- Paperback: 334 pages
- Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; First Print edition (May 3, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0812977866
- ISBN-13: 978-0812977868
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (411 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,715 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Super Sad True Love Story: A Novel Paperback – May 3, 2011
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A Letter from the Author
People often ask me, “Mr. Gary, why don’t you write more books?” And I say to them “Why don’t you write more books, huh?” And they say, “But seriously. You’ve only published three books and you’re almost forty. What’s wrong with you?” Well, the thing is I can polish off a book in a week or two (eat my shorts, Jack Kerouac), but the modern writer has many other obligations.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Shteyngart (Absurdistan) presents another 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, complete with references to Chekhov and Tolstoy. Mired in protracted adolescence, middle-aged Lenny Abramov is obsessed with living forever (he works for an Indefinite Life Extension company), his books (an anachronism of this indeterminate future), and Eunice Park, a 20-something Korean-American. Eunice, though reluctant and often cruel, finds in Lenny a loving but needy fellow soul and a refuge from her overbearing immigrant parents. Narrating in alternate chapters—Lenny through old-fashioned diary entries, Eunice through her online correspondence—the pair reveal a funhouse-mirror version of contemporary America: terminally indebted to China, controlled by the singular Bipartisan Party (Big Brother as played by a cartoon otter in a cowboy hat), and consumed by the superficial. Shteyngart's earnestly struggling characters—along with a flurry of running gags—keep the nightmare tour of tomorrow grounded. A rich commentary on the obsessions and catastrophes of the information age and a heartbreaker worthy of its title, this is Shteyngart's best yet. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The dystopia of "Super Sad" is hardly much of a leap from where we are now. I scoured reviews of the book, looking for someone who could nail the problem for me, and came upon this paragraph from Ron Charles of the Washington Post:
"Perhaps the saddest aspect of this "Super Sad True Love Story" is that you can smell Shteyngart sweating to stay one step ahead of the decaying world he's trying to satirize. It's an almost impossible race now that the exhibitionism of ordinary people has lost its ability to shock us. Just try coming up with something creepier than middle school girls wearing shorts with the word "Juicy" across their bottoms, or imagine a fashion line cruder than FCUK (Shteyngart comes close). His description of friends getting together after work to text other friends is taking place today in every D.C. restaurant. And how can you parody the TV news coverage when George Stephanopoulos has already presented a straight-faced report on Lindsay Lohan's obscene fingernail stencil?"
Another personal diagnosis is that the novel suffers from overambition. Shteyngart's satiric world clatters and clanks with inventions that constantly make us exporers of a world we should inhabit along with his characters, but he never quite succeeds in creating an environment for them--we remain tourists while he necessarily feels obliged to describe the sights. To get us to inhabit the landscape, to make it real to us, perhaps the novel should have been twice as long; but if that is what was necessary, so be it. A mere sketch of an alien landscape, even one not much more than an exaggeration of our own, is frustrating: I wanted to feel the ambience, be haunted. But it wasn't real, even granting the fact that I live in New York and am familiar with the book's described geography.
Moreover, the mix of humor and disaster didn't work for me. Lenny's friends are murdered, the disenfranchised get machine-gunned or clubbed on the head, and yet we are supposed to laugh in the next scene. A tall order, one I don't think Shteyngart pulls off. With a consistency of satiric tone--if the deaths themselves had been outlandish?-- it might have worked, but I didn't find that consistency.
It could be that Steyngart's clown face is forced and stems from undermediated psychic needs. Lenny's "diary" entries in the novel have a literary power that the rest of the novel lacks, perhaps because Lenny, the source of the humor, is himself quite serious. Maybe this is a Shteyngart voice that will find a satisfying outlet later.
On balance this was an interesting book, and worth the time; but I finished it thinking it might have been (choose one) more powerful, more devastating an indictment, or more moving, or certainly funnier. But as a tossed salad, at least this time, the flavors competed rather than complemented.
First the good stuff. The guy can write! That's what drew me into the book in the first place. I think the book was making a point. He's painted a picture of a possible and quite dystopian future of America and I subscribe to that point of view and fear that it could become a reality. I think the writer went extreme with it because we seem to be increasingly a society of extremity.
I read the free sample portion and I was really impressed with it. Shortly beyond that point it turned into something else. I'm not offended by crudeness, but I felt it was beneath the writer's talents. Again, I think he was making a point, which I can respect, but ultimately I think he could have done a better job without it.
-------------------------Warning! Mild Spoilers ahead.-------------------------
I felt the characters were weak. The main character let his love interest lead him around. In fact all of the male characters seemed to fall all over themselves for this woman with frankly no redeeming characteristics except her beauty. Again, I see the authors point here, but I spent most of the time thinking, "when are you going to ditch this girl?"
--------------------------End mild spoilers.------------------------------------
The other thing I didn't like about the story was how depressing it was. In general I don't have a problem with that either, but I guess it got to me in the end.
This book would have been a 2 for me, if it weren't so well written. So I'm actually going to check on his other works and see if he's plied his trade in a manner more fitting for me.
I read this in an ebook format and did not receive any compensation for this review nor do I have any connection to the author.
First, the main character, Lenny, is the WORST. A friend recommended this to me and said she loved the book and when I told her I disliked Lenny, her reply was "I feel like he's the most real." Ok, sure, but he is literally really annoying and to have a book told from his perspective is painful. He's whiny, neurotic, super needy with a terrific case of "nice guy syndrome" who declares at the onset of the novel he is "in love" with Eunice, who is an attractive 19-yo to his ugly 39. The book is supposed to be satirizing the culture of being glued to your phone, which actually TOTALLY makes sense for Eunice, but only accentuates (a) how desperate and youth centric Lenny's friends/colleagues are and (b) how lame Lenny is. No, he isn't a weird foil to society b/c he owns books. His friends at least embrace youth culture while Lenny tries to fit in like an awkward middle schooler, and creeps on Eunice.
Lenny is disgusting. He basically uses his money in a time when there is no food/supplies to go around to pressure this girl he met once to come stay with him at a time she doesn't want to move home to her abusive father, Eunice, then whines his way into some borderline rapey sex with her and she develops what seems to be Stockholm Syndrome to stick it out, all the while crying in the bathtub b/c Lenny never once sees her as more than a projection of his fantasy. (Until he does, and considers kicking her out into the terrible world).
What is this satirizing? Possible dystopian society? Ugh fine the societal commentary is whatever, but it's set in NYC and other big cities like that are flooded with 40-yo's who think they're 25. None of the non-New Yorkers act like that, so youth culture as an urban thing is pretty accurate and not weird. I don't really think it's satirizing pathetic men. I think that is the author is legitimately unaware how creepy and misogynistic Lenny is, but who knows.
Idk. Gross. Lenny is gross.