Gary Shteyngart

With e-Books outselling hardcovers on Amazon, the uncertain future of traditional reading makes Super Sad True Love Story (Random House, $26) even more topical. It’s a near-futuristic satire of corporations gone amok whose nebbishy hero clings to print, even as his wavering girlfriend complains that books smell funny. But Gary Shteyngart (Absurdistan) is caught in the same technological/generational divide: He frets in The New York Times that nobody has the patience to read anything longer than the latest tweet on their iPhone. At the same time, the book’s hilarious promotional video on YouTube (with cameos by James Franco, Jay McInerney, Edmund White, and Jeffrey Eugenides) portrays the author as a bumbling illiterate. (But, as the Times also reports, his shtick just bought him a $1 million Gramercy Park apartment.) SSTLS envisions America on the verge of collapse and past. The dollar is worthless. The Chinese own our overleveraged asses. Black helicopters fire missiles at passenger ferries on the Hudson. Tech companies are selling eternal youth, and every casual hook-up is carefully considered for its financial value. Credit scores are flashed and monitored for all to read; privacy is extinct, and personal information a commodity. Yet Shteyngart’s idealistic schlemiel continues to believe in love and letters, even as society crumbles around him. BRIAN MILLER

Tue., Aug. 3, 6:30 p.m., 2010

 
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