Sunday, September 26, 2010

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

Book trailers work, folks. I saw the Super Sad True Love Story book trailer and liked it because it mentioned my alma mater and was pretty funny. And then Shteyngart came to Politics and Prose and I figured, "Why not?"

Verdict: I liked the book but didn't engage with it emotionally.

Love can be difficult to define but love, like pornography, is something I think I can recognize when I see. In Super Sad True Love Story, I don't see love. I see desperation, selfishness, delusion--which is sad, but hardly super sad. An argument could be made that it's not Shteyngart, but rather, the people in the book who deem this story "super sad" and that their lack of emotional depth means that this is the deepest sadness they are capable of comprehending, but in our world, I dispute the assertion by Mary Gaitskill that the "love" story is "super sad."

Even though I find the "love story" designation to be emotionally false, I think the book is well-written. Shteyngart invents phrases that are both surprising and familiar. Irony and satire in the novel are so tightly bound and balanced that even though I find myself unmoved, I also think that everything that happens in the book is how it should happen. The story isn't fixable. There's nothing that can be done to it to make it better. It's perfect the way it is. Which is sad.

Basically, if you like good writing, liked the structure of The Handmaid's Tale (Super Sad True Love Story is also diary-based, with the conceit that the diary was published subsequent to the events of the book and was considered at the time of publication to be emblematic of a fallen society), and feel like spending hours in the company of neurotic, superficial, unreliable narrators, then read this book.