This summer, I’m sure you will be very busy. Me too. I’m going to quit both my jobs and blow my life savings traveling to see friends and doing whatever I want before medical school swoops down and eats my life. I’m really going to miss having free time to read for pleasure, it’s one of my favorite activities (watch the same story on TV? Bitch plz. It’s way better in my head!).
And, according to my MCAT prep books, pre-meds don’t read for pleasure. SAY WHAT. Probably because we spend so much time reading for class. Regardless, there is so much amazing stuff in the world of literature! Plus, it’ll help your vocabulary, reading comprehension, make you more cultured, and book nerds are the coolest.
Don’t fret about finding the gems among the stacks and stacks in libraries and book stores; I’m going to post an incredible new book every week.
#1: Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
I love a good dystopian novel (1984 by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, a la high school English class, for example), usually because they make me feel a little better about the world we currently live in. I can put the book down and look outside my window and breathe a sigh of relief. Not so with this book; this book made me worry because of the bleak, imminent likelihood of this reality evolving into that imagined reality.
I first read a lovely excerpt in the New Yorker (you have to have a subscription to read it now, the trolls) and promptly forgot about the book until I saw it on a friend’s bookshelf some months later. She kindly lent it to me, and I spent the next couple days oscillating between horrified and slightly amused, my myopic eyes inches from the pages.
In the not too distant future, America’s economy has completely collapsed and the dollar is completely worthless. There is one political party and the country is pretty much a xenophobic totalitarian police state, one that is on the brink of total chaos. Almost every company has merged to form a small handful of giant conglomerates. Young Americans are shallow, entitled, greedy, selfish and emotionally devoid of any complexity other than pettiness. Books are gross because they ‘smell bad’ and people don’t read, they scan for information.
Everyone’s life revolves around a small device called an äppärät; I imagined it somewhat similar to an iPhone, only smaller. You talk to people on it, you shop on it and with it, the government uses it instead of a passport, and most importantly it broadcasts every last detail about you (sexual preferences, the all important credit score, childhood photos, etc) to everyone’s äppärät around you. In whatever place you are in, your rankings in such important categories as Fuckability and Personality are painfully evident.
Sex… oh my. The casualness and complete permeation of sex in the culture even made me feel like a Victorian prude. Girls wear translucent “Onionskin” jeans that just show all your goddamn ladybits for everyone to gawk at (it helps your ratings though!). Common retail stores are called “JuicyPussy” and “AssLuxury”, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg, my friends.
In the midst of all this madness, the hopeless romantic 39-year-old man, Lenny, falls in love with a complex 20something woman, Eunice. Can they make it? Is the title a hint to the end of the story?
I find myself comfortably identifying with Lenny and also, alarmingly, with Eunice. I recognize my generation in the young people represented in this book, to my embarrassment. There is some measure of redemption towards the end, but not much.
You just have to read it for yourself.
Also a much better in-depth review from the Washington Post if you don’t believe me how awesome this book is (frankly, I’m offended):