Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Super Sad True Love Story Review

Super Sad True Love Story: a review by Beehive customer, Chris Echesabal

It’s a romance, it’s a scathing cultural and political satire, it’s an Orwellian thriller about a dystopian wasteland that was once called the United States of America. Gary Shteyngart’s newest novel Super Sad True Love Story somehow manages to achieve success as all of these things without losing believability or the beautiful humanity of its carefully designed characters. Mostly though, Super Sad is a thoroughly enjoyable novel that will delight and surprise you.

Alternating between the journal entries of the middle-aged protagonist, Lenny Ambramov, and the online social network of Eunice Park, the young and restless object of his love, Shteyngart slowly creates for us a picture of America wholly consumed by selfish consumerism, thoroughly bankrupt and indebted to the lenders of the world. In Lenny Ambramov’s America, the defining aspect of a person is their credit score and those with weak scores face deportation. Military vehicles line the streets of major cities keeping LNWIs (Low Net Worth Individuals) from causing problems for the country’s remaining rich. And, with the specter of a visit by the Chinese to determine whether or not to continue funding the whole mess, class tensions will continue to grow.

Amidst all this stands Lenny, a sad, boring kind of guy who somehow never made the cultural jump to this America. He cares less about online shopping and reality television celebrities than he does about collecting books, or as they’re called now “printed, bound, media artifacts”. Lenny works for a company that offers eternal youth to the world’s most rich and powerful; a company where youth, vigor, and hipness are constantly scored and ranked on a giant board in the lobby. Needless to say, Lenny doesn’t exactly fit in there, though he dreams one day to save up enough money to buy eternal youth himself. On a trip to Rome selling his company’s service, Lenny meets Eunice, a bored, spoiled modern teen. Though she finds him almost disgustingly bland, Lenny decides that he loves Eunice and, after bringing her back to New York with him, becomes determined that she will love him too. Eunice, on the other hand, finds herself growing more attached to New York’s LNWI’s (including many veterans without health care) living in Central Park and protecting them from the government’s neglect.

Shteyngart masterfully weaves together a narrative filled with characters so marked by human flaws and weaknesses that one wonders if the book can end in anything other than tragedy. Nonetheless, his wit and sardonic wisdom are apparent throughout. So much so that I found Super Sad True Love Story to be one of the few novels in recent memory to actually make me laugh out loud (or LOL). It’s a novel full of life, charm, and passion that warns of a terrifyingly close future of cultural and economic decay for America. But just think, by buying and reading this book, you’ve taken one step to keep Lenny Abramov’s future at bay and for that you should be proud.

***Thanks Chris for you review! 
Anyone reading Jonathan Franzen's new book (or other books) and want to review it on our blog?  e-mail us at:  readers@beehiveat25.com

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