Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

Sometimes a book just doesn't work for you and unfortunately Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart was just such a case for me. It is the story of middle-aged Lenny Abramov, a Russian Jew living in New York City with a bald spot shaped like Ohio and a young Korean love interest he met in Italy, Eunice Park. The novel alternates between Lenny's journals and Eunice's e-mails to tell the story of their unusual love in the context of a dystopia where books are considered "bound media artifacts" and everyone carries an "apparat" which allows them to do things like rate a persons' looks and broadcast what you're thinking about.

Some of the things that bothered me about Super Sad True Love Story was firstly that the dystopia that Shteyngart has created is that it is extremely vague and unclear, so although I could appreciate the satire I never had the potential to connect emotionally to any of the characters, since I didn't buy the world they were living in as even existing. I still don't really understand what an apparat is or how it works for example. There were a few funny moments, for example the girls wear a kind of pants called Onionskins which are transparent and so thin and tight to your body that you don't wear underwear underneath, some that definitely reminded me of the tights some girls wear these days. Overall however, I found the novel extremely pretentious in Shteyngart's attempt to parody, with Lenny writing things like:  
"I longed for the 740 square feet that belonged to me by law, and I rejoiced in the humming of the engines as we sailed toward my concept of home."
Another personal issue I had with the novel might just be my own prudeness showing through, but everything in the world Shteyngart created had words like "ass" and "pussy" in it, shopping at stores such as AssLuxury and JuicyPussy and buying bras without nipples and underwear that snaps off when you touch it. I understand society's obsession with sex and how the novel was probably purposefully tasteless in that regard, but it seemed just a little too obvious and I would have appreciated a bit more subtly instead of constantly bringing home the same point with a sledgehammer, or so it felt.

Overall, I get that Super Sad True Love Story is supposed to be a funny, outrageous satire but I just didn't "get" it. I also realize that my opinion is by far the minority as I picked this one up because of the amazing reviews and how great I had heard it was. Perhaps there is a gem hiding in Super Sad True Love Story, but unfortunately, I just couldn't find it. 

Release Date: July 27th, 2010
Pages: 331

Source: Publisher
Buy the Book


  1. I've been reading a lot of reviews like this about this book. I'm still looking forward to reading it, but kind of warily. I already bought it, so I will get to it eventually.

  2. Hmm. Kind of glad I never orded this one from my book club. I kept going back and looking at the description (many times) but it seemed like something I'd never really get into. Great review. Makes me glad I didn't bother. :P

  3. I first wanted to read this book for the sole reason that the book cover appealed to me. But the reviews I've read about it weren't too encouraging so I've been putting off getting a copy for the longest time - your review helped me sway into not picking up this book. Otherwise, great review, thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    Brush Up On Your Reading


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