care about the characters.
Me neither Cathy. This book was a lot about nothing in the end. It’s too bad because it could have really been interesting.
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