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Super Sad True Love Story (Shteyngart) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
Gary Shteyngart's wonderful new novel…is a supersad, superfunny, superaffecting performance—a book that not only showcases the ebullient satiric gifts he demonstrated in his entertaining 2002 debut, The Russian Debutante's Handbook, but that also uncovers his abilities to write deeply and movingly about love and loss and mortality.... In recounting the story of Lenny and Eunice in his antic, supercaffeinated prose, Mr. Shteyngart gives us his most powerful and heartfelt novel yet—a novel that performs the delightful feat of mashing up an apocalyptic satire with a genuine supersad true love story.
Michiko Kakutani - New York Times


the writing is never less than stylish and witty, and the sense of disaster, here as in Shteyngart's other novels, is unfailingly lyrical, performed for full, funny rhetorical orchestra....The sheer exhilaration of the writing in this book—Lenny's confessional tones, Eunice's teenage slang—is itself a sort of answer to the flattened-out horrors of the world it depicts. It's not that writing of any kind will save us from our follies or our rulers; but words are a form of life, and we can't say we haven't been warned.
Michael Wood - New York Times Book Review


A slit-your-wrist satire illuminated by [Shteyngart's] absurd wit.... This zany Russian immigrant loops the comedy of Woody Allen's "Sleeper" through the grim insights of George Orwell's 1984 to produce a "Super Sad True Love Story" that exposes the moral bankruptcy of our techno-lust.... But what pulls on our affections and keeps the satire from growing too brittle is Lenny's earnest voice as he struggles to fit into a world that clearly has no more use for him.
Ron Charles - Washington Post


Gary Shteyngart’s dystopian novel deserves a place on the shelf beside 1984 and Brave New World....The surprising and brilliant third novel from Russian-American satirist Shteyngart is actually two love stories.... Shteyngart writes with an obvious affection for America—at its most chilling, Super Sad True Love Story comes across as a cri de coeur from an author scared for his country. The biggest risk for any dystopian novel with a political edge is that it can easily become humorless or didactic; Shteyngart deftly avoids this trap by employing his disarming and absurd sense of humor (much of which is unprintable here). Combined with the near-future setting, the effect is a novel more immediate—and thus more frightening, at least for contemporary readers—than similarly themed books by Orwell, Huxley and Atwood.
NPR, Books We Like


Exuberant and devastating...such an acidly funny, prescient book.... It’s a wildly funny book that hums with the sheer vibrancy of Shteyngart’s prose, and that holds up a riotous, terrifying mirror to a corrupted American empire in decline.
Entertainment 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.
Publishers Weekly


This cyber-apocalyptic vision of an American future seems eerily like the present, in a bleak comedy that is even more frightening than funny. Though Shteyngart received rave reviews for his first two novels (The Russian Debutante's Daughter, 2001; Absurdistan, 2006), those appear in retrospect to be trial runs for his third and darkest to date. Russian immigrant Lenny Abramov returns home to Manhattan of the indeterminate future, following a year in Italy, only to find his career as "Life Lovers Outreach Coordinator (Grade G) of the Post-Human Services division" in jeopardy. Just shy of 40, he is already coming to terms with his mortality amid the scorn of much younger, hipper careerists, as he markets eternal life to those with the wherewithal to afford it. The narrative alternates between the diary entries of Lenny and the computer log of Eunice Park, his much younger and reluctant Korean girlfriend whom he'd met in Italy and eventually persuaded to join him in the States. Lenny's diary is itself an anachronism, since this "post-literate age" lacks the patience to scan text for anything longer than political bromides or marketing pitches. The society at large finds books "smelly," though Lenny still collects and even reads them. "Media" has become an adjective (positive, all-purpose) as well as a noun, and some familiar institutions have morphed into Fox-Ultra and The New York Lifestyle Times. Both Lenny and Eunice are fully fleshed-out characters rather than satiric caricatures, but their matter-of-fact acceptance of Bi-Partisanship masking a police state, and of the illiterate, ebullient and Orwellian American Restoration Authority as a bulwark against the country's collapse (the waiting list to move to Canada exceeds 23 million), makes this cautionary tale all the more chilling. The narrative proceeds in a surprising yet inevitable manner to the outcome the title promises. When Lenny realizes "I can't connect in any meaningful way to anyone," he's writing about not merely a technological breakdown but the human condition, where the line distinguishing comedy from tragedy dissolves.
Kirkus Reviews




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