New York, Summer, Very near future, Economic collapse, tanks in the streets, riots in Central Park, defeat in Venezuela, books are quaint artefacts, what's left of the indebted United States is about to be parcelled out to the rising nations of Finance-London and China-Worldwide, and what's left of interpersonal relations can be summarized by a ...
New York, Summer, Very near future, Economic collapse, tanks in the streets, riots in Central Park, defeat in Venezuela, books are quaint artefacts, what's left of the indebted United States is about to be parcelled out to the rising nations of Finance-London and China-Worldwide, and what's left of interpersonal relations can be summarized by a couple of flashing statistics on attractiveness and wealth. But Lenny Abramov is too in love to notice any of it. The son of working-class Russian immigrants, a bumbling minor functionary in a company that just may hold the secret to eternal life, and the reluctant star of a show called "101 People We Need To Feel Sorry For", he has fallen way too hard for the imperious Eunice Park, a blistering, beautiful Korean-American, a seductive shopper and brilliant money-spender who still knows how to speak in sentences, and a true child of her times. As the country around them explodes into a million glittering pieces, the two will discover whether love is still possible in a world where words have lost their meaning, and where every touch, embrace and kiss could be mistaken for a commodity.
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This book makes my short list for works most likely to be called "a classic." In a more hopeful future a-coming than Shteyngart's, this book will be required reading for AP kids when they study "21st Century Literature" on their I-SCOOL Apps in 2050.
This book has a lot in common with "1984", "Brave New World", and "Envy" - and any other biggies of the literary dystopian future I may have forgotten. Like 1984 it's partly diary driven. Like "Brave New World" it has the most liberal sexual morality this side of whatever the unsupervised 14 year olds down the street are doing tonight. It resembles "Envy" in it's contrast of the deep but failed superfluous man from the old days against "a New Soviet Man"... if that NSM is a technologically sophisticated, media savy, hot Korean Girl.
Shteyngart creates a a fully realized future reality to the point that it confuses the reader with it's strangeness. At the same time this world is a little too recognizable. The trends of our current morality towards a future where it has vanished into promiscuity and texting has been achieved. America's economic Armageddon resulting from the National debt and outsourcing of all productive means to pay off that debt has drawn neigh. And if the machine singularity predicted by Kurzweil hasn't come to pass, the marketing singularity has. See SSTLS for further details.
Yet there are some things that stay constant in the future: the family is still a source of neurosis, love and who we are. True love, as the title suggests, is a need that still can arise even in the sickest soil of the future. And an argument for the gold standard has got to be in this thing somewhere.
I love this book and am sincere in thinking it a classic. The only thing holding me back from certainty in this conviction is the ending... which, frankly, was a little anti-climactic for me. The book was, maybe, one chapter too long. On the other hand, this "failing" might be another point in it's favor. Unlike 1984 it doesn't end with a punchline and the tendentious push to immediately notice what you have just read in the world around you... and then buy war bonds.* It's more like life, where despite calamity, life goes on, at least for some well positioned HNWI's. What's an HNWI? You'll have to read the book to find out... (ok, "High Net Worth Individuals" for those who can't wait). Do it now, while there are still books and while you don't need yuan to buy them.
Publishers Weekly, 2010-05-03 Shteyngart (Absurdistan) presents another profane and dizzying satire, a dystopic vision of the future as convincing-and, in its way, as frightening-as Cormac McCarthy's The Road. It's also a pointedly old-fashioned May-December love story, complete with references to Chekhov and Tolstoy. Mired in protracted adolescence, middle-aged Lenny Abramov is obsessed with living forever (he works for an Indefinite Life Extension company), his books (an anachronism of this indeterminate future), and Eunice Park, a 20-something Korean-American. Eunice, though reluctant and often cruel, finds in Lenny a loving but needy fellow soul and a refuge from her overbearing immigrant parents. Narrating in alternate chapters-Lenny through old-fashioned diary entries, Eunice through her online correspondence-the pair reveal a funhouse-mirror version of contemporary America: terminally indebted to China, controlled by the singular Bipartisan Party (Big Brother as played by a cartoon otter in a cowboy hat), and consumed by the superficial. Shteyngart's earnestly struggling characters-along with a flurry of running gags-keep the nightmare tour of tomorrow grounded. A rich commentary on the obsessions and catastrophes of the information age and a heartbreaker worthy of its title, this is Shteyngart's best yet. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly, 2010-08-30 In a near-future America that teeters even more desperately on the financial and political brink than it does today, aging 39-year-old Lenny Abramov and alluring 24-year-old Eunice Park build a doomed relationship on a shared need for emotional, physical, and financial security. Adam Grupper perfectly embodies Lenny, a socially awkward intellectual in a world that has no more use for books or philosophy, a man radiating a hunger for love and acceptance. Ali Ahn does well as Eunice, a shopping-obsessed young woman who allows her poor self-esteem issues to rule what could be a generous heart. Both readers also provide vivid portraits of supplementary characters; Ahn particularly shines as Eunice's mother. A Random hardcover (Reviews, May 3). (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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