Gary Shteyngart, author of The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, creates a compelling reality in this tale about an illiterate America in the not-too-distant future. Lenny Abramov may just be penning the world’s last diary. Which is good, because while falling in love with a rather unpleasant woman and witnessing the fall of a great empire, Lenny has a lot to write about.
©2010 Gary Shteyngart (P)2010 Recorded Books, LLC
"Shteyngart's earnestly struggling characters—along with a flurry of running gags—keep the nightmare tour of tomorrow grounded. A rich commentary on the obsessions and catastrophes of the information age and a heartbreaker worthy of its title, this is Shteyngart's best yet." (Publishers Weekly)
"Full-tilt and fulminating satirist Shteyngart is mordant, gleeful, and embracive as he funnels today's follies and atrocities into a devilishly hilarious, soul-shriveling, and all-too plausible vision of a ruthless and crass digital dystopia in which techno-addled humans are still humbled by love and death." (Booklist)
“It’s not easy to summarize Shteyngart; there’s so much satirical gunpowder packed into every sentence that the effect gets lost in the short version. But basically, this is a love story [that is] ridiculously witty and painfully prescient, but more than either of those, it’s romantic." (Time)
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
Brilliant. I very much enjoyed Steyngart's Absurdistan, which satirized the former Soviet Union, but his writing reaches a whole new level here. This is a book about the near future America seems to be headed for, a country that's become a bankrupt, corporate-controlled police state on the verge of collapse, while mainstream Americans lead lives of vapid indifference, aggressively obsessed with youth, beauty, media profiles, and their rankings on a facebook-like service that publicly rates citizens on everything from their credit score to their "f***ability" (this is not a book for the prudish). It's very pointed satire, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, but often depressing because it's just close enough to reality.
Steyngart does a marvelous job with his two main characters: there's Lennie, a shlumpy, trod-upon 39 year old who works as a salesman at a life extension company, has a set of hilariously-rendered Russian immigrant parents who spend their day watching "Fox Liberty Ultra", hangs out with self-righteous hipster friends, and clings to his antiquated hobby of collecting old books in a post-literate era. He falls obsessively in love with Eunice Park, a young Korean-American woman who personifies much about Generation iPhone, with her short attention span, text message vocabulary, constant online shopping (for brands with names like "Juicy P***y"), and lifelong immersion in a culture of looks and casual sex, and who struggles with her own old-country parents (including a mom whose advice-filled, English-challenged emails are quite funny). Their relationship captures, in a rich way, so much about the America we're living in. Steyngart doesn't take the easy path of simply mocking his self-absorbed characters (flawed though they are), but gives them them earnest voices, making them people we empathize with as the artificial bubbles of their worlds burst. Perhaps, in part, because it could soon happen to us.
Funny, depressing, sweet, and frightening all at once.
Wonderful, entertaining, smart, provocative book that is very well directed and perfectly read by two characters. This book lends itself very well to audio because it's essentially two narrators describing the world. I have recommended this book to everyone I know but be forewarned, the "near-future" described is slightly raunchy and not for the grandmothers of the world.
Loved this book. Great stuff, highly entertaining and very original. Superb narration by two readers, nuanced and both enhance the story. A future not so distant. You'll need to be an iphone user with plenty of apps to really understand and benefit from what is going on. Comedy, tragedy, pathos; all there. Takes some focus to listen to. The sex writing is in your face, so faint of heart beware...would definitely be an awkward moment in car with spouse; but the cartoonish sexuality of it is important and imparts an edge - and is nowhere near the pornography of the ever so real and pending Entertainment Tonight/Haliburton life this novel captures. Recommend for those looking for something fresh.
I have no unusual insights to add, but Shteyngart falls short on two counts: the title of this book is inane, and the ending makes it a "Super Trite" True Love Story - I won't spoil it but Lenny's end is really overdone, overrated, and typical of most examples of narcissistic entitlement.
My usual critiques apply here: too much about characters and situations that are not interesting, and not enough about the people who really do have something interesting to offer. I don't think "Eunice" - or "Yew-niss" as the narrator says it, or "UNIS" like some weird acronym - is very appealing at all. What does she offer?? Just pretty-ness? Whatever it is she's got, this book ignores it. I loved that the Italian actresses mocked her.
Still Gary Shteyngart managed to keep me entertained and laughing, and also depressed at times. I look forward to "verbal"-ing about this with friends and family, and streaming on our "operati".
Not because the first half was so much better than the second...for the exact opposite reason. In other words, because I realized nothing major, climactic, "more," was going to happen...which perhaps was the goal of the author but it did make for a frustrating, at times boring story to listen to driving through endless Texas. I found the idea very interesting (and that is why I downloaded the book). I also thought it was well said and it had some high points, again, mostly in the beginning when the author describes the world...sometimes it was even funny. BUT the characters, well, the main character in particular, Lenny, was so painfully annoying...I don't need "likeable" characters to like a story (If you used to watch Nip/Tuck, well, none of the characters was remotely like-able, yet the show was great)...I can't pin point what it was that I hated about Lenny...Perhaps his infatuation with a much younger girl who looked like a pre-pubescent girl (based on the description)? The fact that he was more superficial than his boss but he didn't seem to think so cause he read books? I don't know...all I know is that the only parts that were interesting and would not lose my attention by a cactus outside my car window were the "girl" monologues...That reader was absolutely awesome and I'd like to thank her from the bottom of my heart for bringing Eunice to life...maybe it was because of the reader that I thought Eunice's character was much better developed than Lenny's ...She was a horribly damaged and disturbed person but I'd listen to her over Lenny any day. And as I mentioned before, NOTHING happens...ever!!! Even when major events do take place, nothing happens! Nothing (Sorry I just had a deja vu arguing about this with my boyfriend while we were driving...I was trying to convince him to throw this audio cd out the window)
(PS. the three stars are for the concept of the story, the few interesting satires/current reality references, and the Eunice character reader)
While not the best novel I've ever come across, it, having been well written and decidedly entertaining...I did want to know what happened next... also left me with things to ponder. I doubt that this novel is "art" in the common parlance. Probably not a "classic" either. But it has strong elements of both, in my opinion, I think some people might refer to this kind of novel as dystopic futurism or pessimistic science fiction. Use either category and I'd put it in the 90th percentile along with the "The 4 Fingers of Death". But it also has much in common with a book like "I Am Charlotte Simmons" by Tom Wolfe which is neither futuristic nor science fiction.
The readers were both first rate. They filled out the parts of the main characters superbly
and with feeling. I could feel the angst.
I agree with some readers who've said that they had difficulty in "liking" the main characters, especially Lenny. But Lenny truly fits the profile of the classic protagonist...hubris and all.
He wants to be the contemporary knight on a white horse, the rescuer of beautiful (his definition) damsels in distress But when he sweeps up the lovely but abused and misunderstood fair lady, and gives all he has to give, like most of his kind, he ends up being humiliated and betrayed by the damsel and defecated upon by the horse. Nor was Eunice particularly endearing ... but she was true to herself, making hard choices based solely on her perception of her own self interest.
The author's canvas, the background for this love story, was very recognizable, unfortunately, as one likely path this country's citizens might very well choose.. And he did a very, very good job of "painting" it. I couldn't look away from it very easily.
Not suited for everyone's taste, especially those offended by foul language and frequent casual, concrete references to the amazing growth and evolution of the "pornography" business. Nevertheless, I thought it was a fine listen and would highly recommend it to fans of this kind of literature.
I enjoy plot driven novels; I enjoy character driven novels...This one was neither. The best thing I can say is to mention why I never thought reading someone else's journal or diary would hold an interest for me: like most people, these characters are insanely ordinary and boring! I bought it for the premise, but unlike some other reviewers ("Our 1984," really?) it was at best, mocking. And as for characters I've found the teenagers in my neighborhood more interesting.
Yes, but with caveats. I love; satire, sciency fiction, distopian visions of the future, and apocalyptic scenarios. I'm also not afraid of wading through some pretty depressing and unrelenting stories. If that is you than this story might be right up your ally. P.S. His characters were a little two dimensional but I wouldn't get hung up on that, the story is really good.
My favorite aspect of the story was the ideas about life extension, death, and wealth. He did an excellent job of delving into the realities a society might face when approaching the real possibility of technology that can increase lifespan. (I mean technically we're already there with respect to increasing lifespans across the world.)
First time listener to these readers. The experience was without any flaws that I can recall.
This story occasionally made me feel hopeless and angry. It is certainly not uplifting, but few stories with an ounce of truth are.
I've been meaning to read this author for a while, and am so glad to have finally gotten around to it via audiobook. The narrator enhanced what is already a brilliant book with endearing characters by 50% or so.
If it weren't for Audible I'd never get any reading done.
Despite its dumb title, this is a very intelligent and scary glimpse of life in America in about 2020. The hero is a schlubby Jewish NYU grad, similar to a Woody Allen hero or the protagonist of Sam Lipske's The Ask, who can't really manage life in a hyper-capitalist-materialist America where the US dollar has lost most of its value, your sex appeal and credit rating are instantly displayed on iPhone-type apps as soon as you walk into a bar, and women walk around in see-through clothing.
Curiously, there is a prescient Occupy Wall Street-type movement that goes on throught the story. The novel's fears???that the generation growing up now will be utterly vacuous and materialistic and allow the US to crumble??? seem a little dated only 3 years after it was written. At least I hope they do.
Readers are OK. Ali Ahn is trying to sound like a vapid young woman, and that's more annoying than amusing.
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