In the case of the novel’s famously problematic ending, after plowing through all 47 fragments, I found myself preferring a slightly longer ending Hemingway used in the first published version, which was serialized in Scribner’s Magazine. I sat up. It shouldn’t need a fact-checker; at least that was my understanding with the editor I’ve been working with. For living writers this can mean anything from investing in a cool-looking website and writing mindless what-was-on-my-iPod-while-I-wrote-my-novel pieces for magazines to dressing up a back-cover bio with references to every quirky-sounding job they’ve ever held. D’Agata has got himself a little singed in the process of igniting that debate, but that may have been part of the plan. Certainly, by the time I got to this point in the book, I was identifying so strongly with Fingal that D’Agata might as well have been talking directly to me. Rayyan Al-Shawaf But I also think this is the kind of conversation D’Agata wants us to have. She finds this more troubling than he does and quickly flees the scene, leaving him to raise a fragile young VW while coping with the aftermath of his father’s death. To be sure, Lenny and Eunice do not fit this mold, what with their delightfully complicated personalities, together with the fact that Shteyngart has neither completely dissociated them from nor submerged them in the respective cultures of their origin. I agree with Ken. In 2007, when The New Yorker published online a version of Carver’s story “Beginners,” showing how Lish had bludgeoned it down to the much shorter story, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” that wasn’t literary ephemera at all. Set 20 Minutes into the … It’s a novel that gives us a cutting comic portrait of a futuristic America, nearly ungovernable and perched on the abyss … July 26, 2010; ... I’m quoting here from “The Greatest Love of All,” by 1980s pop diva Whitney Houston, track nine of her eponymous first LP. I wanted to know: Why did it happen? And neither people nor nations ever get any younger, either, no matter how hard they try. In class, I posited that the first version, written while Carver was still an active alcoholic, represented his bleak vision of a world of senseless evil while the later version represented his vision as a recovered alcoholic of a world in which one could confront evil, make sense of it, and even draw sustenance from it. His new novel, Super Sad True Love Story, is a spectacularly clever near-future dystopian satire, but it may actually disappoint admirers of his first two, more consistently hilarious, novels, The Russian Debutante’s Handbook and Absurdistan. In Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story novel we are introduced to a dystopian society that is eerily similar to our present United States of America. The author manages at once to satirize the grotesqueries of our era, our hubris and our excess, while sustaining an intense pathos for the individuals forced to bear the fallout, as the best satires do. She’s basically a sweet kid, though, and, for a while, at least, just desperate and needy enough to respond to Lenny’s nerdy ardor. I’ve read Absurdistan and found it boring and silly. I like the movie Idiocracy better….oh, sorry, am I playing into the future tech culture? Thus, while the Hemingway Library Edition of A Farewell to Arms offers an occasionally charming glance at the private scratch pad of a great writer as well as some mildly informative insight into how the book came into being, its revelations are several ticks on the Richter scale below earth-shaking. The son of a Russian immigrant, protagonist Leonard (Lenny) Abramov, a middle-aged, middle class, otherwise unremarkable man whose mentality is still in the past century, falls madly in love with Eunice Park, a young Korean-American from New Jersey struggling with materialism and the pressures of her traditional Korean family. For the first half of Super Sad True Love Story, quick, bitter little jokes pop on every page, one after the other, like rifle fire on opening day of hunting season. And here we should get to the bookish side of things, because, if you’re like me, you may be spending some time in front of the TV in coming days. Unfunny satire is should only be acceptable to the New York Times. Devilish pursuits, and oh-so-American. It also presents the full, original novel without intrusive footnotes or in-text commentary, leaving the variant versions for a series of appendices at the end of the book. “I’m a single parent trying to raise my son — that’s all.” That’s the problem with all this literary ephemera, the websites and the “P.S.” sections, the critical editions and scholarly footnotes: they divert attention from the work itself. But only a few short years later, on the upper west side of Manhattan, the father of modern basketball point shaving would rise from those ashes. Douglas Coupland is much better on this side of the road but, again, is not a bad book. The edited version of “Beginners,” with its strike-throughs and expurgated passages, was a heartbreaking work of art in of itself, giving voice not only to Carver’s artistry but to his poignant reliance on a powerful editor who, against Carver’s will, forcibly remade a great writer’s work into his own. When Fingal gently presses him on where he got the number thirty-four from, D’Agata’s answer sets the tone for the rest of the exchange: “Well, I guess that’s because the rhythm of ‘thirty-four’ works better in that sentence than the rhythm of ‘thirty-one,’ so I changed it.” With admirable restraint, Fingal thanks D’Agata for his time and mentions that he’ll “probably be checking back with you later on.” This is a technically accurate prediction, if one that is marked by a significant degree of understatement: the battle of fact-checking attrition that followed, we are told, would last longer than the Second World War. He is getting pretty popular, so we should naturally be suspicious. Words fall a bit short when describing Christopher Boucher’s debut novel How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive. The book, which had arrived out of nowhere, was placed in the unpromising stack of books, notebooks, and Random Pieces of Paper that daily threatens to take over my entire desk. You can cancel anytime. Shteyngart is rigorous about the improbability of this culture’s changing course: The ship has sailed, and it’s the Titanic. The work D’Agata does is vastly different to the kind of thing Mike Daisey and the Invisible Children people tripped themselves up over. This time, though, it’s the avarice of a privileged and blithely murderous section of humanity, rather than the retribution of a vengeful god, that sets everything ablaze. But Shteyngart charts his own course. tags: folly, religions, roman. He desperately hopes to qualify for the dechronification and cell-regeneration treatments necessary for immortality, thereby joining his visionary boss Joshie on the road to foreverdom. Language, not data.”. For much of the book, the conflict between the checker and the checked reads as a conflict between two equal and opposite forces of fastidiousness: fastidiousness about fact, and fastidiousness about art. A great many things in Boucher’s world can be driven. Your email address will not be published. There’s nothing truly new in all this – authors have been shilling for their own work since the early days of type – but as readers’ appetite for extended chunks of uninterrupted gray print declines, writers and publishers seem compelled to add ever noisier bells and whistles. Science Magazine, The Luxury of Just Being Right Here, Right Now | The Green Hedonist | Greening the Good Life: Have Fun, Live Well, and Do Good, 47 Endings Can’t Ruin A Great Novel: Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, check out the insanely great book trailer, Everywhere Is Nowhere: A Review of The Lazarus Project, Cool Story, Bro: The Provocations of John D’Agata, The Corey Vilhauer Book of the Month Club: January 2006. Write a paper where you argue who or what was responsible for their breakup. He occasionally errs on the side of grandiosity, but there’s no doubt that the book is a strange and moving piece of work. Super Sad True Love Story takes a look into an exaggerated future of excessive hedonism and impulsiveness with a satirical touch that shows an ever so possible future. Then the Heart Attack Tree, realizing that his crime had at least one witness, got behind the deli counter of the Farm, revved the engine, and drove the farm away down the highway with the man’s dying father and a number of Atkins Farm employees still inside. Eunice, confused and scattered though she is, keeps trying to give her inchoate life some recognizable form, and to fix, or at least come to terms with, her terrible family. D’Agata deliberately exposes his own fakery here (although that is presumably not a word to which he’d grant any legitimacy in a discussion of art, even “non-fiction” art). Super Sad True Love Story is an epistolary novel built around the diaries of Lenny Abramov and the online posts of Eunice. When the work isn’t very good, when it’s just so-so, the diversions can be welcome. This is why the NCAA has such draconian rules involving student athletes and gambling. is a Lebanon-based book critic. It is the story of Lenny Abramov, a 39 year-old Russian-American, and his romance with Eunice Park, a Korean-American who he meets in Rome, but a Rome of the future. Gary Shteyngart, Super Sad True Love Story (Granta, 2010) After the much-praised Absurdistan, Gary Shteyngart’s third novel brings high expectations in its wake. Or, you could just skip all that and read the book. His father was killed by a Heart Attack Tree who came slinking down out of the woods in dirty jeans, having heard the father’s heart beating from afar; the Tree slunk up to him where he sat in the country market building at Atkins Farm and took his heart from his chest. It can be comforting to avoid change, to stay close to home (“Want to know where we are geographically? After that, Molinas practiced law, while helping the mob orchestrate the next great college basketball betting scandal in 1961.It doesn’t take a genius IQ to recognize how the machinery of college athletics is vulnerable to sabotage in the form of gambling-fueled game orchestration. Though both men may have been depressive alcoholics, Ernest Hemingway was no Raymond Carver, and his editor, Max Perkins, thankfully suffered no Lish-like delusions of grandeur. The Super Sad True Love Story Community Note includes chapter-by-chapter summary and analysis, character list, theme list, historical context, author biography and … The narrator breaks down when the coffin is lowered into the hole. Of the two characters, Eunice Park has the greatest responsibility. By turns fierce, funny and frightening, Super Sad True Love Story deserves a place on the shelf beside 1984 and Brave New World. Max revealed in the New York Times Magazine that, in fact, “A Small Good Thing” was Carver’s original version of the story, which his editor Gordon Lish had radically revised and retitled, cutting the story by more than a third and eliminating entirely the redemptive confrontation with the baker. This digital version of the overstuffed file cabinet has saved me more times than I care to count, but it is increasingly clear to me that if I ever have the misfortune to get famous, I will need to delete all these old files and throw my hard drive in a lake somewhere. This is the real madness of the tournament: American businesses losing billions of man hours to the ubiquitous office pool (I should know, I ran the operation, back when I worked in an office), and dollars changing hands like so many dominoes and darts in the back rooms of bars. Make no mistake. For one thing, unlike recent “book apps” of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and T.S. For the first half of Super Sad True Love Story, quick, bitter little jokes pop on every page, one after the other, like rifle fire on opening day of hunting season. A lot of D’Agata’s adjustments to the actual do seem, in themselves, fairly harmless. If you need some historical context, you can read John Keegan’s excellent history, The First World War, or Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory. The whole “äppärät” thing is about as biting as my grandma making fun of Facebook. And he indulges himself, too, in airing a few entirely trivial pet peeves, of the kind all New Yorkers carry around in quantity, right next to their cellphones and their wallets. Nonetheless, Super Sad True Love Story is an achievement. “Harold?” he said. Of course, as Pablo Escobar could have told you, trading in such a market, to the enrichment of a few, also involves the exploitation of many. (I’m well aware that if bringing Joyce into this is unfair, bringing the Holocaust in is unforgivable. It is indeed super sad, though thankfully untrue and difficult to imagine as prescient, while proving by turns incisive and hilariously exaggerated in its skewering of American society’s excesses. I want to say he used the farm as a getaway car, but, well, he didn’t. Take a look at Gauge Fourteen: It should say ‘Northampton.’”) We spend our lives trying to understand the world, and understanding the world means telling ourselves stories about it; which means, of course, that we all run on stories, whether we’ve thought about it in those terms or not. We follow their technology based lives and see how their relationshps eveolved, and at one point came to an end. But in the end all he knows is his own—very sharp, fully human—mind. In the tradition of science fiction and apocalyptic storytelling, Shteyngart creates a world full of all-consuming technology that distracts from the fall of America and the rise of a new global economy. John D’Agata, you suspect, is calling us all dickheads. Nice review I love. By joining Slate Plus you support our work and get exclusive content. Being funny is a great blessing for an artist, but it can also be a weird kind of burden, because an audience denied the laughter it expects can turn kind of sullen. The not-too-distant future world in which he feels himself an anachronism is a place generally negotiated with the aid of an äppärät, an electronic communication and data-collecting device with which Lenny hardly feels comfortable. People who visit this site deserve better. (In Shteyngart’s electronic future, people communicate primarily by means of powerful little devices called äppäräti, which supply torrential streams of information to their rapt users.). And, more to the point, how do you live in a culture like that? This doesn’t even touch on the extra-literary ephemera of author webpages, book trailers,  online Q&As, Facebook posts, how-I-wrote-that-book craft essays, radio appearances, book-group appearances, and reading tours. And that’s why this sort of conversation always gets me peeved – and why the conversation also always ends up in circles – because the moment we start judging a form of art in terms of its “moral value” is the moment we stop talking about art. When D’Agata mentions a “small idle fleet of purple dog-grooming vans,” Fingal pulls him up on the color, pointing out that, in the notes he has provided, the vans are identified as pink. The VW does run on stories, mostly. “Look, look,” I said, checking for breath, for a pulse. I’m glad I did. This guy’s jokes are unfunny, his wit that of an adolescent boy. I have taken some liberties in the essay here and there, but none of them are harmful. He takes aim and the targets go down, unerringly. (It’s grossly unfair, of course, to compare any writer to Joyce, but if a guy was ever asking for it, it’s John D’Agata. I’ll admit to some skepticism when I first got this thing in the mail: “If you think raising a kid in today’s world is hard,” the jacket copy reads, “imagine how tough it would be if your child also happened to be a Volkswagen Beetle.”. The narrator gets yelled at by his boss for this reason. Unlike everyone else in this nightmarishly youth-obsessed America, he doesn’t monitor his blood pressure and ACTH levels constantly, and (his crowning eccentricity) he likes to read books. Why is it so hard to be a grown-up man in this world?” Bemoaning his fate thus is 39-year-old lovable loser Lenny Abramov, the bookish and neurotic Russian-Jewish-American protagonist of Gary Shteyngart’s feverish, boisterous, wildly funny yet also contrived and histrionic new novel: Super Sad True Love Story. The point of this book, in other words, is not the experience of reading it, but the cultural debate that has flared up around it. And he knows it: “For me to fall in love with Eunice Park just as the world fell apart would be a tragedy beyond the Greeks.”, Super Sad True Love Story comprises Lenny’s diary entries alongside Eunice’s text-messages, sent via her äppärät to family members and friends. But, to the detriment of the story, they remain surrounded by caricatures. The premise didn’t grab me, but on the other hand, the book is published by Melville House, which is one of my favorite presses. His name was Jack Molinas, and he played for my own dear alma mater, Columbia.The Wizard Of Odds: How Jack Molinas Nearly Destroyed the Game of Basketball, by Charley Rosen, is a solid read, one of the best examinations of the machinations that went on in college gymnasiums all over the country in the years after the CCNY scandal (you didn’t think the bookies just packed up and left town, did you?). The therapist turned to him. What is a little disturbing about this new edition is how neatly it dovetails with the proliferation of literary ephemera now attached to almost any modern publishing enterprise. There was nothing. Become a member today. Fine, I thought, a Volkswagen Beetle. As March Madness becomes more and more imprinted on the national calendar and the collective sports zeitgeist of millions of young men and women, most of whom can part with a ten or a twenty for the possibility of a big score, and the certainty of some televised excitement, as Vegas chews away on ever growing mouthfuls of greens, and as the cartel piles up larger and larger stacks of the same each year, the NCAA continues to be Teflon to the accusations that its practices are nothing short of exploitative toward the very individuals responsible for its undeniably superior product: the athletes. In a 3-4 page essay, respond to one of the following prompts: Super Sad True Love Story is a story about a relationship that falls apart; in fact, Eunice and Lenny breakup by the end of the novel. Despite D’Agata’s claims to the contrary, the work in general loses a non-trivial amount of its power when the reader is given cause to disbelieve these specifics. Score one for the little guy. The first, and biggest, of Lenny’s mistakes is embodied in the diary’s opening sentence: “Today I’ve made a major decision: I am never going to die.” This decision, though obviously—in the great Russian literary tradition—insane, is not entirely implausible in Lenny’s world. But Lenny Abramov has, as the novel opens, resolved that, after all, he really would like to live forever, because he has—this is the ur-mistake—fallen hopelessly in love with a woman 15 years his junior. I was hooked by the end of the first page. The primary theme is the importance of family. Subscribe For more great writing from our award-winning journalists subscribe for just £1 per month! Chapter 19 Summary: “The Rupture: From the Diaries of Lenny Abramov” Lenny’s diary picks up with a description of Grace and Vishnu’s pregnancy announcement party. It’s dead. (Farms, for example, and also musical riffs.) The son of a Russian immigrant falls in love with a young woman via social media in a dystopian New York dominated by media and commercialism. “The condom. At first, the book seems like Shteyngart business-as-usual as we delve into the diary of one Lenny Abramov, a pure exemplar of this writer’s favorite species of comic protagonist: a self-deprecating Russian-American Jewish male, self-conscious about his appearance, uselessly well-educated, wry, passionate, neither old nor young, and helplessly prone to error. These procedures are explicated at some length in the sections of How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive that are modeled after the 1969 Volkswagen handbook of the same title, where the narrator describes the chaotic and beautiful workings of the VW. For instance, a few years back, I enjoyed Sloane Crosley’s book of essays, I Was Told There Would Be Cake, but when things got slow, as they did for me a few times, it was fun to zip over to her website and check out the insanely great book trailer, featuring a man’s trousered fingers walking around a miniature apartment while a voice-over warbles, “Your fingers are just fingers, my fingers wear pants. ‘Super Sad True Love Story’ By Gary Shteyngart. Movies. Today, novels are sandwiched between pages of disingenuous blurbs, excerpted reviews, extended author bios, author interviews, reading group guides, lists of further reading, and, in some cases, whole chapters of the author’s next book. Overblown verbs, explosive nouns, beautifully bungled prepositions. Readers of George Saunders’s novellas and short stories may find the socio-economic landscape of Super Sad True Love Story somewhat familiar, what with the hegemony of corporations and the crazed consumerism of citizens. Back in New York City after his sabbatical in Rome, Lenny resumes work at the Post-Human Services division of a huge and—unbeknown to him—possibly sinister company. His best friend is a chest of drawers; they go hiking together. ), Van paint jobs and strip club statistics are one thing; the facts about a teenage boy’s suicide are another, and there’s something unsettling – even slightly creepy – about the way in which D’Agata insists on changing details about Levi Presley’s death. Dan Chaon is a writer for those of us who thought we’d left genre behind. A good deal of its power, though, is the result of what might be referred to as a poetry of fact. It’s not just that the culture is shallow and crummy; the real problem is that the shallowness and crumminess contribute to enabling a toxic, even a lethal, political environment, and as the novel goes along, the seriousness of Shteyngart’s purpose becomes more and more apparent, and the tone grows melancholy. Unice and Lenny’s relationship is a good example of this. But I also can’t help thinking of James Joyce who, when he was writing what was arguably the 20th Century’s greatest work of literature, tormented his brother Stanislaus with letters from wherever he happened to be in continental Europe, requesting that he measure, say, the precise amount of time it took to get from Sandymount Strand to the National Library on foot. “Listen,” I said. Thus, in of itself, this new edition, while not especially illuminating, is in no real way pernicious except perhaps in that it represents yet another effort to cash in on the Hemingway name, which has already given us three (lousy) posthumous novels, two (somewhat better) non-fiction books, and shelves full of lame compendia of Hemingwayiana with titles like Dateline: Toronto and Hemingway on Fishing. He amuses himself, for example, by inventing godawful brand names for the goods and services of the shameless future: The most popular clothing retailers boast the labels TotalSurrender, AssDoctor, and JuicyPussy. Again I don’t think it’s that big a deal.” There’s a sense in which he’s right, of course; who cares whether the vans were pink or purple? Super Sad True Love Story boasts two tormented but appealing protagonists locked in a deliciously tortuous love affair. Cormac McCarthy—from whom the expectation of humor is, let’s say, on the low end of the scale—didn’t have this problem when he wrote The Road. What we’re left with, through all the insanity and dizzying leaps of logic that make up Boucher’s world, are a series of absolutely human and recognizable truths: it’s unspeakably sad when a parent dies. And Lenny’s philosophical lament, equal parts rueful and self-deprecating, does not begin to encapsulate his troubles. “What?” she said, and turned on the light. You read that correctly. So if we’re going to talk, let’s talk.). And Shteyngart giving his stand-in a pretty 24-year-old girlfriend makes me gag. It also requires a certain variety of chai tea in large quantities, and also love. It’s a nice setup for a science-fiction comedy, particularly since the hero, prior to his momentous bad decision, has been pretty determinedly a pre-post-human kind of guy. While this thought is frightening to some, it was the singular goal to which Jack Molinas devoted his life. But its own excesses, the product of a willfully cynical attitude on Shteyngart’s part toward the future trajectory of American culture and politics, prevent the story from transcending the restrictive confines of satire, and eventually madden and exhaust even the most amenable and patient reader. Gary Shteyngart’s 2010 novel Super Sad True Love Story is a futuristic tale of love, mortality, family, and technology. Lenny, the romantic schlemiel, keeps reading—Chekhov, Tolstoy, Kundera—and keeps believing, against the best evidence, in love. Everything in this world is alive and animate. Read half of the book. But the movie made the point – we are getting one step toward totally stupid by the day. 'Super Sad' And Satiric, Two Stories Of Doomed Love. It’s no small thing for a writer as funny as Shteyngart to refrain from making jokes, as he largely does in the near-apocalyptic final third of Super Sad Love Story. But in the final analysis, who really cares? Forget dystopia; what we have here is much closer to Armageddon than the atomization of humankind Lenny previously found so soul-destroying. (Lenny and his friends frequent one called the Cervix.) Meanwhile, sexuality has become so commercialized that one can watch a political commentary show the gay host of which interrupts his observations to engage in live sex. Alyssa McDonald is a contributing editor of the New Statesman. You can live to be a thousand, and it won't matter. The Lifespan of a Fact dramatizes a clash of sensibilities – a conflict between an aesthete for whom the rhythm of a number is more important than its accuracy and an empiricist for whom facts are, whether we like it or not, facts. Until a day not long ago when it fell out of the stack — as things sometimes do, because the entire pile collapses every time a cat jumps on it — just when I was looking for a book to take with me on the subway. You’ve run out of free articles. But in Super Sad True Love Story, the jokes, offhanded as they seem, accumulate a certain weight—the volume and suffocating mass of an oppressive, inhospitable culture. In this grim future, New Yorkers’ search for ever-hipper neighborhoods has finally reached the outer limit of absurdity: The hottest bars in town are now on Staten Island. And is not a bad book boundlessly adolescent humor Baker ’ s very little entertainment enlightenment! 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