... a vision of the worst-case scenario, a dystopian American culture sexed up, dumbed down, and digitized ad absurdum ... a person who bangs on a piano long enough will start to hit the right notes. Super Sad True Love Story is a satire that strikes painfully at many of our culture’s weakest spots, particularly its pornographic obsession with sex and its nonchalance about Internet privacy, or what remains of it ... Shteyngart’s often very funny novel derives much of its humor from the fact that the journey from our world to his requires only a minor tweak ... in the end the joke is on us, the readers of this absurd novel that is finally neither super sad nor true nor actually about love. To criticize Shteyngart’s book for its emotionally stunted prose is beside the point. One has only to contrast it with the capaciousness of Three Years, the Chekhov novella of May-December love that Lenny admires, to understand that a real love story simply cannot be told in such a debased style, even in a joke. The form mortally reduces the text ... finally unmoving.
... a supersad, superfunny, superaffecting performance — not only showcases the ebullient satiric gifts he demonstrated in The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, but that also uncovers his abilities to write deeply and movingly about love and loss and mortality. It’s a novel that gives us a cutting comic portrait of a futuristic America, nearly ungovernable and perched on the abyss of fiscal collapse, and at the same time it is a novel that chronicles a sweetly real love affair as it blossoms from its awkward, improbable beginnings ... eflects his dual heritage, combining the dark soulfulness of Russian literature with the antic inventiveness of postmodern American writing; the tenderness of the Chekhovian tradition with the hormonal high jinks of a Judd Apatow movie. This novel avoids the pretensions and grandiosity of Mr. Shteyngart’s last book, Absurdistan, even as it demonstrates a new emotional bandwidth and ratifies his emergence as one of his generation’s most original and exhilarating writers ... Mr. Shteyngart gives us his most powerful and heartfelt novel yet — a novel that performs the delightful feat of mashing up an apocalyptic satire with a genuine supersad true love story.
... surprising and brilliant ... super sad, also incredibly (but very darkly) funny ... at its most chilling, Super Sad True Love Story comes across as a cri de coeur from an author scared for his country. The biggest risk for any dystopian novel with a political edge is that it can easily become humorless or didactic; Shteyngart deftly avoids this trap by employing his disarming and absurd sense of humor (much of which is unprintable here). Combined with the near-future setting, the effect is a novel more immediate -- and thus more frightening, at least for contemporary readers -- than similarly themed books by Orwell, Huxley and Atwood ... The novelist knows how to get well-earned, knowing laughs, but it's the deeply sad, though not quite despairing, tone that makes this such a remarkable and unexpected novel.
Gary Shteyngart might be too funny for his own good. His new novel, Super Sad True Love Story, is a spectacularly clever near-future dystopian satire, but it may actually disappoint admirers of his first two, more consistently hilarious, novels ... For the first half of Super Sad True Love Story, quick, bitter little jokes pop on every page, one after the other, like rifle fire on opening day of hunting season. Like every good satirist, he’s observant and annoyed, nursing innumerable beefs, both major and minor, with the state of the world ... What gives this novel its unusual richness is that undercurrent of sorrow: Lenny’s, and Shteyngart’s, irreducibly human, marrow-deep sense that nothing and nobody lasts forever ... It’s no small thing for a writer as funny as Shteyngart to refrain from making jokes, as he largely does in the near-apocalyptic final third ... for Shteyngart, being serious has to be considered an act of some bravery ... The beauty of this novel is that its hero and its heroine, in their hugely different ways, really do attempt to negotiate this trashed and trashy world with some tiny measure of dignity ... Shteyngart tries to cram in as much as he knows about the world. But in the end all he knows is his own—very sharp, fully human—mind.
Shteyngart’s vision of America is chilling and hilarious, often at the same time—it is a pitch-perfect satire and grotesque exaggeration of our obsession with technology as well as just about everything that’s currently going wrong in America ... Shteyngart also shows that connection to be too often superficial: while we are able to communicate with and rank others with greater and greater precision and ease, we lose our ability to communicate ourselves with precision and empathy. Language is replaced with statistics, memes, abbreviation. In this sense, Shteyngart is an heir to Vonnegut, a humanist, an expert in the mash-up of the popular and the postmodern, the prophet as Lenny Bruce, riffing in the wilderness of the digital age. And, of 'young' American novelists, Shteyngart is Saul Bellow’s closest relative: the guardian of both the immigrant novel and the American novel, a writer of prose as moving and precise as any currently being written ... refuses to submit to easy cynicism on the subject of love, or allow it to seem frivolous in comparison to national and geopolitical crises. In this novel, as in life, there is nothing stranger, sadder, truer.
... an epistolary novel set in a supposedly postliterate age ... As a love story it is, in a way, modest in scope, but Shteyngart takes it seriously. Their romance, abortive as it is, is not an object of satire but a refuge from the trivial and ridiculous culture that surrounds them. For Shteyngart, it is an antipode to satire itself, a locus of the authentic. Their story is bittersweet but not unsettling—the bubblegum hyperbole of 'super sad' perfectly conveys the tone of the romance, for neither Lenny nor Eunice ever seems in any danger of being corrupted by the cynicisms of their world ... Shteyngart has always had a keen satirical eye for the way in which political shake-ups leave rich elites untouched and ordinary people, in one way or another, fucked ... The gravity of the last portion of the book is not evenly effective—it sometimes seems overwrought—but it allows Shteyngart to find a subtler, more bitter kind of humor than he has used before ... In its serene exposure of our decadence, it only makes us feel uncomfortable, and offers no escape.
... cuts uncomfortably close to home ... [Shteyngart's] imagination is either warped or prophetic; you choose. But his writing is brilliant. Somehow, amid all this, he creates vulnerable, sympathetic characters whose foibles and blunderings toward one another we recognize as universal: super sad and true.
... did this guy really just write one of the best Science Fiction books of the year? You better believe it. And I think he was channeling Alfred Bester the whole time ... there are a lot of laughs along the way, but ultimately this is thinking-person’s novel and the sort of writing that should make every science fiction fan proud of what the genre can do ... using science fiction to communicate a love story we can all relate to while at the same time scaring the crap out of us with a cautionary tale. Hopefully, Shteyngart and others in literary world will give us more like this!
The most slicing satire in this novel is reserved for the technologized culture of everyday urban life; Shteyngart is the Joseph Heller of the information age ... That's the difference between Shteyngart and the average literary satirist (or even an above-average one, like Martin Amis): his warmth ... overflowing with mercy ... It's a high-wire act, pulling off a novel that's simultaneously so biting and so compassionate, and in his earlier books Shteyngart, while unfailingly shrewd and funny, wasn't always this tender.
Full-tilt and fulminating satirist Shteyngart is mordant, gleeful, and embracive as he funnels today’s follies and atrocities into a devilishly hilarious, soul-shriveling, and all-too plausible vision of a ruthless and crass digital dystopia in which techno-addled humans are still humbled by love and death.
... has a lot going on within its 300-plus pages, so much so that it feels like a book that is twice as long and one that is best read in tiny morsel sized bites to really appreciate and absorb the goings-on in the future America that Shteyngart paints as being on the brink of collapse ... depicts a world that is completely absurd and out of control, which brings a lot of dark humor into the story, yet seems to be true enough in a scary way that you have to wonder if this is the slippery slope the real world is headed down ... The novel is clearly influenced by the work of both William Gibson in its futuristic detail, and early Jonathan Lethem in its surreal zaniness. There’s also a bit of Russian literature to be found ... The novel’s only real flaw is that you never really get a sense for what our Romeo and Juliet see in each other, particularly from Eunice’s standpoint, because they tend to spend as much time arguing as they are kissing and making up ... The picture Shteyngart paints, for all of its science-fiction trappings, feels very real and frightening, and in some ways, the sensory overload of images and scenes from this very society threaten to topple the very simple love story that is being told throughout the novel ... this is the type of book that people will be reading 20 years from now just to see how closely the world turns out to Shteyngart’s warning shot.
For the combination of sheer inventiveness and a compassionate heart, it’s hard to imagine many novels challenging Shteyngart’s this year ... Amidst this maelstrom of desperation and decay, one that emits a sort of oddly appealing energy, Shteyngart has created an utterly realistic love story that evokes the doomed relationship between Winston Smith and Julia in Orwell’s 1984 ... Beyond his gifts for piercing social commentary and his verbal pyrotechnics, Shteyngart’s achievement ultimately rests on a determination not to lose sight of the odd romance at the novel’s core.
... .if Gary Shteyngart is any indication, fiction will continue to be the place where authors ponder the survival of most everything else that matters ... As we'd expect from Mr Shteyngart, the novel is self-aware, winkingly florid and hilarious ... The author is a genius of descriptive strokes ... smart, loony and darkly prophetic.
Blending sharp satire with moving portraits of love between lonely people, Gary Shteyngart's fiendishly clever third novel leaves you wondering whether that dull ache in your stomach is from laughter or just plain sadness ... These passages are wrenchingly sad and display an emotional intelligence that was less to the fore in Shteyngart's previous novels ... Shteyngart hops between the deep soulfulness of Russian literature and the skittish parlance of online communication. It feels like flicking between Tolstoy and Facebook on an iPad. This is perhaps intentional – the information age provides the novel with much to mourn, including our attention spans ... It's said that good satire should afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. On finishing Super Sad True Love Story, you feel both bruised and consoled at once.
Eunice is pretty much a girl without a thought in her head ... what bothered me was Shteyngart's decision to narrate part of the novel in Eunice's voice. These sections, which are presented as excerpts from the online chats she conducts with friends and family via the 'GlobalTeens' network, are nearly uniformly uninteresting: I had to resist the urge to skim and get back to the sections narrated by Lenny, who, for all his various flaws, nonetheless comes across as a witty, perceptive observer ... One might, I suppose, accuse Super Sad True Love Story of being nothing more than an extended expression of the paranoia that afflicts so many contemporary intellectuals, who worry that the space for anything resembling a 'life of the mind' (the very phrase has come to sound somewhat quaint) is being squeezed out of existence by our increasingly superficial, increasingly oppressive, consumer culture. Our hearts go out to Lenny, because we fear becoming Lenny. For my part, I find the novel pretty much on target: The Eunice sections aside, it is on the whole both frightening and devastatingly funny. What remains to be seen is whether its depiction of the fall of the American republic will turn out to have been frighteningly, devastatingly prescient.
On the surface, Shteyngart's plausible technology shares the slick, familiar usage of William Gibson's cyberpunk future ... But while Shteyngart might share Gibson's enthusiasm for sifting streams of data as a plot-driver, his cultural context is altogether darker ... Some of this provocative novel's strongest scenes sustain this snatched intimacy in defiance of the debased, wired world around.
... a slit-your-wrist satire illuminated by the author's absurd wit ... what pulls on our affections and keeps the satire from growing too brittle is Lenny's earnest voice as he struggles to fit into a world that clearly has no more use for him ... light on plot but studded with hilarious and sometimes depressing details of our culture's decay ... Shteyngart's most trenchant satire depicts the inane, hyper-sexualized culture that connects everybody even while destroying any actual community or intimacy. This may be the only time I've wanted to stand up on the subway and read passages of a book out loud ... Perhaps the saddest aspect of this Super Sad True Love Story is that you can smell Shteyngart sweating to stay one step ahead of the decaying world he's trying to satirize. It's an almost impossible race now that the exhibitionism of ordinary people has lost its ability to shock us.
Shteyngart writes about technology with such ho-hum aplomb that I think he does for technology what magical realists did for the supernatural ... Unlike many dystopian novels, Super Sad True Love Story doesn't reverberate with a political call to action. Where its bullhorn might be, we find just vintage Soviet despair.
... the finest piece of anti-iPhone propaganda ever written, a cautionary tale full of distracted drones unwilling to tear themselves away from their little glowing screens long enough to make eye contact, let alone an actual lasting connection, with another human being. It’s super sad ’cause it’s true, but that also makes it hilarious ... skillfully balances our actual present with our worst-case-scenario future, Shteyngart’s wit mercifully overpowering his despair ... ain’t Tolstoy, but it argues for the analog pleasures of Tolstoy in an increasingly, detrimentally digital world, and that’ll do. Read it as an eBook, and you’re part of the problem.
... drips with satire ... Shteyngart balances all this spiky, knowing social commentary with bucketloads of tenderness. Lenny and Eunice’s May-to-December love affair could so easily be cloying. Instead, while Lenny’s devotion is instant, insecure Eunice’s realisation - that she would quite like to be loved by 'what Prof Margaux in Assertiveness class used to call ‘a real human being'' - is slower. The result is believable and compelling, as the pair attempt to do the impossible, to bridge the gaps that separate their backgrounds and the generations to which they belong, all the while trying to fit in to an America barely hanging on to its own identity ... At times, the stitches that hold this love story against the backdrop are a little too clearly visible ... It’s as if Shteyngart occasionally gets overexcited by the wealth of things he has to say and starts to worry that his readers won’t pick it all up before the end of the book. But, for the most part, his control is impeccable, and the dark threat of the Bipartisan government looms behind the touching to and fro of Lenny and Eunice’s lives. And anyway, if you miss anything in the paperback, the iPad version should be out soon, right?
Shteyngart shines in these chapters, where he mimics the inventive - though grammatically problematic - ways in which people compose e-mails etc. ... Although Shteyngart is clearly satirizing social-networking sites and the subliterate messages people post, he also simultaneously celebrates the creative use of language often found in digital communications. The crass and creative acronyms in this novel are convincing and hilarious, and, well, sad ... By slightly exaggerating and exacerbating the symptoms of our anxious, frenetic and insecure times, Shteyngart creates a frightening world, where problems of connecting, despite technology, exist more than ever. Super Sad True Love Story is a smart, funny and - it is true - sad satire that leaves one worried for the future.
... feverish, boisterous, wildly funny yet also contrived and histrionic ... Shteyngart clearly savors the adventuresome possibilities of English, possibilities made nearly infinite in this book by the profusion of infectiously silly youth argot, pompous and pseudo-scientific technical jargon, grammatically convoluted but always colorful dialects, and self-pitying meditations—sometimes uproarious, other times poignant—on the mystery of love and the evanescence of life. Indeed, aside from satirizing the corruption of American society by consumerism and its subversion by militarism, Super Sad True Love Story celebrates the power and beauty of words ... Much of this is quite funny—if over-the-top—in addition to being scathing. Ironically, however, the source of its humor is also the book’s greatest weakness. The broader the satire—and Super Sad True Love Story is pretty broad—the more one-dimensional and artificial many of its characters ... boasts two tormented but appealing protagonists locked in a deliciously tortuous love affair. It is indeed super sad, though thankfully untrue and difficult to imagine as prescient, while proving by turns incisive and hilariously exaggerated in its skewering of American society’s excesses. But its own excesses, the product of a willfully cynical attitude on Shteyngart’s part toward the future trajectory of American culture and politics, prevent the story from transcending the restrictive confines of satire, and eventually madden and exhaust even the most amenable and patient reader.
Shteyngart, like the zoo animals he chronicles, seems to have lost the ability to look over the horizon: is life any better in thriving communities such as China or London? If not, how can he possibly expect us to care about Lenny’s fretful attempts to prolong his captivity? The book is more successful when it shows us the puffy fist of totalitarianism, descending towards all these maddened narcissists as they scurry round, oblivious ... maybe Shteyngart is simply better at chatting than at ruminating, which may indicate that the real adolescent here is, in fact, our miserabilist author, whose imaginative excesses do occasionally feel like an act of teenage rebellion against the hopes of immigrant parents such as Lenny’s or Eunice’s or Gary’s own ... Humour appears to have gone the way of the finer feelings: there is nothing here as sourly funny as Misha Vainberg’s vodka-soaked encounters with friends, thugs and potential fathers-in-law in Absurdistan. Which is a pity: there’s only so much super sadness a reader can take ... Shteyngart is smart, certainly, and adept at conveying the horrors he has dreamed up. But cleverness without hope is like a love story without laughter: super sad indeed, and as cold as the grave we all contort ourselves to avoid.
Shteyngart movingly contrasts Lenny’s efforts to fit into this diminished world with Eunice’s struggle for more thoughtfulness and authentic emotional connection. For all the broad comedy that will be familiar to Shteyngart’s fans, he nonetheless handles the ebbs and flows of the relationship with great subtlety ... Shteyngart’s political impulses have always felt halfhearted, as if dutifully honored so as to lend his shaggy, picaresque comedies a sharp edge of satire. The lampoonery in Super Sad True Love Story isn’t unconvincing so much as uninspired ... the more he writes about politics, the less he seems to say ... Shteyngart makes a compelling case that we lose that interiority—the very thing that gives us depth and richness—when we abandon literary culture...As an eloquent lament for this loss, this novel stands as both super sad and true. It is a shame Shteyngart decided this wasn’t enough.
... a bleak comedy that is even more frightening than funny ... Both Lenny and Eunice are fully fleshed–out characters rather than satiric caricatures, but their matter-of-fact acceptance of Bi-Partisanship masking a police state, and of the illiterate, ebullient and Orwellian American Restoration Authority as a bulwark against the country’s collapse, makes this cautionary tale all the more chilling. The narrative proceeds in a surprising yet inevitable manner to the outcome the title promises.
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 ... 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.