Jan 31 2012
Gary Stehyngart’s novel “Super Sad True Love Story” talks about a dystopian future America in which society is in shambles due to an impending economic crisis. We follow protagonist Lenny Abramov, the son of Russian immigrants who is middle-aged, white and middle-class and painfully average in every aspect of his life. A worker at Post-Human Services division of the Staatling-Wapachung Corporation (a company that hopes to extend its clients lives forever), Lenny is madly in love with the superficial and materialistic Eunice Park. She is true to her time unlike Lenny, meaning that she is actively involved in being a consumer. She majored in Image and minored in Assertiveness. This new age sees aggressive consumption and depraved media take the forefront of society; Lenny, on the other hand, is mentally still in the past century. I’m somewhat excited to keep reading this book- its pretty funny but also kind of strange.
I found reading to be extremely different from all of our other readings this semester. It focuses on the protagonist Larry in a world that is being taken over by technology and consumerism is ruining lives as we know it. I thought the language and the way author wrote this book was kind of hard to get through, but his point was interesting. His point being that consumerism in America is getting out of hand and is going to lead to a huge downfall and he emphasizes our need to put our lives on social media. While I do believe consumerism in America damages many lives not just making us greedy but taking from others that need more, I feel this book was difficult to follow.
Although this book was kind of boring, there are ways that our current society relates to it. Super Sad True Love Story is supposed to be set in the not so distant future, so when Shteyngart wrote this was he expecting the not so distant future from 2006 when he first starting writing the book, to when it was published in 2010 to reflect the current society we live in? Yes, this was a “super sad” story, but I think the point he was ultimately trying to make was that life is sad and there are ways to cope with it. One item that he writes about in his book that is major to the plot is how technology is taking over life. This is major to our society today because of iPhones, computers, tablets, ect., Without these pieces of technology, I believe most of our society would fold because of the reliance on them.
I understand that “Super Sad True Love Story” is supposed to communicate that consumer culture and materialism bring out the worst in people. However, I found Gary Shteyngart’s writing style difficult to follow and, at times, ridiculous. The story reads as though it were written by a parent trying way too hard to fit in with teenage children. While I agree with Shteyngart’s argument that consumerism can drive people to be narcissistic, greedy, and selfish, I wish it had been presented differently. The over-the-top language and behavior from Lenny and Eunice was somewhat jarring and made it difficult to focus on the true message.
Gary Shteyngart’s “Super Sad True Love Story” is indeed super sad. It is a satirical look at the potential place some might imagine our mass consuming, mass borrowing culture could be headed. Shteyngart imagines an America well and truly fallen from grace, lacking European allies and indebted to China beyond any means. In his story, America is an extreme totalitarian state wherein even one’s friends cannot be trusted. The story is told from the point of view of Lenny Abramov, the 39 year old son of immigrants who came to America when it was still a great country. Shteyngart does a great job of creating a slightly futuristic world that is believable and yet shocking, therefore exposing the shocking elements sometimes looked over in reality. For example, the scene in the bar where Lenny and the women were rating each other via their phones. This read as a slightly absurd scene in which everyone winds up overly exposed and Lenny, of course, humiliated. But it is not that far from reality when you consider the apps people use to find others in the vicinity, or that some people put their entire lives on social media, or send out their own pictures to be rated. The simultaneously bizarre and realistic tone of this story reminded me of a short story by Thomas Pynchon called Entropy.
Super Sad True Love Story, by Gary Shteyngart was intriguing to me because it focuses on the “dystopian” aspects of society unlike most who focus on utopian societies. There is a focus on consumerism, youth and how these two themes create the obsessive nature in people. The economic downturn along with the social chaos that is happening in this story is not the only negatives that this society is experiencing. People don’t like talking anymore and are more involved with people through their smart phones. Lenny and Eunice represent the generational gap that we witness even in our society today when it comes to technology and social media. While Lenny has a love for printed text, Eunice has a love for all things electronic and online shopping. She is very materialistic, unlike Lenny, along with untrusting and guarded. In my opinion, she is like this because all communication of her generation in through a computer screen. Through this technology-obsessed culture, everyone knows everything about one another but never enough about ones own self. At times I felt this book was hard to get through but I did enjoy Shteyngart’s prose and his ability to create a story using two vastly different voices of the characters. In a way I think that the author is warning our society that this is the direction we are headed.
Yes, this story is “super sad.” Ultimately, I understand Gary Shteyngart’s point of technology and money “taking over” our lives. However, I’m unclear about who his true audience is. As someone who just graduated from their teenage years just four months ago, all of the GlobalTeens communications just seems shallow and offensive. Shteyngart grossly misrepresents “teens” even though his characters are between the ages of 24-60, other than Sally. Perhaps in the future, we will see “Kids Getting Older Younger” in the sense of 24 year olds thinking mostly of sex and shopping, but overall, no, we are not all Wolves of Wall Street.
“Super Sad True Love Story” is a large leap from what our class has been reading, swinging from experiments and recounts of life experiences to fiction. I am a large fiction fan, though SSTLS is just too sci-fi for me to get into. If Shteyngart’s future is anything like the real future, I am sorely disappointed, as I actually love politics.
In Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Peggy Orenstein explores every facet of what it means to be a girl in 21st Century America. American culture as a whole is very reliant on media and popular culture is incredibly pervasive, but this is especially true for girls and young women. I found myself most agreeing her chapter on teenage actresses and singers. Orenstein claims that we rely on these young women as role models for children, and when they find their sexuality and use it to their advantage – or a perceived advantage – they face a huge backlash and their downfall is chronicled in the tabloids. I did not find Orenstein to be overly radical (or feel “sorry” for her daughter as one online detractor worded it) but instead appreciated her concern for young women and the effect that media and commercialism have on them.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book, but Orenstein’s writing style and attentiveness to every possible situation and potential challenge facing young girls earned my respect. She jumped around from topic to topic, and each chapter could be read independently. However, her topics range from Miley Cyrus, American Girl and those with somewhat unconventional gender issues.
Miley Cyrus offers a contemporary example of a young woman who gained fame early on, and then fought for the respect and sexual appeal of woman. Instead of shaming Miley, Orenstein simply states facts, citing examples of conversations she overheard at the concert. Orenstein recognizes the debacle of being a sexual woman versus a family-oriented Disney star, and mentions that growing up so quickly was almost necessary to continue her spotlight career.
But then that leads to the issue of role models for younger girls. Obviously, the one fan who attended Miley’s concert between Hannah and Miley was disappointed, but what else are they left to look to after outgrowing American Girl? Bratz dolls? Ty Babies, who Orenstein sees as “slutty?” This demographic is certainly not left out, but pulls its consumers (or their parents) in 100 different directions. Orenstein, at the very least, does a good job of summarizing and acknowledging these directions.
Growing up in today’s world, it is prevalent how society has shaped women to be. The ideal girl for most men is tall, skinny and extremely girly. Some might compare this ideal to what Disney Princesses look like. In Peggy Orenstein’s book, Orenstein struggles with making better decisions for her daughter in trying to steer clear of the super girly world and buying her Princesses and girly toys/clothes. Her book also tries to open the eyes of the reader, like myself, to show how girly-girl items have had an effect on our culture and how it has shaped our thinking about looks and self-worth. The best point that I got from this book is looking at how these girly items have shaped society and thinking and how they contribute to mental and physical disorders in young/teenage girls.