Another slow apocalypse. As in My Year of Meats, in Super Sad True Love Story, the world—or some kind of world—creeps towards an Ending. While the world of the äppärät seems to be that of time accelerated, speeding up as it approaches the black hole, intensification of data flows forming instant relationships and presto intimacies, the movement towards Ending develops a different kind of temporality and counters the links between speed and modernity set up by the novel’s global communications networks and technologies.
The end of the world as Lenny Abramov knows it creeps in the sense of its material inevitability. All around him Lenny sees the signs of economic collapse, infrastructural instability, the movement of displaced and disenfranchised populations, the military occupation of the metropolis, and riots, but there is nothing to be done, it seems, about this mounting avalanche of crisis and catastrophe. Unlike a nuclear blast that splits the world in two in a decisive moment, this apocalypse unfurls slowly.
This slow unfurling plays out in the same kind of temporality that paralyzes Lenny in his contemplation of death. Despite corporatist presumptions to post-human immortality, the triumph of life over death, of a reversible temporality, is, in this novel, never more than a pyramid-scheme fantasy dressed up as techno-philosophical insight. It is the phantasmatic quality of this money-making delusion that fuels Lenny’s paralysis. Despite his assertive desire to be immortal, he is unable to act in this direction (work out, eat right, use the Eternity Lounge) because any action risks destabilizing the Nettie Fine-style fantasy that “things aren’t so bad!” (100).
Indeed, when it comes to the creeping pace of Inevitable Ending in this novel, the credo of the ARA pretty much sums up the temporal dimension in which Lenny, Eunice et al. swim: “BY READING THIS SIGN YOU HAVE DENIED EXISTENCE OF THE OBJECT AND IMPLIED CONSENT” (43, 81, etc.). Here, and throughout, “the object” may be read as the creeping temporality of the Real, which forecloses desires for subjectivity, identity, intentional embodiment, and agency, even as requires the participation (“consent”) of the subject. To live you have to agree to die; to function as a subject-agent you have to ignore the fragility and potential for nullity of meaning implied by this compact. That Lenny cannot come to terms with this existential absurdity is why he has such a hard time responding to the ARA’s questions, as well as to the general demands of labor, embodiment, and interpersonal relationship.
I’d be very interested to hear what y’all think of the different temporalities in this novel. Between the rushing speeds of technomodernity and the creeping inevitability of Ending, what happens to the possibilities for human agency, action, and subject identity?