[Modern Romance] a sprightly, easygoing hybrid of fact, observation, advice and comedy, with Mr. Klinenberg, presumably, supplying the medicine — graphs, charts, statistics and the like — and Mr. Ansari dispensing the spoonfuls of sugar that help it go down ... I could have done without some of the statistics and studies, frankly, but they were broken into digestible chunks and so slid by easily. The best part of Modern Romance comes when Mr. Ansari and his team get people to share the most embarrassing aspects of their romantic quests.
Ansari is particularly funny on such matters as sexting, the self-defeating ubiquity of dating site male openers ('Hey', 'Whassup?') and the perfect online dating photo (cleavage for females, and scuba diving for males, apparently). What emerges is a book that is somewhat inconclusive (how could it not be on such a vast subject?), but is nonetheless entertaining and illuminating ... Ansari comes across as a decent, thoughtful, amusing guy, with a genuine interest in the modern dating whirl, on behalf of males and females alike.
Modern Romance feels a bit like the sweet little brother to Neil Strauss’ The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists. Like Strauss’ 2004 best-seller, Modern Romance styles itself as a personality-driven piece of pop sociology ... In contrast to the sex-obsessed PUAs and the wedding-crazy dating gurus, Ansari approaches relationships like an actual human being ... Ansari doesn’t ignore the particular ways in which romantic relationships have traditionally put women at risk. He acknowledges that the confusion endemic to modern heterosexual relationships represents a vast improvement on the rigid old scripts, which denied women professional and personal agency ... The sole bummer about Modern Romance is almost a deal-breaker: It takes itself too seriously. The book could be a fun, lovely little manual, but it has aspirations of being an actual sociological tract. The reader can intuit when Ansari-the-comedian is writing and when Klinenberg-the-sociologist is taking his turn, and it makes for a rocky read.
The stuff explored in the book—the gender differences in approaches to online dating, the social effects of friends-with-benefits-ing, the psychological impact of a swipe-right economy—will feel familiar to anyone who reads magazines and/or is currently single. Ansari quotes all the experts you’d expect to be quoted in a book like this. He cites exactly the research you’d expect to be cited. He sums it all up charmingly and winkily and am I rightily, with the same light snark he deploys in his standup ... while Modern Romance’s revelations aren’t terribly revelatory, their telling is refreshing in an important way: They’re humanized. They operate at the scale of everyday life and everyday experience and everyday emotion.
Ansari was obviously committed to his goal of investigating the way that people (primarily heterosexual, primarily middle-class and smart phone-owning) find each other, pair off and form relationships. The man put in the time and effort. And what he comes away with is...pretty much exactly what you'd think. Because it's not a self-help book or a guide to modern dating (either of which might've allowed Ansari more latitude with his voice and personal stories) but is a rigorously researched and data-driven field study on the dating-and-mating habits of modern humans, the conclusions he draws are largely of the 'Well, duh ...' variety — a problem not exclusive to this book by any means ... ultimately, I found myself wanting more masturbation jokes and fewer graphs made from demographic data
Throughout the book, the comedian is reluctant to come to firm conclusions from his research, and sometimes his desire to be non-judgmental about other people’s choices makes his observations feel wishy-washy. He is not here to tell us what to do – instead, he sees his role as a tour guide, outlining the romantic landscape, pointing out the hidden traps and keeping up a steady patter of light-hearted comments. Unfortunately, these can fall flat – the energy and charm of his standup persona often don’t translate to the page ... I finished the book feeling that the time I’d spent with Ansari was not unpleasant, but rather unmemorable – and I wonder how he would have fared without his academic wingman. In that sense, it is not unlike many of the dates it describes: we had fun together, but I wouldn’t text him back.
The book is an obsessive exploration of what makes hearts flutter and break across the globe, but most importantly, it dissects those ideas through the lens of a right-and-left swiping society. And as a result, Ansari’s final product doesn’t only feel complete—it’s hilariously executed, even without his unmistakable high-register voice belting the punchlines. At 250 pages, Modern Romance is a lean, pithy read that’s perfect to reach the tech-obsessed generation it explores ... though the book doesn’t shove readers in any particular direction, and it doesn’t provide concrete solutions to the realm of modern dating, most millennials will walk out of Modern Romance with an increased appreciation for the beings that exist behind iPhone screens.
...[a] hugely entertaining and remarkably insightful new book ... The most surprising thing about Modern Romance is that, while never less than compulsively readable, it works more successfully as a work of anthropology than a work of comedy. While it will inevitably be stocked in the humor aisle, it will be the sole title there that begins with an explanation of methods and ends with a list of citations.
Modern Romance reads a little bit like what might happen if a sociologist wrote a scholarly but accessible book about 21st-century human mating rituals, posted it on the website Genius, and Aziz Ansari annotated it with some personal experiences and jokey stories: It’s occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, occasionally touching, and, for stretches in between, kind of dry.