Modern Romance: Revolutionising relationships and the internet romance realm
As the yearly calendar enters the blistering heat of July, I find myself contemplating all possible avenues of relief. My list starts off with ice-cold smoothies and ends on clichéd American action films, all to no avail. Ambling in misery, I walk into the local bookstore, skip a few shelves, and end up deciding to cool off this summer with 277 pages of Modern Romance.
Aziz Ansari’s acute wit and candour instantly absorbs me — a testing, ardent 21st generation reader. Gone is the trusted, poetic approach to romance, inspired by Rumi’s ageless art of implication, favoured in the contemporary works of writers including Samantha Young, and Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, especially in his 2013 romance-classic ‘Mirror of Beauty’. Instead, Ansari’s neatly revolutionised world of romance commits to inventive, single women tweets about careless, disloyal men, coupled with a series of simple to comprehend hello, what’s up texts between two strangers, masquerading as eternal lovers.
Quite a mundane transition, right? Not really.
Romance, regardless of era, impacts humanly emotion only when related to and let’s face it, the modes of relativity today are all technological. All these years, as awe-inspiring as a lengthy account of a young man’s love for his darling may have seemed, it just isn’t as real to us anymore as a two sentence Facebook status is.
Peppered emoticons, a handful of likes, the utter shortage of words, this is what we want, our mindlessly powerful language of modern-day love. Thus, in his seven frank chapters of investigative romance, Ansari has declared us both guilty and intrigued.
The first half of the book enjoys a storyline focused on the author’s many interactions with women in the most awkward of places possible — exploring chances of dating and friendship in Manhattan’s three o’clock bars and passenger-crossings in Brooklyn. All of it is meant to describe Ansari as primarily one of us, slow on catching the attention of girls, and if lucky, in no privacy whatsoever.
The other half of the book doesn’t necessarily have a storyline from what I could gather. But the question is, does it really need one? Definitely not when the author can offer a spicy arrangement of people’s relationship blunders and blind-date flattery, provoking laughter left, right and centre. A text conversation entails just that,
Darren: Hey, Stephanie. It’s me, Darren! (Confident, energetic)
Woman: Hey, Darren. This is Stephanie’s mom. One second . . .
Darren: Shit! (Quiet)
An author’s manner of narration plays a critical role in not only gripping the reader but also guiding him through various twists and turns of a book. I was determined to shut the book and shove it under my bed as I passed ‘Searching for your soul mate’, chapter one of seven, had it not been for the first-hand interviews which followed next.
Ansari quotes a young American woman,
“It’s becoming too common for guys to ask girls to ‘hang out’ rather than directly asking them on a date.”
And then later,
“I’m not sure if it’s because guys are afraid of rejection or because they want to seem casual about it, but it can leave one (or both) people unsure about whether or not they’re even on a date.”
Change of voice?
Bingo! Ansari, you genius!
Get a few more quotes from these women, and I think we are in for a lengthy male-female tussle here.
Now where is that second chapter?
Coming from one of the most animated stand-up comedians of our time, for a debut book, this is extensively researched material. Wichita, Kansas, Buenos Aires, Paris, and Tokyo are just a few cities to have lent their opinions, personal details and wild adventures to Ansari’s book, allowing him complete penetration into the internet romance realm.
American sociologist Eric Klinenberg, a PhD graduate from UC Berkley and also co-writer of the project, uses all his experience to lend the book its missing psychological and anthropological angles. Elaborated charts entailing crude marriage rates in Europe, and tables contrasting personal insecurities to chances of enjoyable romance, are just slivers of quality research constituting an impressive evidentiary base. Therefore, the book enjoys novel-like narration, as well as a rich arsenal of global narratives and facts, an ultra-rare blend to find in a single romantic feast.
The construction of an international perspective on romance instead of America’s simpler national take attributes complete diversity to Ansari’s humble debut, demonstrating versatility and acclaimed humour in equal measure.
In trademark candour, the promising writer concludes,
“In books like this, it’s easy to get negative about technology and its impact, but let’s all realise we are in the same boat, dealing with the same shit.”
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.