This week NPR featured an interview with a geeky, nebbish-y, Jewish, middle-aged, Russian-born literature professor from Columbia University by the name of Gary Shteyngart. Shteyngart is also, according to many, the greatest living American writer.
I love good satire (Carl Hiassen, for example). Shteyngart’s latest book, Super Sad True Love Story, sounded wickedly funny, so I bought a copy.
SSTLS is kind of like a modern version of A Confederacy of Dunces…..on acid. America is a post-apocalyptic (financial apocalypse, not nuclear) wasteland owned, part and parcel, by China. The US buck is called the “Yuan-pegged dollar”. All major US corporations have collapsed into bankrupt oligarchies, such as the airline UnitedContinentalDeltamerican. No Asians fly commercial because they’re all rich enough to have their own private jets. All global citizens wear a device called an “aparat”, which is a cross between a smartphone and the Big Brother channel from 1984. Upon walking into a room, one’s aparat ranks everybody in the room according to their wealth, their attractiveness, and their health (bad cholesterol, genetic defects). People also use their aparat to communicate via a ubiquitous internet-based presence called GLOBALTEENS, which is sort of a global Twitter, Facebook, and satellite TV all rolled into one. Using their aparats, everyone has their own TV network.
SSTLS is a wild roller-coaster ride. I read about 100 pages (of 350) today, and I can’t put it down.
Ironically, the main theme of Shteyngart’s interview was that nobody buys books any more, because everybody wants to write. Nobody wants to read.