Author Shteyngart sees fall of digital-gripped U.S.

Wed Sep 15, 2010 12:48pm EDT
 
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By Walker Simon

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Russian-American author Gary Shteyngart's new book is a vision of a fast-declining America, obsessed by youthfulness, gripped by omniscient smartphones and swayed by monopolies and the Bank of China.

A cash-strapped United States is at war with Venezuela and the Chinese yuan-pegged dollars are coveted currency.

"Super Sad True Love Story," uses e-mails to develop a star-crossed romance. Like Shteyngart, the protagonist Lenny Abramov is his late 30s, slight, balding, Jewish and a native Russian speaker. The fictional challenge is to woo a hyper-intelligent Korean-American beauty, aged 24.

Shteyngart spoke to Reuters about the book and how, like George Orwell's "1984," the novel includes a love story to draw readers into a world extrapolated from the present.

Q. How did you come up with the character in your latest book?

A. "I wanted somebody who at age 39 is completely obsolete. In this society, anyone who is not young is finished. And people go to great lengths to be young. Like all satire, speculative fiction, I'm extrapolating from what is happening today. I love characters who are not quite up to the society which they find themselves but are still great romantics. That's where (Korean-American) Eunice comes in, she's gorgeous."

Q. Why a younger Korean-American woman?

A. "I wanted to create a love affair between two children of immigrants. Lenny and Eunice fall in love. They're very mismatched, but they come from two dysfunctional immigrant families, so they're kind of made for each other.   Continued...

 
<p>Russian-American author Gary Shteyngart poses for a picture in New York, September 6, 2010. Shteyngart's new book is a vision of a fast-declining America, obsessed by youthfulness, gripped by omniscient smartphones and swayed by monopolies and the Bank of China. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid</p>