Today I've made a major decision: I am never going to die.
Others will die around me. They will be nullified. Nothing of their personality will remain. The light switch will be turned off. Their lives, their entirety, will be marked by glossy marble head-stones bearing false summations ("her star shone brightly," "never to be forgotten,""he liked jazz"), and then these too will be lost in a coastal flood or get hacked to pieces by some genetically modified future-turkey.
a.k.a how gary shteyngart's portrayal of future, fast-forwarded to an indefinite year ahead of us—perhaps no more pinpointed by number—first commences from the book's most ancient, most civilized, and most humane protagonist's perspective.
i used to think that i might want to keep something like a diary, but in a letter format to show to my children in future. of how much has changed. of how much is still relevant, like for example (my prediction of) the generation gap that technology will still not be able to bridge over or resolve. i think this book would have done it.
the book is set in (near?-)future, but because this is not a science fiction, the absence of exact calendar year is dismissed permissibly. (although we all would love to have one so we can compare when we reach the said year OH C'MON we all do. just look at 2001:a space odyssey and alikes.) the first noticeable thing is that it is fun to watch our current big names in music, literature, culture, etc referenced as 'stuff that were once big in another lifetime'. how stardom will eventually deplete and the 'had my time' imaginary emblem will be bestowed upon the currently (according to our timeline not the book's) revered stars.
the narrative mainly alternates between the diary entries of lenny abramov—perhaps the last man in america who still literally pens down his thoughts—and globalteens (a future social media integrating e-mail and messenger chat exchanges) entries of eunice park, the love of lenny's life. contrast in their usages of language protrudes noticeably here, as if lenny and eunice are from completely separate eras.
the future reality is built upon a construct in such way that is believable, indistant, but still oozes with surprising and funny elements. for example girls in future are obsessed with onionskins jeans that are made of transparent materials to show off their shaved labias and behinds. also people rate each other's fuckability, personality, and sustainability—the world then seems like a giant prototype of the sims or other simulation games. i ROFLAARP (one of the book's fav expressions) while reading these bits.
lenny is the sole character that connects the book's reality with ours—he's the only one left who still treasures physical reading activity when the rest are 'scanning through the information' on their apparati (all-in-one electronic devices), online shopping, or streaming. it is mentioned in the book that the last physical library book has just been closed for good. discussed this over english breakfast skinny pizza, seems like a foreseeable idea via invasion of e-books, closing of a few giant bookstores in singapore. sad.
and here we have our lenny, a literate immigrant in his late thirties, an NYU graduate from moscow with degrees in english and business. going down to the most crucial information; lenny is a guy who has alarmingly low fuckability, less than average personality, and moderately high sustainability. and he is completely floored, knees on shaggy rug, by eunice park the tiny young fickle korean mind, whom he first meets in rome during his supposedly business trip.
lenny works for this post-human service that mainly aims to extend people's lives without any divine intervention, only via extremely 'healthy diet' topped off with shiny polish of some advanced technology. his task is to find high net worth individuals (your financial and even personal information are just a click away from curious peeks) who might be interested in the manifestation of the concept of eternity. in order to be qualified, viewed as deserving by the company of the highly personalized beatific treatment, one must not only possess a strong financial standing, but also several other qualities that are gauged via the conducted tests/surveys. this took my interest as i think, in the era where the idea of death still haunts every living human being, the ambrosial smell of eternity often tempts but challengingly requires wise handling which could be laborious from a lot of aspects. e.g, assuming now you can afford the treatment, can you sustain that given blessing when you have to bear the thoughts of or even eventually be outliving your children? or wife? or friends? etc…seems like one neglected area when eternity is offered as a luxury commodity, limited in quantity.
it is not like the research is all and thorough; it is still ongoing and hence we have joshie, lenny's boss, as their current object of experiment (not that it's a bad thing AT ALL, actually). he is under this impression that his aging process has now been reversed—living in his 70s but indulging in early 30s rigged vigor. his escape from death is not still a guaranteed success but at least his life expectancy is growing (hopefully) exponentially.
there are so much thoughts going on for this topic. what's the basis for human desire in living longer? where are the secret pollen grains? is it because some of us regard ourselves as more important than others so we become sure that our prolonged existence will give off benefits to our surrounding? or is it mere selfishness? is it the wanting, the curiosity to explore what's beyond a sole generation, to experience newness and oldness first-hand?
for me it would the last one, if i ever had the chance to be in contact with this unearthly quality. i want to slice through generations and feel the lives i'm not supposed to be living. to understand the young flames in an unending cycle, how it differs through the years but never dwindles. to strive for excellence that can't be done in one lifetime, single generation. now let's try to bring this to a more applicable level. when we migrate from 'english-as-a-second-language' country to 'english-speaking' country, it's hard for us the first generation to obtain the full grasp of the language. but there is a high likeliness that the second one will come out redhanded with the much treasured possession, one that is not merely supported by intensive education and rock-hard willpower but also real, forced, deep-rooted learning experience through early authentic encounters; customary, much needed frequency; and direct applications. applies to other languages, especially those that greatly differ from our first language in nature.
the love life is the main stage that absorbs most of the sympathetic limelight, apprehending applause, and cheeky laughter. the topsy-turvy, uneven life paths the characters lead; to which overload, impossible cuteness, awwness, and ewwnes all cling on. (there are only thin lines disjoining them anyway.) the idea of the all-eembracing love knowing no conditions (I knew that I could never leave her. No matter how she treated me. No matter how bad she made me feel. Because in her anger and anxiety there was familiarity and relief.), and hence compromising ("Eunice, go to bed. We don't have to ever read again. I promise. How can we read when people need our help? It's a luxury. A stupid luxury."), unfaltered, kind and immaculate, accepting (She turned around and brushed my graying hair with her moisturized hands. I prepared myself for a comment on my age and looks. I prepared myself to become Chekhov's ugly merchant Laptev again. I knew this hurt so well, it actually had left a strange foretaste in my mouth, that of almonds and salt.), untarnished, not so much pure but constantly rebuilt and fixed. takes so much effort, so much labor and hard work but in the end they all amount to one hope that it will all work out in the end. how love transforms and how love stays, how love studs sturdy at the backbones of the lover, its marrow melting on fire, constantly rekindled and remolded back. the very familiar taste of pain, of trembles, of ambiguous moans, of immeasurable duration of kneeling and crying. gaps and differences. eventually commonalities of third party have to intervene, differences have to step back and gaps have to give way. two lovers are (and CAN ALWAYS be) too different and it takes time to realize that it all is so futile if you think that way. but you can refuse to and learn the hard way. i mean, you'll learn that you can't smoothen the frictions, iron out the incompatibilities that easily. you can't expect so much of immediate change in your partner. you have to acknowledge that there are some immalleable traces that can never be reshaped no matter how much you try. love doesn't work that way, more often than not.
I had either to accept the girl cradled in my arms, or to spend the rest of my time searching for something else.
yep. just these two options.
but the end of the road, when the road finally branches and these two romantic counterparts have to part, is still comforting because being with someone whom you don't love/who doesn't love you is just "a little less painful than being alone." but it's much truer.
immigrant lives. during the first half our shaking mirths are lubricated via eunice's mom broken korean english, and her inarticulateness in using technology
but the middle and the second one feed our thoughts more
beliefs and religions (apparently people still go to church and some are still conservative) (i'm not saying that religion is obsolete, but it's a difficult idea that clashes hard with the skeptic minds full of contemporary ideas). the throbbing truth that even if one happens to be a devotee, s/he must be in complete (although sometimes unconscious) awareness of the high chance upon giving birth to some delicate being devoid of coerced faith in the presence of superior deities. that his/her child might very well believe that goodness does not always have to trickle out from an unknown mind. that goodness is in all of us, not in gods. the next generation will ask for concrete truths. instant rewards. or 'evidence'. 'where is god? god is just some imaginary figure you can gingerly pass your burden, your insecurities over to; because it's easier to live that way. to think that there's someone else responsible for each of our unhappiness and to think that there's someone else capable of each of our happiness. to think that all is just and fair, that we can get some rewards for our good deeds in afterlife. that we need gods to motivate us to do good because otherwise, on our own will, deep down we are all evil. so believe. even if you don't.' that kind of stuff. you know.
all in all i need to pin down my immediate thought on the book: THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANTSLASHINTERESTING, ALL-ENCOMPASSING WORK THAT TRANSCENDS BOUNDARIES OF BOTH GENRES AND AGES (caps lock activated to reveal a sense of urgency, not boiled rage). please read this book. (but it's okay if you don't want to. perhaps that's just to show how deep the slit the book had wounded my holy arm and seep into me. or it's just a way of saying that i like this book so much and it is my favorite modern literature ever. also there was like this very IMPORTANT reference to kundera's the unbearable lightness of being a.k.a our era, used as a tool to make up a romantic relationship. even though it fails. how appropriate.)
days taken to finish: 5 days
apple cider to celebrate the discovery of this book yesterday, subliminal celebratory concealed by a customary dinner from the exterior. this i just realized today. thanks for the brief discussion and listening to my frivolous tidbits. and for the bacon and sunny side up egg pizza dinner.
why do you think you would be happier if you could live forever?