First off, if you have any interest in reading Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, do not read Lenny Hearts Eunice from the New Yorker. Unlike most excerpts, Lenny Hearts Eunice is compiled from chunks of prose cut from the first 120 pages of the novel. It works, and it’s okay, but it makes reading the novel a little frustrating. I began to think, do I even need to read these parts, he’s condensed 120 pages into 10? Of course, the novel is far richer and provides more context for Lenny’s life and the United States. Stick to the novel. Skip the story/excerpt.
That said, Super Sad True Love Story is a cutting satire on American culture and youth. Shteyngart takes on our growing obsession with technology (think iPhones, iPads, and GlobalTeens) and the distance that has sprung up between people as they remain digitally connected at all times. People rarely talk face to face. Verballing makes them uncomfortable. Instead, they’re focused on their äppärät, streaming their life, scanning data, reducing everything to bits of information and commerce. Not only do äppäräti allow the user to scan data, but the devices also transmit data. Privacy is further reduced in this version of the United States by credit poles, streetlamp type structures which broadcast your credit score and thus societal ranking to everyone.
In Shteyngart’s world the explicit is made mundane. Women wear sheer, skintight jeans called Onion Skins that are translucent, underwear with a release button called Total Surrender, and nipple-less bras. People also shop at stores with names like AssLuxury and JuicyPussy. In this total consumer oriented culture, the only things that are taboo tend to be things like emotions and books. Everything is on the surface, and nothing is really noticed. People work in Media, Credit, or Retail and rank their fuckability and personality scores against those of the strangers around them.
It’s in this world we find Lenny, a man who loves books, is about to turn forty, and works for the Post-Human Services Division of the Staatling-Wapachung Corporation with the expressed purpose of living forever. Lenny meets and falls in love with Eunice, who is 15 years younger than him and a total product of her generation. As the government of the United States under the direction of the fascist Bipartisan party (Democrats and Republicans finally admit they have no differences) begins to crumble and the country sinks into devaluation, Lenny and Eunice try to survive. Funny, dark, and imaginative Super Sad True Love Story is not to be missed.