SUPER SAD TRUE LOVE STORY | A book review by weird speculative fiction writer Ted Fauster

by Gary Shteyngart

A book review by weird speculative fiction author Ted Fauster

By reading this review you are denying its existence and complying consent

The third novel from Russian-American satirist Gary Shteyngart is a refreshing dystopian, absurdist, slipstream, near-future political romp that stands up exceptionally well to the times. Given our current political situation, this book just might be what America needs to be reading right now.

Told through the detailed and quite expressive diary entries of one Lenny Abramov (a hilariously neurotic and naive life extension salesman living in New York), and the electronic messages of Eunice Park (his would-be Korean-American girlfriend more than a decade younger), the book fluctuates between these two very different POVs, serving up two halves of an unbalanced and possibly doomed whole. This is the love story. But the illusory and elusive promise of everlasting bliss often blinds us from the harsh realities of the world.

For me to fall in love with Eunice Park just as the world fell apart would be a tragedy beyond the Greeks.

As far as our dear narrator is concerned, truer words might never have been spoken.

Shteyngart’s satirical wizardry propels this novel along at a breakneck pace while simultaneously offering plenty of opportunities for reflection. Think the world is fucked up now? Just give this little book a read.

Where to start…

A good drop-in point might be the fact that China is about to call in all its loans to a consumerist United States now so far up its own ass that every citizen might need a window installed in their stomach just to see where they are going. Not that that would help. Everyone with a pulse has their nose buried in their apparats (the future’s even more annoying equivalent to a smart phone), even as the grip of a totalitarian police state keeps tightening, even as a war with Venezuela keeps pressing uncomfortably close to home, throwing a (possibly much-needed) wrench into the whole vapid mess.

At its true center, this book explores the widening divide between the haves and the half-nots, fueled by an out-of-control generational chasm distancing the newer, younger world obsessed with image and technology, constantly rating themselves and each other, and the geriatric regime spinning its wheels to keep up.

What was especially appealing for me is the way Shteyngart brilliantly sets you up. At times, the narrative seems obvious, drawing you toward conclusions that are inevitably shattered. What were you expecting? Once you begin to feel comfortable with this strange new world, everything takes a sudden and unexpected turn.

If you’re looking for a flashy, depressing futuristic read you might want to pass. This really is a love story, not just between two oddly paired individuals, but between mankind’s obsession with defeating the ultimate bummer, death itself.

Eternal life is the only life that matters, All else is just a moth circling a light.


ABSOLUTELY GOLDEN | A book review by weird speculative fiction author Ted Fauster

by D. Foy

A book review by weird speculative fiction author Ted Fauster

It’s the summer of 1973. No cellphones. No Internet. No worries.

And no clothes…

ABSOLUTELY GOLDEN follows the slow but steady cosmic awakening of Rachel, a mousy, middle-aged schoolteacher who, years after the numbing death of her husband, has allowed herself to be drawn into the parasitic orbit of obnoxious hedonist, Jack, a disgustingly charming character written so perfectly by Foy I could not divorce myself from the thought of Jeff Bridges carrying its weight. A bit of a stick in the mud, Rachel agrees to attend Camp Freedom Lake, a nudist colony in Northern California with Jack, and his ecdysiast “cousin” Jenny.

For me, Sharon Tate took on the persona of this demure woman turned radiant folk hero. Understandably apprehensive but emboldened, Rachel begins her journey by dying her hair a magnificent shade of gold. Little does she know, her entire world is about to be transformed.

This book shines, capturing the Magnavox gleam of the early ’70s in all its daft and sometimes dippy grandeur. Up at camp, a quirky cast of comedic perfection appears from out of the woodwork, plying for the attention of the radiant new goddess that is Rachel. Still uncomfortable in this new role, but willing to try it on, Rachel finds herself growing and transforming into an entirely different creature, while coming to grips with some stark realities hidden beneath the crusted veneer of her previous life.

It becomes clear, early on, that Rachel herself feels invisible, pushed along by tidal forces beyond her control and slowly drifting out to sea. All she wants is to be wanted. And, for once in her life, to be truly seen:

[…This went on, like some diabolical Mobius strip, until one Oakland night–one very hollow West Oakland night, I might add–a man in a bar walked right through me, the way ghosts are said to walk through walls. Finally, I understood….]

ABSOLUTELY GOLDEN is a Shakespearean odyssey, gifted with a bounteous amount of Dickensian dialogue and inner monologue that drips like honey:

[…”There was once a man,” he said, “whose love went unrequited for years. He’d tried everything to win his beloved, from serenading her in the moony light to sending her gifts of silver and gold and other shiny things….”]

It also has its fair share of pulp ’70s denim chic:

[…”And that’s cool, too, man, he’s pretty funky for an old jive-ass cat like that you know, duck, I mean, what with his going around without any pants and that….”]

This book is heavily dosed with all sorts of off-the-wall good humor, as well. And it would be a crime to take it too seriously. But maybe, like, that’s whole point, man!

For what’s its worth, this is one righteous read, and I am down, Charlie Brown. And I do mean, I can really dig it.