Lenny Abramov is a middle age man, afraid of dying, who falls in love with a beautiful young woman, 15 years his junior, a theme that transverses time and cultures. Their unlikely romance begins on the brink of America’s crumpling society. Shteyngart imagines a future where intelligence has finally lost out to the shallower virtues of beauty and wealth and a society that bases all social interactions on your credit score and your sexual attractiveness (Shteyngart is a little more explicit about this virtue).
Shteyngart has taken those of us attached to our smart phone a couple steps further in our dependence on technology, all of the characters have “aparrat” (imagine a iPhone the size of the iPod shuffle) that constantly streams data about themselves and everyone around them, ranking individual against each other. Shopping is not only the nation’s pastime but an imperative to maintain the necessary credit score and Juicy Couture takes on new dimensions in Shteyngart’s Manhattan. The population considered LNWI, low net worth individuals, have been rendered homeless and with the luck of fortune-teller, Shteyngart foretells a more violent version of the Occupiers in Manhattan parks.
Perhaps the most terrible in this near future world is the disappearance of books. Reading is so passé that Lenny, a reader and collector of books, brings shame on his girlfriend when he tried to read to her. To have the smell of the books on your hands is a akin to blood on your hands.
The characters are shallow and SUPER SAD TRUE LOVE STORY’s universe is grim however, you cannot debate the effectiveness of Shteyngart’s skill in creating exactly what he must have intended. Shteyngart, a Russian-American, mixes the fatalism of his motherland’s writers and an American’s capacity to meld technology and society into an insightful novel that sometimes hits too close to home.
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart was received for free for review by Boston Book Bums