Synopsis: A hilarious, thoughtful, and in-depth exploration of the pleasures and perils of modern romance from one of this generation’s sharpest comedic voices
At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love. We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection. This seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago. Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. With technology, our abilities to connect with and sort through these options are staggering. So why are so many people frustrated?
Some of our problems are unique to our time. “Why did this guy just text me an emoji of a pizza?” “Should I go out with this girl even though she listed Combos as one of her favorite snack foods? Combos?!” “My girlfriend just got a message from some dude named Nathan. Who’s Nathan? Did he just send her a photo of his penis? Should I check just to be sure?”
But the transformation of our romantic lives can’t be explained by technology alone. In a short period of time, the whole culture of finding love has changed dramatically. A few decades ago, people would find a decent person who lived in their neighborhood. Their families would meet and, after deciding neither party seemed like a murderer, they would get married and soon have a kid, all by the time they were twenty-four. Today, people marry later than ever and spend years of their lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soul mate.
For years, Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at modern romance, but for Modern Romance, the book, he decided he needed to take things to another level. He teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Wichita. They analyzed behavioral data and surveys and created their own online research forum on Reddit, which drew thousands of messages. They enlisted the world’s leading social scientists, including Andrew Cherlin, Eli Finkel, Helen Fisher, Sheena Iyengar, Barry Schwartz, Sherry Turkle, and Robb Willer. The result is unlike any social science or humor book we’ve seen before.
In Modern Romance, Ansari combines his irreverent humor with cutting-edge social science to give us an unforgettable tour of our new romantic world.
AGAIN WITH THE EXTRAORDINARILY LONG SYNOPSIS. What is happening, people? The entire point of a synopsis is its BREVITY. This is the hill I choose to die on.
But I still don’t want this to become a synopsis-rant blog, so. I’ll move on.
Disclaimer: I have the biggest crush on Aziz Ansari. Can anyone blame me? He’s like a humor magician. Parks & Rec, flawless standup specials, MASTER OF NONE, and this book. What a track record.
Anyway. I could never claim to be unbiased on this subject. It’s now clear that what I thought was a post-season 2 Master of None hangover is just…part of me now. I am destined for an existence of crushin’ on Aziz.
Okay. So now that you know I cannot be trusted, we can get into this. (This is, by the way, contrary to my typical off-the-charts levels of trustworthiness. I am often called Emma “Very Accurate and Fair Reviews” Insertmylastnamehere. That’s the level of dependability I’m rockin’.)
First: GO WITH THE AUDIOBOOK.
Now, you may be thinking, Emma, despite your claims of general trustworthiness, I do not trust you. I do not listen to audiobooks; I prefer Books with Pages. That is why I am here, on this site, generally dedicated to Books. With Pages.
And I hear ya, voice-of-an-imaginary-reader-that-is-becoming-a-motif-in-my-reviews. Previously, I was just like you. (Insert gasp from the crowd here.)
Recently, you may have seen, I discovered that I had seven (count ’em!) audiobook credits to my name. And that they would be expiring shortly. And so I lived my best extreme-couponer life, and posted a status asking for recommendations.
Sofi came THRU.
She suggested I check out the audiobook version of Modern Romance – that’s this book! – and because a) I am Aziz Ansari trash and b) I had lightly planned on rereading this during my 2017 Reread Extravaganza, I enthusiastically concurred.
WHICH WAS THE RIGHT CHOICE. (Thanks again, Sofi. You’re the goods.)
In my initial review, I gave this book three-ish stars. That’s because, while the book was interesting, it could get very nonfiction-y. (I’m not that big into nonfiction. How’d you guess?) It generally lacked for Aziz’s voice.
Guess what’s not a problem in the audiobook version?
IT’S AZIZ ANSARI’S VOICE. Because he reads it. And riffs. And jokes about the laziness of audiobook listeners. (This is particularly fabulous for me, as someone who read the book first, because I get to laugh pretentiously and condescendingly – which is my favorite kind of laughter.) The whole thing is great and I love it so much. Honestly, it’s like a six-hour podcast about love hosted by Aziz Ansari. And that’s a dream I never knew I had.
This book isn’t perfect, but think about the impossibility of the task. Ansari and his co-author, Eric Klinenberg, set about to write a book that encapsulates and explains ALL OF MODERN ROMANCE, EVERYWHERE. And on TOP of it, discuss the history of romance and the changes that led us here. They had to place some limits on it.
Unfortunately, these limits mean we mostly hear about the Tinder-esque romances formed by straight American twentysomethings. I’d love to hear more about non-straight relationships, or even non-online relationships. But I understand the need to focus on a niche.
One AMAZING thing about this book is that it isn’t entirely American. Klinenberg and Ansari visited several other countries to try to get a more global concept, and IT. IS. FASCINATING. Honestly I want the two of them to write a million books like this. Just explain every aspect of society and culture to me via six-hour audiobook, Aziz.
The only other downside is that this has a loooot of material from Aziz Ansari’s most-recent-and-still-fairly-old standup special, which I had just watched (okay, rewatched) like a week before starting the audiobook. So that was a lil upsetting. Like John Mulaney’s tragically short-lived self-titled TV show – I’d be so much more on board if I hadn’t heard half of it before.
Bottom line: THIS IS SO FUN, but you gotta try the audiobook. 200% more Aziz, and trust me when I say you want as much Aziz as you can get.