Terry Gross interviewed Gary Shteyngart on Friday's Fresh Air. I want to read his book in the next couple of weeks.
Audio: (mp3) and cached here:
2. to submit a book, you must show a receipt that you've bought a book
I've started reading it, enough to get the flavor. It's a dystopian future and it's scary, all right. Unfortunately, his future world is plausible; it's a warning like Orwell's 1984, telling us to do something before it's too late. Set in the near future, the United States debt to China is 65 trillion Yuan-pegged dollars. The country is in the middle of being hollowed out to keep making the payments. Telling China to chill, you'll get your money! isn't working so well anymore. I have discussed the book's major themes on this blog: digital culture, economic trends, privacy, and freedom. His novel blends them all together and simply projects the current trend into the future.The vision is very much comparable to Judge's Idiocracy. People's attention spans have been reduced to the point that they haven't ever read any books. They haven't even read the Cliff Notes version. In the future, all information is streamed. Trying to get a message through that isn't streamed is not possible. It's also important to do things to keep the stream's ratings up- spice it up a little. It helps to intersperse your message (be it politics, cooking, live party streams) with the same characters doing some form of porn. That works with all of those topics- politics plus porn, cooking plus porn- it just keeps the audience's attention much better. Remember, telling your audience to go read anything is a non-starter. Anyone who still reads physical books is shunned. Just what have you got there, grandpa? So, if you really have something serious to say, and it's longer than a tweet, then you're going to have a tough time getting through. Sure, the text version is available online- it's just too long to ever matter to anyone. Dude, can't you give me the tl;dr version?
Personal privacy is a thing of the past. The TSA has run amok. No one cares because they have put all of their information online anyway. Who care's if someone goes through you're bag if you've already given them access to your 24 hour personal stream? Telephone poles display your credit rating when you walk passed them. People like to reveal information so they can find their social status in any given place. Personal devices, the aparat, include a feature to advertise your relevent scores. The data from Rate Me Plus is out there, free for everyone to see and decide if they should interact with you. This page shows the typical output from the aparat.
The government is broke and can't pay its debts and obligations. The fight for oil has most recently led the US Army to Venezuela. The Army was promised a bonus, and the government won't pay, an echo of WW I Bonus Army.. Government functions have been outsourced to corporations. The infrastructure is falling apart. Property with any value is being retrofitted and marketed to foreigners with money. Current tenants are forced out onto the street. Anything and everything will be done to pay off the debt. I am not sure I am going to like the ending...it really could be super sad.
Finished reading it -- no spoilers from me. I can only say it left me reeling, not feeling so well.
After finishing the book, I turned on NPR and these news stories popped up. They both show the trends of the power of the digital culture and the power of media figures.
Now that Oprah is ending her show, everyone will need to follow her on Twitter.