Clippings of an itinerant reader

"A man unstuck from place and time, he travels the world on foot, his only lifeline to his friends and family a litany of dreary picture-postcards sent from arbitrary locations the world over."

Gary Shteyngart even got Occupy Wall Street right

"So the next day I went back to Tompkins Park with some cases of bottled water…. There were all these hipsters running around streaming about the riots, but nobody’s really helping out the LNWIs[Low-Net-Worth Individuals]. I hung out with David, that cute guy who was in the National Guard in Venezuela. He has like four teeth in his mouth because he never had Dental and he was in an explosion. But it’s still very inspiring to talk to him, because he always says what he means (unlike Lenny and his friends). Like he’ll say ‘Shut up!’ or ‘You’re wrong, Eunice,’ or ‘You have no idea what you’re talking about,’ or ‘That’s just a High Net Worth way of looking at things.’ I like that, when people actually call you on your shit.
     “The way they have it set up is pretty amazing. It’s a tiny little park, but like every little bit of it is used for a purpose…. There’s recycling of all foods from garbage cans which is kind of gross, but basically people like Lenny throw out so much stuff that David said you can get like ten meals out of the typical dinner wasted by a Credit guy from the East Village. They’re so organized here, it kind of reminds me of my family growing up. Everyone’s assigned a role, no matter how young or old, and everyone has to do their part, even the snobby Credit and Media guys who lost their jobs and now live in the park.”

     -Gary Shteyngart, Super Sad True Love Story


“Super Sad” takes place in the near future, and Mr. Shteyngart has extrapolated every toxic development already at large in America to farcical extremes. The United States is at war in Venezuela, and its national debt has soared to the point where the Chinese are threatening to pull the plug. There are National Guard checkpoints around New York, and riots in the city’s parks. Books are regarded as a distasteful, papery-smelling anachronism by young people who know only how to text-scan for data, and privacy has become a relic of the past. Everyone carries around a device called an äppärät, which can live-stream its owner’s thoughts and conversations, and broadcast their “hotness” quotient to others. People are obsessed with their health — Lenny works as a Life Lovers Outreach Coordinator (Grade G) for a firm that specializes in life extension — and shopping is the favorite pastime of anyone with money.

It’s “zero hour for our economy,” says one of Lenny’s friends, “zero hour for our military might, zero hour for everything that used to make us proud to be ourselves.” (review)