Super Sad True Love Story

  • Review
By – September 26, 2011

Gary Shteyngart’s new nov­el, Super Sad True Love Sto­ry, is impec­ca­bly titled. Essen­tial­ly a Romeo and Juli­et-esque tale of star-crossed lovers, it chron­i­cles sev­er­al young people’s strug­gles with their dif­fi­cult fam­i­lies as they nav­i­gate worlds of love and sur­vival for which they are not pre­pared. The tit­u­lar lovers mope through self-obsessed lives marked by depres­sion, with only fleet­ing moments of intense, needy pas­sion punc­tu­at­ing their morose­ness. From the start, it is dif­fi­cult to imag­ine a hap­py end­ing for these char­ac­ters — and Shteyn­gart deliv­ers a beau­ti­ful­ly real­ized tale of the mis­takes and mat­u­ra­tions that con­sti­tute their fate.

The nov­el, which is set in the near future, takes place in a dystopic New York that lib­er­al young adults liv­ing in large Amer­i­can cities will find eas­i­ly rec­og­niz­able and utter­ly believ­able. This is a world in which images have almost entire­ly replaced text; an ahis­tor­i­cal, super-con­sumerist Amer­i­can secu­ri­ty state, and a depress­ing satire of the most crass and inhu­man ele­ments of ear­ly 21st-cen­tu­ry Amer­i­ca. Onto this scene stum­ble our lovers, both chil­dren of immi­grants, both feel­ing hor­ri­bly out of place and unfit to love, much less be loved. Shteyn­gart han­dles their chaot­ic envi­ron­ment and their tur­bu­lent inner worlds with aplomb. The sto­ry is ulti­mate­ly anoth­er tale of love gone bad, and of char­ac­ters too deeply and frus­trat­ing­ly flawed to help each oth­er. Shteyn­gart has giv­en us a touch­ing and intel­li­gent con­tem­po­rary tragedy.

Joshua Daniel Edwin was born into a fam­i­ly of incur­ably com­pul­sive read­ers in Bal­ti­more, MD. He now lives in Brook­lyn, and is a stu­dent in Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty’s MFA pro­gram in Cre­ative Writing.

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