Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
Gary, Gary, Gary. What to say about this marvel of a man? He was recently named one of the 20 Under 40 by the New Yorker. He likes weiner dogs. He lives in New York but was born in Russia. He visited Warwick’s this year and took the debut Warwick’s Questionnaire. This novel, his third, has been named a 2010 New York Times Notable book AND comes in at Number 9 on our Catapult Countdown.
SSTLS (as I will hereby refer to this book) is a dystopic vision of our possible future – one where no one reads anything anymore (paper books, which smell awful, are referred to as “printed, bound media artifacts”) preferring endless streaming videos instead. When not checking their GlobalTeens page, they’re shopping online at places like Assluxury.com and scanning crowded rooms for higher “fuckability” indexes on their neighbors. All have an unhealthy attachment to their “äppäräts” – handheld mobile devices that take care of everything. Wait, this sounds vaguely familiar…
Overweight, slovenly Lenny Abramov works diligently for the Post-Human Services division of the Staatling-Wapachung Company, who promises their customers immortality if they follow the rigorous program of dieting and supplements. He’s just returned home to New York after a year “working” in Rome, where he accidentally fell in love with Eunice, a “super-healthy Asian” with a “very high life expectancy.” He failed miserably to sell “The Product” in Europe, where some people “actually want to die” and now his job seems to be in jeopardy – a prospect he cannot fathom, especially in light of his relationship with his boss/father figure, Joshie. If only he can lure Eunice to New York!
Meanwhile, the global economy seems to be collapsing – aided in part by the U.S.’s occupation of Venezuela and the falling dollar and the horrible credit of most our citizenry. (Your credit scores are announced publicly when you walk past a “credit pole.”) In fact, it seems likely that the Chinese investors who are keeping the US economy afloat may be ready to pull the plug. It perhaps doesn’t help that the government is highly militarized and secretive, with national “security” falling under the purview of the Big Brother-like American Restoration Authority. This information, in front of a government tank, greets Lenny at JFK when he arrives home:
|Gary and the Warwick’s booksellers in August 2010|
As absurd as all of that sounds, Gary does a spectacular job of satirizing and skewering so many layers of our actual society – it’s frighteningly easy to see elements of who we are as a planet and where we might be headed if we cannot alter our behaviors. Are we really so far off from all of this? Sadly, I don’t think so, which lends an air of gravity to the title and delivers SSTLS into the 9-spot on the 2010 Catapult Notable list.
#8 on the 2010 Catapult Notable list.