Andy's Reviews > Super Sad True Love Story

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
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Dec 10, 11

Read in December, 2011

My conflicted relationship with Shteyngart continues. I genuinely expected to like this book, based on the glowing reviews and the oddly brilliant YouTube book trailer featuring the likes of James Franco, Mary Gaitskill and my erstwhile teacher, David Ebershoff. The concept is a fun one: take a vaguely traditional love story - between a pathetically unkempt but ultimately endearing Russian Jew and his much younger, more beautiful and intellectually inferior Korean love object - and set it in a dystopian American future where we are owned by the Chinese, Staten Island is much cooler than Manhattan, and people engage with other people by reviewing a set of data points that include "Fuckability" and "Sustainability". Unfortunately, like the other Shteyngart I've read, the ideas are compelling here but the execution is lacking. The characters don't accrue any depth as the story passes. Granted, I was so frustrated by that lack of development that I didn't finish the last third of the book, but everything we're introduced to in the first 50 pages that seems fun and original and full of potential stays pretty much the same for next 200 pages. I expected more imaginative set pieces, some wrench in the characters, and ultimately more boldness with the narrative. Instead, we get a conventional back-and-forth, he said/she said story, where half of it is told in what more resembles a mid-90's AOL Chat window than some futuristic social media platform.

It's funny, when I read Shteyngart's first book, The Russian Debutante's Handbook, I compared it to "Crocodile Dundee" (both positively and negatively), and I find myself making a similar comparison here. More than anything else, Super Sad True Love Story reminds me of "Back to the Future Part II," a movie that has likable characters with interesting dilemmas placed into a futuristic circumstance, but ultimately that setting does more to conjure nostalgia than anything else and the characters just end up spinning their wheels for a while, through some forced set of dramatic circumstances, until we are returned once again to the comfort of our present surroundings.
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