While attending the interactive portion of SXS recently, I took a couple of books with me to read on the plane. One of which was Gary Shteyngart’s ‘Super Sad True Love Story’. Shteyngart is one of those modern authors that people talk about but whom I always assumed would be someone I’d never read. I only had the book at all because it was a NY Times Notable Book of the Year and thought I should at least possess it, even if it would likely remain one of those legion of unopened books I have on my shelves. Well happy chance, because I have to say this has probably impressed me more than than any novel released last year or the year before.
The reason had a lot to do with my presence at SXSW. Here was novel set in the very near future that reflected social media and its effect on modern lives. The ability for people to judge each others social status and attractiveness instantly and often via technology.The way everything is turned into a competitive game with results that served as a substitute for actual intuition and judgement.
And at the heart of all that are characters who you grow to care about, making the novel more than just a clever idea from a great modern satirist.
So many modern novels are modern in name only. I think this is because the authors themselves don’t take part in the modern world. They are the types who don’t watch TV, download apps or trawl the web for stuff like the rest of us. They are somehow above it all and as such when they write, however skilled they are, they feel irrelevant.
Of course when you write of the hear and now you often date quickly but that’s OK by me. I’d rather read a novel that attempts to reflect life now, then one that seems to be wholly written with posterity in mind.