Gary Shteyngart’s more psychic friend than storyteller

I tried really hard to hate Super Sad True Love Story. My past experiences reading Gary Shteyngart have left me feeling vaguely offended and greasy. So when I dove into this new novel, the darling of just about anyone who dares open its cover (including Christa), I was extra wary and hyper vigilant.

But try as I might, I could not help but fall in love with this near-future love story. This was not a grown-up kind of mature love filled with secret smiles and a sense of security. Oh no. This was the fifteen-year-old kind of puppy love where you bring up the object of your affection into every conversation you have regardless of if your love is germane to the topic at hand or not.

Lucky for me, Super Sad True Love Story covers a lot of ground — finances, consumer debt, sexuality, technology, books, youth and body image, self-worth, the internet, class, and just about everything else you might discuss with people. And make no mistake, I did.

“In that book I’m reading, Lenny is on a plane reading a book and the guy sitting next to him complains about how bad it smells. It has like a book smell that people find offensive.”

“In this book I’m reading, people are judged by their credit scores and not only is it public information but there are these poles that you walk by and your credit score flashes for everyone to see.”

Gary Shteyngart Reading
7:30 p.m., Tuesday, September 21
Magers and Quinn, 3038 Hennepin Ave. So
Minneapolis, MN

“This book I’m reading takes place in a ‘post-literate’ America where people aren’t taught to read anymore, but to scan for information. It’s super scary.”

“In this book I’m reading America has gotten over race and gone back too good ol’, blatant classicism where people low-net-worth individuals are routinely discriminated against.”

Make no mistake though, this book is awful and offensive but only because the future Shteyngart is writing about isn’t so hard to foresee. While reading, I often felt as though Shteyngart was more psychic friend than storyteller.

For those of you who love the plot synoposis: Lenny Abramov is a nearly forty-year-old dude, son of Russian immigrants with a big, crooked nose who works in the Post Human Services division of the Staatling-Wapachung Corporation. While on a sort of sales trip to Europe he meets and falls in love with Eunice Park, daughter of Korean immigrants with an eating disorder, an abusive father, and no post-college plans whatsoever.

The two fall in “love” (or whatever passes as love in this fucked up world where woman where onion-skin jeans and a person’s fuckability is constantly rated whenever they go in public) during the waning days of the American “democracy.”

Here’s the thing, this book is good. Really fucking good — so good that it kicked the ass of my pre-book ill will towards Shteyngart’s writing, which is not an easy thing to do. It’s the kind of good that gives you acute post-book depression because nothing else seems to be as compelling or vibrant or important.

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10 Comments

  1. christa 07.Sep.10 at 2:25 pm

    I’m so glad you loved this book, and weren’t swayed by anything like, for instance, the author’s neckwrap. Word on the streets is that can really throw off a reader.

    Is it just me, or is this year’s Top Ten of 2010 going to be a stiff competition? Might have to make it a Top Gazillion.

    Reply
  2. Jodi Chromey 07.Sep.10 at 2:33 pm

    I loved this book, and I’m still quite surprised.

    This year’s Top 10 might kill me.

    Right now the man with the neckwrap is in the Top 3 of 2010 (incidentally today is Jennifer Egan’s Birthday — thank you Writer’s Almanac).

    Reply
  3. christa 07.Sep.10 at 2:37 pm

    Neckwrap is in my Top 3, too. With the birthday girl and Hot Pants Bognanni. Although Anthropology of an American Girl might be ahead of ole Hot Pants. I spend a lot of time thinking about this, actually.

    Reply
  4. Jodi Chromey 07.Sep.10 at 2:39 pm

    I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about it and now I’m panicking a little. Do the Scott Pilgrims count as 1 entry or is it 6? And what about Amy Bloom, that was 2010 too, wasn’t it?

    Reply
  5. Jodi Chromey 07.Sep.10 at 2:40 pm

    P.S. I love that you call him Hot Pants Bognanni. I want to meet him and tell him that you call him that.

    Reply
  6. christa 07.Sep.10 at 2:47 pm

    I’ve given the Scott Pilgrim issue great consideration, and I’m counting it as just one book. And yes, Amy Bloom was this year — although she’s borderline for me. She might get nudged out.

    I think I can keep mine all books that came out in 2010, too. (With leeway given that SP Book 6 was in 2010, even though the others were not).

    If I ever meet HPBognanni, I’m going to have him sign my book like that. We should have as many author nicknames here as possible, to give us that appeal of Sassy Magazine.

    Reply
  7. Jodi Chromey 07.Sep.10 at 2:58 pm

    Do you think Gary Shteyngart will be opposed to the nickname Neckwrap? I really hope he wears on to his reading in a few weeks, because I want to ask him what he calls it.

    I also I don’t think Amy Bloom will be nudged from my list. You must be reading better books than I am. Maybe I will give Anthropology another go.

    Reply
  8. christa 07.Sep.10 at 3:02 pm

    I’m saving a spot for Tao Lin’s new book. That little jerk sure can string G-chats together.

    Reply
  9. Jodi Chromey 07.Sep.10 at 3:09 pm

    I’ve got the new Tom McCarthy staring up at me from the coffee table, I’m sure that will make the list (if what I read about how awesome it is holds true).

    Reply
  10. david 08.Sep.10 at 9:32 am

    Your ability to keep an open mind is admirable, Jodi.

    This book is definitely in my top 3 novels, along with the Egan and McCarthy books.

    I don’t know if the final Scott Pilgrim book would make my top 11 books of the year list (everything’s 11’s at LHB, but it definitely will make my top graphic novels list.

    As much as I liked Richard Yates, it didn’t wow me as much as Shoplifting in American Apparel, but it did whet my appetite for whatever Lin has forthcoming.

    Reply

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