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When Fiction is “Super True”

Monday, July 18, 2011 by cyberacoustics

I read a lot, and I’m a big fan of Russian author Gary Shteyngart, so when his new book “Super Sad True Love Story” came out, I was really excited to dive in. I blew through it in about two days, loving the dystopian picture of the future he presented.

In Shteyngart’s world, we’re all linked together by devices called äppäräts, which hang around our necks and are the natural evolution of the smartphone. We can broadcast our thoughts, rank others around us on beauty (intelligence is no longer a commodity—people “text scan” instead of read), and get all of the information we need about anything and everything from the äppäräts. The whole thing is a little terrifying, and the fact that it’s completely possible makes it even more so.

For a book that takes a dim view of the future and social media, it was certainly marketed using 21st century tactics. I mentioned how much I was enjoying it to my friends, and one of them pulled up the book trailer on youtube.

Book trailers are a relatively new thing (I remember working on some when I worked at an ad agency in 2004), but more and more publishing companies are making them part of their marketing repertoire. We laughed at the book trailer (it features James Franco!) and I immediately posted it on my facebook, where a few people liked it and said they were interested in reading it. Just like the publishing company wanted me to, I spread the word about this book through social media.

I was scanning TechCrunch on Friday, and Shteyngart popped up on the Internet AGAIN! This time, he was interviewed by one of the editors and spoke at length about the way social media and information-sharing are portrayed in his book. It’s a fascinating interview; he makes a lot of good points about the erosion of privacy in our society, and how all the sharing that we do with everyone comes at a price. The irony of Shteyngart promoting a book that warns about the dangers of technology on a technology site was a little amusing, but the marketing plan for this book clearly makes use of social media as a tool.

One of the most compelling parts of “Super Sad True Love Story” for me personally was how in Shteyngart’s future, no on reads physical books anymore. Young people say they smell bad, and the protagonist hoards them and hopes no one will accuse him of smelling like the books. As a lifelong reader, it really struck me as sad. I thought about how disturbing that was for a while.

Then I turned off my Kindle and went to sleep.

-Laine Towey, CA Marketing Manager


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