Posts Tagged Gary Shteyngart
BEST OF 2010: FICTION
Posted by Amy Steele in Books on December 21, 2010
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan [Knopf]
–Egan writes with impressive attention to detail and possesses the ability to craft a unique, humorous and riveting portrait of two people invested in the challenging and ever-changing music industry.
The Dissemblers by Liza Campbell [Permanent Press]
–Through lyrical prose and stimulating descriptions, Campbell deftly transports the reader to Georgia O’Keefe’s New Mexico. She propels us inside an artist’s mind and twists a complex morality tale.
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender [Doubleday]
–Bender writes exquisitely. The fairy-tale magic realism propelling this novel is charming and irresistible.
Solar by Ian McEwan [Nan A. Talese]
–crazy story told with McEwan’s brilliant style [simultaneously amusing and uncomfortable] about a physicist working with alternative energy sources including wind power and solar
If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This by Robin Black [Random House]
–exquisitely crafted, eclectic collection of short stories
City of Veils by Zoe Ferraris [Little, Brown and Company]
–Ferraris illuminates the varying levels of religious devotion and the status of women in Saudi Arabia from several viewpoints. It contains plenty of twists and thought-provoking cultural situations.
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart [Random House]
–Shteyngart brilliantly describes a dystopian future with fantastically elaborate detail through emails, IM exchanges and diary entries.
This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper [Plume]
–Tropper has quickly become one of my favorite writers for his sensitive and often hilarious insight on relationships.
Small Kingdoms by Anastasia Hobbet [Permanent Press]
–beautifully crafted a complex, layered story about the abuse of a household servant in Kuwait. Moving from character to character and each individual story, Hobbet provides a rich background about life in Kuwait and the complex structure of the Middle East where class divisions remain strong, Americans and British are simultaneously despised and coveted, arcane laws and customs remain in place, yet Kuwait, compared to other Arab nations appears modern.
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow [Algonquin Books]
–provocative and creative coming-of-age in the 1980s story. Blue-eyed, mocha-skinned Rachel is the daughter of a black GI-father and a Danish mother. The sole survivor of a Chicago rooftop tragedy, the 12-year-old ends up at her boozing and opinionated grandmother’s house in Portland, Ore.
Emily Hudson by Melissa Jones [Pamela Dorman Books]
–Jones has created a rousing feminist character in Emily. She’s outspoken and likely to shun conventionality. Emily’s a bit ahead of her time. Women are supposed to be married off by a certain age and then be relegated to the kitchen and drawing room, only to come out for parties and entertaining. And to be an artist at this time? It’s rather unusual and Emily certainly meets those who doubt her talents and capability to make it out there on her own, including her dear cousin William.
How to Survive a Natural Disaster by Margaret Hawkins [Permanent Press]
–astute family drama filled with betrayal, envy, lies, discord, tragedy and forgiveness. It packs a real punch and will stay with you for days after you finish its last page.
The Wolves of Andoverr by Kathleen Kent [Reagan Arthur]
–I really liked this novel for a number of reasons. It provides a detailed, rich description of daily life in 17th century Massachusetts. Smallpox travels through the town and I’m fascinated by infectious disease and how it’s contained. Kent takes the reader to England for its civil war. And the wolves? There are two kinds of wolves in this novel and they are sneaky and vicious.
An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin [Grand Central]
–Martin delves into the complicated New York art world and particularly into the life of art dealer Lucy Yeager. Like an Edith Wharton novel, this glitzy, posh scene has its nuanced participants and sinister underbelly.
Something Redby Jennifer Gilmore [Scribner]
–Gilmore instills equal parts cheerfulness and solemnity throughout this meditative second novel. It’s a superb reflection on the connection between external events and our psyches.
Super book review: Sad True Love Story
Posted by Amy Steele in Books on December 19, 2010
Title: Super Sad True Love Story
Author: Gary Shteyngart
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (July 27, 2010)
Category: contemporary fiction
Also, I’ve spent an entire week without reading any books or talking about them too loudly. I’m learning to worship my new apparat’s screen, the colorful pulsating mosaic of it, the fact that it knows every last stinking detail about the world, whereas my books only know the minds of their authors.
In Super Sad True Love Story, Shteyngart brilliantly describes a dystopian future with fantastically elaborate detail through emails, IM exchanges and diary entries. The story revolves around lovelorn 39-year-old Lenny Abramov. It’s a not too distant future where the United States has lost its superpower status and China and South Korea rule supreme [money is in Yuan!]. In this world, there’s a rating system for everyone. People wear a computerized gadget around their necks from which anyone can get their hotness rating, their health records, and salary history. Lenny finds himself with his friends—whom he met years ago when NYU was still a prestigious learning institution–at bars constantly being rated at the bottom
The analytical Lenny falls in love with the cute and somewhat vacuous 24-year-old Eunice Park while working in Italy. Eunice is a social climber and reluctantly realized that Lenny may be her only way up. She needs a place to stay so comes back from Italy and stays in Lenny’s apartment where Lenny succeeds in winning her over a bit after she’s tweaked his fashion style and looks. Eunice is from South Korea and her parents would like her to return home to New Jersey but she’d rather not. But when Eunice meets Lenny’s powerful boss Joshie, all bets are off.
Lenny’s ageless boss, Joshie, gives him grief about what he eats, how much he exercises and how much time he spends under a sun lamp. Just that his boss who must be over 60, likes to be called Joshie says so much. Not many people embrace aging but in Super Sad True Love Story you easily age yourself out of any and all rights. Which isn’t all that unusual considering how our society alienates and often mistreats the elderly.
This novel is not all statistics and scary futuristic ideals. It contains a lot of passion. While he feels under-appreciated by Eunice, less-than-attractive by new societal standards, Lenny remains honest, thoughtful and loyal throughout all the challenges he faces. He still holds some truly American values like the importance of great friends and familial bonds. Everyone wants to be loved.
There’s zero privacy any longer in Super Sad True Love Story, —and this I must admit isn’t all that difficult to imagine when every other day Facebook announces a new plan to make us feel more exposed. Anyone can get stats on anyone else. Vast streams of information and data are amassed on every individual. And what of individuality? It’s not that easy to stand out anymore. No one reads. Books have become antiquated collector’s items and few people actually want to collect them. Lenny finds that few appreciate his Wall of Books. Shteyngart makes the reader believe in this realm of possibilities for this new existence. Aren’t we already a few clicks there already– cyber-stalking, WikiLeaks, face recognition software on Facebook, posting our locations on foursquare?
Super Sad True Love Story is remarkably clever and an ingenious futuristic novel that remains entrenched in reality.
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