Trying to talk to you–communication in a Super Sad True Love Story

I’ll start by saying: all art is in one way or another about communication. When honestly done, this makes art one of the most special things we as human beings achieve. No other species, as far as I can tell, acts on their imagination as much as us. And literature, writing, whether it be poetry or novels, is all the more exemplary of this notion as it uses our verbal language to communicate between the author and reader. Gary Shteyngart makes communication one of the central things of his wonderful novel Super Sad True Love Story as he creates his not-particularly-far-off future. This world is so much like our own as we see the myriad of ways in which communication is so difficult, so hard and yet of the utmost importance to life and meaning. And in his world there is so much technology, so much stuff that is frighteningly similar to what we have today, that exacerbates this difficulty. In his novel there is love abound in a number of incarnations, romantic for Lenny and Eunice, familial for each one of them and their respective families and a dozen other examples of how lust pushes other emotions out and to the side (especially in these rather appalling fuckability scores—how does one get such a number? How can such a score be quantified and standardized?).

 

While these new, technologically assisted ways of communicating (FACing being but one) increase the interflow in the way FaceBook allows us to talk with people we otherwise could not or would not, they also create increased layers—more and more onionskins to hide behind, even when seeming to bare all. To use the example of FaceBook—and I don’t mean to dis such a thing, because it can be great, connecting people and communities and sharing knowledge and information in ways other generations could never have achieved—but it also tricks us. It makes us think that we know someone before we know someone. There is the age old adage to not judge a book by its cover, but this needs updating—don’t judge anything by their facebook. Because there’s no way (and I truly believe this) that one could ever understand even a glimmer of someone just from their internet selves. Again, to go back to FACing, can we really judge each other based on our health records and bank statements? What our favorite sex position is? No way. Every person is so intangibly different that even human-to-human interface is never enough. Understanding is not necessarily achievable—not in a quantifiable way, at least. This is why we make art in the first place. If Gary could say what we wanted to say in a sentence then wouldn’t he? Wouldn’t he be able to sell that for $16 if it could have the same impact? I think so—and yet this isn’t possible.

 

Art is always communication, and at times tries to communicate the deepest and most nuanced feelings we have. Things that aren’t otherwise communicable. There is no way to put a feeling into a number—no way one could glean this from another’s social media profile. And so summarily, what I’m saying is not that these things are evil—the ways our society as created new and interesting and at times shallow and inauthentic means of communication—I am saying that we ought to be careful. To not forget how important it to see with our eyes other eyes before us. To love outside computer screens. To be with each other, to communicate and to be honest. It is all we have, and unlike the internet, is not infinite. To make the most of it, of each other, is our duty as human beings.

 

Theo

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~ by theoy on April 13, 2014.

One Response to “Trying to talk to you–communication in a Super Sad True Love Story”

  1. You know, I really think you can learn a lot about a person based on their favorite sex position, their health records, their bank statements. In fact, I think these things are more telling than a person’s outer appearance. The latter is a manufactured expression, whereas the former 3 are the comprehensive consequences of a person’s preferences and inclinations…if that makes sense… It’s more like the 3 are the genotype and the latter is the phenotype. And, of course, it’s always both that are important, but sometimes it’s the genotype that can be more telling of a person. Then again, I also agree with you completely, but someone’s gotta present a counter-argument, right?

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