Like his predecessors in angst with a laugh, Woody Allen and Philip Roth, Shteyngart is preoccupied with mortality. Lenny's job is in "post-human services" offering "High Net Worth individuals" the chance of what seems to be eternal youth, and the opening sentence of Super Sad True Love Story couldn't be catchier: "Today I've made a major decision: I am never going to die ." However, Lenny, as a bona fide schlemiel (there is a running gag that he is almost the last person in the US to still read books, something that brands him as a moribund loser and weirdo), doesn't make it to that sort of immortality.
After meeting Lenny on an extended Roman holiday, blistering Eunice puts that Assertiveness minor to work, teaching our “ancient dork” effective new ways to brush his teeth and making him buy a cottony nonflammable wardrobe. But America proves less flame-resistant than Lenny’s new threads. The country is crushed by a credit crisis, riots break out in New York’s Central Park, the city’s streets are lined with National Guard tanks on every corner, the dollar is so over, and our patient Chinese creditors may just be ready to foreclose on the whole mess. Undeterred, Lenny vows to love both Eunice and his homeland. He’s going to convince his fickle new love that in a time without standards or stability, in a world where single people can determine a dating prospect’s “hotness” and “sustainability” with the click of a button, in a society where the privileged may live forever but the unfortunate will die all too soon, there is still value in being a real human being.