Super Sad True Love Story By Gary Shteyngart 352 pages; Random House
Do we ever truly know each other? Is intimacy possible in a culture where every interaction can be tracked and quantified by constantly updated data streams? These are the questions at the heart of Gary Shteyngart's postapocalyptic black comedy, Super Sad True Love Story. Taking place a few decades in the future, in an America where the war on terror has led to financial and ethical bankruptcy, the novel revolves around the affair between Lenny Abramov, 39, a second-generation Russian Jew bereft at the thought of his mortality, and the significantly younger Eunice Park, a Korean-American from Fort Lee, New Jersey, who lives to shop. "We're such an unlikely couple, so unlikely," Lenny cries one night in a Staten Island tavern, "because she's beautiful and I'm the fortieth ugliest man in this bar. But so what! So what!... Isn't this how people used to fall in love?" Suddenly, chaos strikes and the world reverts to a pretech era in which all we have is our isolated humanity. This leads Lenny to reassess his work for the Post-Human Services division of a company that markets high-end immortality, while Eunice finds herself unexpectedly politicized. Shteyngart makes trenchant, often hilarious, observations about a fading empire in which companies merge in bizarre combinations (LandO'LakesGMFord), and paramilitarism rules. How do we survive in such a world? The answer, this pointed novel argues, lies in trying to stay together despite ourselves.