Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
Warning: Slight NSFW material.
Imagine, George Orwell’s 1984, updated for today’s technology- and consumerism-driven society. This is the world of Super Sad True Love Story.
This story is not one bit less scary than 1984. In fact, I found it much more chilling than 1984, mainly because it’s set in our near-future, not Orwell’s. The focus is on Russian-born American citizen Lenny Abramov, a salesman for Post-Human Services. The PHS is a company that provides rich people, or HNWIs (High Net Worth Individuals), with the ability to look 20 or 30 after they’ve become octogenarians. He had been taking a year-long sabbatical in Italy, and on his last night there, he met a girl. This is where the true love part comes in. The Korean-American Eunice Park is abusive, beautiful, angry, loving, hateful, sexy, and the love of this poor thirty-something’s life. Her father was and is abusive to her, her sister, and her mother, and now she is equal parts abusive and loving to Lenny. Their relationship cycles like the tides between love and sadness. Lenny is kind of a sappy, lame old guy to the cutting edge teens he tries to interact with.
The story of Lenny and Eunice, however, isn’t really the true point of the story, at least not in my opinion. To me, the true story was the glimpse into the future this book lent. Continuing a trend that has been happening since time began, sex and sexuality and all things to do with it have become more devaluated until it has fully entered our everyday lives. Popular shopping stores have names such as AssLuxury and Juicy Pussy. The hottest new products are things such as Saami Nippleless Bras, Total Surrenders (panties that pop off at the touch of a button), and Onionskin jeans (completely see-through pants that are extremely popular). Sex is a conversational topic. Slut, whore, and other various sex-related vulgarities are common in peoples’ vernacular. And that’s only the beginning. Also what has changed: sharing. People complaining about over sharing on Twitter and Facebook would have a conniption at the hypersharing atmosphere of Shteyngart’s near-future. The device of choice is an äpärät, a sort of iPhone on steroids. It shares everything. And I mean everything. From your credit score to your anal/vaginal/oral sex preferences to your current address to your entire life story, all to anyone who wants to see. I wish I could tell you more, dear reader, but I have to leave something for you to read, don’t I? Finally, about halfway through the book, the shit hits the fan. Civil unrest, military state, shifting loyalties, and, of course, what’s going to happen with Lenny and Eunice?! Find out in Super Sad True Love Story.
P.S. Just to clear up any possible misunderstandings, I’m no prude old person who thinks that ass is a curse word. I just think that the degree of openness about sex in everyday life that Gary portrays is disturbing. Not to say that it’s not entirely possible. In fact, I believe that this could be the most accurate and detailed depiction of the future that I have ever read. High marks for this book reader. High marks indeed.