Once again, my habit of choosing a book by its cover has reared its ugly head (kind of…the gushing reviews from critics also played a part here). The cover of this book reminds me of those stickers they put on your food wrappers at Whataburger that say stuff like “NO ONIONS” or “CHEESE.” The stickers on my own Whataburgers always say “SPECIAL” because I’m a vegetarian. On the rare occasion that I order a “Whataburger,” what I’m really ordering is a bun with mustard, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and cheese. Mmmhmm: special.
Anyway. The fact that my decision to read this book was largely based on fake-burger cravings–and in spite of the fact I decided to read it knowing full well that James Franco promoted it*–should’ve been a big enough clue that this was probably not a good idea.
Super Sad True Love Story is a dystopian satirical love story set in the not-so-far-off future. Think 1984 on crack. Substitute Big Brother with the Department of Homeland Security, add in a heavy dose of technology, mix in a hypersexualized society that embraces Onion Jeans (a see-through brand), and you have this book. It’s a world where U.S. dollars are worthless and the yuan is the important currency, the Bipartisan party rules America with an iron fist, credit scores can be checked while walking down the street, social networking is de rigueur, and Staten Island is the place to be.
The book follows Lenny Abramov, a middle-aged, hopelessly uncool Jewish man who desperately tries to keep up with the times because his job is on the line. In a world where youth and technological savvy are required, he’s just not cutting it. He soon meets Eunice Park, a beautiful, narcissistic young woman, and instantly falls in love with her. What results is a messy “love story” set amidst an even messier world.
I wanted to like this book. It starts out strong, but after a while it’s just too much. The characters all walk around talking into these electronic devices called apparats (much like people often walk around staring at their phones these days). Since everything is based on social networking and apparats, Internet shorthand–wut I lyke 2 ReFeR 2 as LOLspeak–is all over the book, and it gets really annoying really fast, especially since Shteyngart creates a lot of new abbreviations. That alone was enough of a turnoff. Additionally, the book loses its steam towards the last half. There were several passages that I liked, but almost all of them came from the first half of the book.
I realize I’m probably in the minority here; the only other book I can recall getting more critical praise around the time this was released is Freedom. In all fairness, Super Sad True Love Story is not a bad book, but overall it just didn’t work for me.
*From time to time I diss James Franco. This is why.
Super Sad True Love Story was released by Random House on July 27, 2010.