*****************major spoilers ahead!*****************
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart has received praise from so many people and organizations that I feel almost like I should doubt my own experience with this pack of racist, sexist, misogynistic and narrow minded piece of old-white-man-afraid-of-growing-up porn that Shteyngart calls a novel.
Its setting, a dystopian future New York (a bit of Italy too, but mostly NYC). Its lead characters a) Lenny Abramov: stereo-typical neurotic Jew with immigrant parents afraid of death and craving love in all the wrong places who falls immediately, madly, deeply in toxic lust with b) Eunice Park: A Korean girl 20 years his younger, who hails from a Catholic household with emotionally and physically abusive immigrant parents as well as a rebellious younger sister. Eunice is meant to be poor old, tired, afraid of death (and of doing anything for or by himself) Lenny’s key to salvation. Literally and metaphorically.
The book starts with Lenny beginning to keep a diary after meeting Eunice. He decides he wants to live forever. Which, theoretically, is within reach as his job is making the elite and super-rich do just that. Or at least he sells them that idea with reasonable science to back it up, more or less. He is torn because he has just begun his flight back to America after spending a year in Rome (on his boss’s/best friend’s dime, while not doing the work he was sent there to do) only to meet Eunice the night before his flight home! Oh the bitter-sweet tragedy! But in this advance technological age where the tablet and cellphone have merged into the ever-present, all powerful, all knowing “apparat”, no one is ever truly out of reach.
To be fair, the book makes some pretty reasonable leaps in terms of how technology works to make us ever more available for scrutiny by-while being ever less present for-our friends, family and random strangers. Every detail of everyone’s life; from the social, to the financial to the medical is all being broadcast in real-time over these bad-boys and just about everyone has a blog/email/facebook/instagram merged thing known as a GlobalTeen Account. Everything from your “fuckability” rating to your personality is generated from information you post yourself and that others post about you… very global… very teen.
The parts that are frustrating to the eyes of scifi fans and even dystopia fans are the boooooring tropes of a) southern Americans being stupid and racist despite living in NYC, b)the Asians ruling the world and taking all the jobs/money c) old, ugly men needing young beautiful pussy in order to survive/feel important d) the American political system being corrupt/spying on everybody in the name of “security” and e) young people being self absorbed bullies who don’t care where the world will be in the next 5 years, as long as they can get their fuckability ratings up a few points today.
THESE HAVE ALL BEEN DONE BEFORE AND BETTER.
Getting back to the bad-romance that is the overwhelming plot of the novel, Eunice, faced with obligation to return home to prevent her abusive drunk father from further beating the crap out her poor mother, agrees to come live with Lenny in New York so she can keep an eye on her family without actually having to live with them. While there, their weird relationship gets weirder as she slowly succumbs to Stockholm-syndrome and goes from despising Lenny to maybe kind of loving him. Also, America falls apart around them.
While that’s happening, Eunice (ever the savior in this narrative), volunteers to help refugees that, to be honest I’m not sure why they’re called refugees, the book started to get REALLY sloppy and confusing for me at this point… they’re either poor people forced out of affluent neighbourhoods or political dissidents, or immigrants or a mix of all of the above?) And I’m not sure why the government is shooting up the place anyway… but yeah moving right along…
Because of the unrest, Lenny’s friend/boss offers to send Lenny home to visit his parents to make sure they’re alright, with his ulterior motive being to spend more time with Lenny’s girlfriend. As they have been having an affair.. dun dun DUN! (Also, so done, the young saint becoming the whore is the end to all this? Seriously? Not to mention… Lenny’s friend/boss is DECADES older than Lenny, his surface kept smooth by plastic surgery and nano-bots so , yeah nothing wrong with a chick being into older guys but come one, this is getting ridiculous) and then the book ends with Lenny dousing himself in her shower-gel to pathetically hold on to her scent. He never grows, never changes, and we don’t know what happens to him once the woman who clothed him, groomed him and taught him (at age 39 in the far distant future) how to brush his teeth.
I can’t believe I read this piece of shit.
Hey, that’s probably what YOU’RE thinking right about now.