Super Sad True Love Story
By Gary Shteyngart
Random House, Hardcover, 9781400066407, 334pp.
Publication Date: July 27, 2010
List Price: $26.00*
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The author of two critically acclaimed novels, The Russian Debutante’s Handbook and Absurdistan, Gary Shteyngart has risen to the top of the fiction world. Now, in his hilarious and heartfelt new novel, he envisions a deliciously dark tale of America’s dysfunctional coming years—and the timeless and tender feelings that just might bring us back from the brink.
In a very near future—oh, let’s say next Tuesday—a functionally illiterate America is about to collapse. But don’t that tell that to poor Lenny Abramov, the thirty-nine-year-old son of an angry Russian immigrant janitor, proud author of what may well be the world’s last diary, and less-proud owner of a bald spot shaped like the great state of Ohio. Despite his job at an outfit called Post-Human Services, which attempts to provide immortality for its super-rich clientele, death is clearly stalking this cholesterol-rich morsel of a man. And why shouldn’t it? Lenny’s from a different century—he totally loves books (or “printed, bound media artifacts,” as they’re now known), even though most of his peers find them smelly and annoying. But even more than books, Lenny loves Eunice Park, an impossibly cute and impossibly cruel twenty-four-year-old Korean American woman who just graduated from Elderbird College with a major in Images and a minor in Assertiveness.
After meeting Lenny on an extended Roman holiday, blistering Eunice puts that Assertiveness minor to work, teaching our “ancient dork” effective new ways to brush his teeth and making him buy a cottony nonflammable wardrobe. But America proves less flame-resistant than Lenny’s new threads. The country is crushed by a credit crisis, riots break out in New York’s Central Park, the city’s streets are lined with National Guard tanks on every corner, the dollar is so over, and our patient Chinese creditors may just be ready to foreclose on the whole mess. Undeterred, Lenny vows to love both Eunice and his homeland. He’s going to convince his fickle new love that in a time without standards or stability, in a world where single people can determine a dating prospect’s “hotness” and “sustainability” with the click of a button, in a society where the privileged may live forever but the unfortunate will die all too soon, there is still value in being a real human being.
Wildly funny, rich, and humane, Super Sad True Love Story is a knockout novel by a young master, a book in which falling in love just may redeem a planet falling apart.
“Gary Shteyngart’s wonderful new novel, Super Sad True Love Story, is a supersad, superfunny, superaffecting performance — a book that not only showcases the ebullient satiric gifts…but that also uncovers his abilities to write deeply and movingly about love and loss and mortality. It’s a novel that gives us a cutting comic portrait of a futuristic America, nearly ungovernable and perched on the abyss of fiscal collapse, and at the same time it is a novel that chronicles a sweetly real love affair as it blossoms from its awkward, improbable beginnings. Mr. Shteyngart spent his earliest childhood in Leningrad, then moved with his family to the United States, and “Super Sad” reflects his dual heritage, combining the dark soulfulness of Russian literature with the antic inventiveness of postmodern American writing; the tenderness of the Chekhovian tradition with the hormonal high jinks of a Judd Apatow movie…It demonstrates a new emotional bandwidth and ratifies his emergence as one of his generation’s most original and exhilarating writers…In recounting the story of Lenny and Eunice in his antic, supercaffeinated prose, Mr. Shteyngart gives us his most powerful and heartfelt novel yet — a novel that performs the delightful feat of mashing up an apocalyptic satire with a genuine supersad true love story.”
—Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
“Gary Shteyngart’s third novel, Super Sad True Love Story, had to be a total blast to write.
It’s an homage to science fiction, George Orwell’s 1984 in particular, with a satirical postmodern overlay of authorial wish fulfillment….The text consists of Lenny’s diary entries and Eunice’s e-mails to various friends and family. They both write with endearing, sometimes clumsy earnestness, and their intertwining narratives, for all the book’s cheeky darkness, pose a superserious question: Can love and language save the world?”
“Shteyngart makes trenchant, often hilarious, observations about a fading empire.”
“With Shteyngart’s nutty knack for tangy language, it’s as if Vladimir Nabokov rewrote 1984.”
“It’s not easy to summarize Shteyngart; there’s so much satirical gunpowder packed into every sentence that the effect gets lost in the short version. But basically, this is a love story [that is] ridiculously witty and painfully prescient, but more than either of those, it’s romantic.”
—Time (summer preview)
“Finally, a funny book about the financial crisis.”
—Wall Street Journal
“[A] smart send-up of our info-overload age…
Love Story is funny, on-target, and ultimately sad as it captures the absurdity and anxiety of navigating an increasingly out-of-control world.”
“Exuberant and devastating… such an acidly funny, prescient book… It’s a wildly funny book that hums with the sheer vibrancy of Shteyngart’s prose, and that holds up a riotous, terrifying mirror to a corrupted American empire in decline.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“The satirist author of Absurdistan rewrites 1984 as a black comedy set in a near future where everything scary about multinational banks, media super-saturation, and American cultural devolution is amped up to 11 (and really funny).”
“It’s a love story, and as super-sad as the title promises…Shteyngart is the Joseph Heller of the information age…That’s the difference between Shteyngart and the average literary satirist (or even an above-average one, like Martin Amis): his warmth…A novel that’s simultaneously so biting and so compassionate.”
“As illuminating, as gut-busting, and as purely entertaining as any piece of literature will be this year.”
“So I don’t risk burying my recommendation where an inattentive reader might miss it, let me say right upfront: Read this book – it’s great…Shteyngart’s hilarious dystopian novel, Super Sad True Love Story, is also sly and compliant, but like all great comedies, it is erected inside a scaffolding of sorrow, as the title promises…Shteyngart is a droll Kafka -- not so enigmatic, perhaps, but just as inimitable, and much, much funnier. He has a genius for composing the perfect, concise, illuminating phrase…Shteyngart, without resorting to pyrotechnics or hyperbole, insinuates his readers into an original, engaging and frightening world, at once foreign and familiar. I loved this novel.”
“Gary Shteyngart’s dystopian novel deserves a place on the shelf beside 1984 and Brave New World….The surprising and brilliant third novel from Russian-American satirist Shteyngart is actually two love stories… Shteyngart writes with an obvious affection for America — at its most chilling, Super Sad True Love Story comes across as a cri de coeur from an author scared for his country. The biggest risk for any dystopian novel with a political edge is that it can easily become humorless or didactic; Shteyngart deftly avoids this trap by employing his disarming and absurd sense of humor (much of which is unprintable here). Combined with the near-future setting, the effect is a novel more immediate — and thus more frightening, at least for contemporary readers — than similarly themed books by Orwell, Huxley and Atwood.”
—NPR, Books We Like
“This summer’s literary crown prince.”
—New York Observer
“Hilarious and unsettling… the man can write a stellar sentence.”
—Dallas Morning News
“Gary Shteyngart has a wicked penchant for steering his hapless characters into absurd situations, then letting real-life global forces roll over them. But his wild, exuberant wit and deadly accurate satire have made the Russian émigré one of the most acclaimed, enjoyable — and unsettling — novelists working today…His imagination is either warped or prophetic; you choose. But his writing is brilliant. Somehow, amid all this, he creates vulnerable, sympathetic characters whose foibles and blunderings toward one another we recognize as universal: super sad and true.”
“Threads of narrative and brilliant motifs accumulate with apparent effortlessness and the narrative tone remains matter-of-fact and understated. He has gained a lot of praise for his first two novels, and yes, he does remind me of Nikolai Gogol and Evelyn Waugh both at the same time…Super Sad True Love Story is about as amusing and harrowing a reflection upon the world we live in now and the direction we could be heading as you can hope to find.”
—Jane Smiley, Philadelphia Inquirer
“Dystopic, mournfully funny…The classics of fiction-as-social-forecast – and the fact that Shteyngart’s is one doesn’t make it any less funny – share a crucial characteristic: depressing familiarity.”
“A slit-your-wrist satire illuminated by the author’s absurd wit…Shteyngart’s most trenchant satire depicts the inane, hyper-sexualized culture that connects everybody even while destroying any actual community or intimacy. This may be the only time I’ve wanted to stand up on the subway and read passages of a book out loud.”
“A bipartisan satirist who makes us simultaneously laugh and wince at our monstrous vanities…Zaniness and tragedy are conjoined in his ambitious, uninhibited imagination. No subject is too serious to crack a joke about. But he is not being perverse or disrespectful; like all great satirists, he builds fun house mirrors that expose the distortions of contemporary reality…Shteyngart is one of the most powerful voices of his generation.”
—Santa Cruz Sentinel
“A spectacularly clever near-future dystopian satire… What gives this novel its unusual richness is that undercurrent of sorrow.”
“This moving tale in futuristic New York is a fabulously sad romance… It’s hilarious, and it’s sad - a poignant moment that gets at the heart of both the girl and the society.”
—St. Louis Post Dispatch
“These inventions are indicative of the book’s pleasure, which is simply its effluence from a mind as smart, loony and darkly prophetic as Mr Shteyngart’s. “I don’t know how to read anymore,” he said in his interview with Deborah Solomon. Thankfully his fans still do.”
—The Economist, More Intelligent Life
“His satire is appallingly funny but never less than personal, a tour de force of ridiculous appropriation and conflation.”
“An ingenious satire of America in decline: a nation obsessed with life extension and homeland security, betrayed by technology and utterly trivialized.”
—L.A. Times summer preview
“Here’s a big tip of the hat to Gary Shteyngart for having the nerve to write a novel-length staire…he’s shrewd, observant, snarkily funny.”
“You think the country’s a mess now? Just wait until you read about the unnerving near-future envisioned by the hilarious Gary Shteyngart in his satiric new novel Super Sad True Love Story, a 1984 for the cybertastic millennium….Super Sad True Love Story shows why Shteyngart was named one of New Yorker's trendy “20 Under 40” writers; he’s a genius with parody.”
“Not since mid-’70s Woody Allen has anyone cracked so wise and so well. Who but Shteyngart recognizes the twin importance of skillful oral sex and a currency pegged to the Chinese yuan? Nobody.”
“Shteyngart evokes America in a digitized post-literate age in Super Sad True Love Story, an Orwell-on-acid vision of a very near future in which life is streamed rather than lived, but romance,in all its perilous, old-fashioned wonderment, endures.”
“Pity Lenny Abramov, the sad and hilarious human being at the center of Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart's hilarious and sad new novel…[an] all-too-plausible dystopia, where privacy of any sort is a thing of the past…both frightening and devastatingly funny.”
“The sheer exhilaration of the writing in this book ... is itself a sort of answer to the flattened-out horrors of the world it depicts.”
—New York Times Book Review
“Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story tries to be many things—tragicomic 1984 update, poignant May-December romance per the title, heartfelt tribute to the nostalgic joys of plain ol' books—and succeeds at most of them. But primarily, it’s the finest piece of anti-iPhone propaganda ever written, a cautionary tale full of distracted drones unwilling to tear themselves away from their little glowing screens long enough to make eye contact, let alone an actual lasting connection, with another human being. It’s super sad ‘cause it’s true, but that also makes it hilarious.”
“Hilarious and unsettling.”
—Fort Worth Star Telegram
“I can’t remember the last time a book so often made me laugh out loud and scared the hell out of me - sometimes on the same page. But Gary Shteyngart’s new novel, the aptly titled Super Sad True Love Story, accomplishes an even rarer feat: It’s a slashing satire with a warm heart…Shteyngart makes it all disturbingly convincing. Both satire and speculative fiction tend to be chilly forms; he displays a mastery of them in Super Sad Love Story yet never lets the tragic, wholly human bond between its lovers seem less than real.”
—St Petersburg Times
“Shteyngart’s world, evoked in painstaking and ingenious detail, feels close enough to touch - a nightmare we've already started to live and from which we can’t seem to wake up…Shteyngart has always been able to see the humor in a half-cocked world as it slides toward madness. But true to his Russian origins and this novel's title, there is something unbearably sad about even his broadest and most savage satire.”
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“No surprise that it’s hilarious, but it’s also as finger-waggingly disapproving a vision of the technologically addicted, oversexed, dumbed-down world we inhabit as I’ve ever read.”
“The surprising and brilliant third novel from Russian-American satirist Shteyngart is actually two love stories — and while they're both, as promised, super sad, they're also incredibly (but very darkly) funny.”
—NPR “Books We Like”
“if Gary Shteyngart is any indication, fiction will continue to be the place where authors ponder the survival of most everything else that matters…These inventions are indicative of the book's pleasure, which is simply its effluence from a mind as smart, loony and darkly prophetic as Mr Shteyngart’s.
“[A] profane and dizzying satire, a dystopic vision of the future as convincing-and, in its way, as frightening as Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. It’s also a pointedly old-fashioned May-December love story. . . . a heartbreaker worthy of its title, this is Shteyngart’s best yet.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review «
“Full-tilt and fulminating satirist Shteyngart (Absurdistan, 2006) is mordant, gleeful, and embracive as he funnels today’s follies and atrocities into a devilishly hilarious, soul-shriveling, and all-too plausible vision of a ruthless and crass digital dystopia in which techno-addled humans are still humbled by love and death.”
—Booklist, starred review «
“This cyber-apocalyptic vision of an American future seems eerily like the present, in a bleak comedy that is even more frightening than funny. Though Shteyngart received rave reviews for his first two novels (The Russian Debutante’s Daughter, 2001; Absurdistan, 2006), those appear in retrospect to be trial runs for his third and darkest to date.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
His third novel, Super Sad True Love Story, is a black comedy set in a futuristic America -- where books don't exist and where the economy has collapsed. Shteyngart explains why he decided to write a love story in this dystopic vision of the future -- and why he thinks technology is changing the way we think. More at NPR.org
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