Super Sad True Love Story

Super Sad True Love Story

Our book group choice for March 2017 is Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart. In a very near future—oh, let’s say next Tuesday—a functionally illiterate America is about to collapse.

But don’t that tell that to poor Lenny Abramov, the thirty-nine-year-old son of an angry Russian immigrant janitor, proud author of what may well be the world’s last diary, and less-proud owner of a bald spot shaped like the great state of Ohio. Despite his job at an outfit called Post-Human Services, which attempts to provide immortality for its super-rich clientele, death is clearly stalking this cholesterol-rich morsel of a man. And why shouldn’t it? Lenny’s from a different century—he totally loves books (or “printed, bound media artifacts,” as they’re now known), even though most of his peers find them smelly and annoying. But even more than books, Lenny loves Eunice Park, an impossibly cute and impossibly cruel twenty-four-year-old Korean American woman who just graduated from Elderbird College with a major in Images and a minor in Assertiveness.

After meeting Lenny on an extended Roman holiday, blistering Eunice puts that Assertiveness minor to work, teaching our “ancient dork” effective new ways to brush his teeth and making him buy a cottony nonflammable wardrobe. But America proves less flame-resistant than Lenny’s new threads. The country is crushed by a credit crisis, riots break out in New York’s Central Park, the city’s streets are lined with National Guard tanks on every corner, the dollar is so over, and our patient Chinese creditors may just be ready to foreclose on the whole mess. Undeterred, Lenny vows to love both Eunice and his homeland. He’s going to convince his fickle new love that in a time without standards or stability, in a world where single people can determine a dating prospect’s “hotness” and “sustainability” with the click of a button, in a society where the privileged may live forever but the unfortunate will die all too soon, there is still value in being a real human being.

Discussion Questions Super Sad True Love Story

  1. What was your overall view of the book?
  2. What did you think of the narrative structure of the book? Did it work well having two narrators, and in such defined styles?
  3. Politics within the book – bipartisanship – David from Aziz Army says the below. Do you think you would have had a different reading of this book a year ago?
  4. How does the novel hold up to the typical immigrant story?
  5. How successfully does the author show America in a state of unrest, with persecution, refugees and fascism, in a country that we are used to seeing represented as the opposite?
  6. There is a persistent mention of various body odours throughout the novel. What do you think this brings to the narrative?
  7. This is not a typical dystopian, totalitarian story – the characters appear to have given up their own freedoms through their use of technology. Do you think this is a natural progression from books like 1984?
  8. This was published in 2010. From a technology standpoint, do you think it still stands up or is it already dated? Do you think it will be read in 10 or 20 years’ time? For reference, Facebook and Twitter came to the UK in 2006, the first iPhone was 2008, targeted advertising in the past five years. Print media is on a decline.
  9. To whom would you recommend this book?

Individual Comments

DKB’s Rating: This near-future tale is rooted in some recognisable truths but overall I simply didn’t like any of the characters and lost interest well before the end.

DKB's Rating ★★☆☆☆