Super Sad True Love Story - Gary Shteyngart The author of Super Sad True Love Story takes us to a dystrophic alternate reality where The United States is in an unending war with Venezuela, its economy is in free fall having been tagged to the Chinese Yuan and is teetering on collapse. This is a capitalistic 1984 with Big Brother replaced by a cartoon otter. The citizens are monitored through their apparats, a form of super I-Phone where there is no privacy and their worth is determined by their credit points, personality ratings and hotness scale. Classes are divided between LNWI (Low Net Worth Individuals) and HNWI (High etc. etc.) While New York burns, people are more interested in their Facebook-like existence and utter acronyms like ROFLAARP (Rolling on Floor Looking at Addictive Rodent Pornography)or TIMATOV (Think I’m About To Openly Vomit).

Sound familar?

To borrow a phrase from a long gone sci-fi TV series, Shteyngart's universe is 20 minutes in the future. If this was all, SSTLS (Can't I use acronyms too?) would still be a clever socio-political satire. Yet Shteyngart tips the scale and throws in a poignant love story between two ill-matched persons: a 39 year old Jewish-Russian salesman with low self-esteem and family issues and a 24 year old Korean girl with only slightly better disguised low self-esteem and family issues. The merging of socio-political satire and dark romance is a balancing act deserving of the Flying Wallendas. I am reminded of Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being in the idea of two lovers trying to survive as their world collapses under them. This similarity is certainly not lost on Shteyngart as he directly references Kundera's great novel at a crucial point. I also think SSTLS (CIUAT?) can be read as a sort of a 21st century Portnoy's Complaint as Lennie explores his ethnic issues and deal with his own RAGness (Rapidly Aging Geezer). Yes, the author is clever but it is the kind of cleverness that forces us to look at our own social, political and personal issues in a world that may not be there for us very much longer.