Modern Romance Synopsis :
‘An Investigation’, co-authored by Eric Klinenberg
People today have more romantic options than at any point in human history, and thanks to social media, smartphones and online dating, our abilities to connect with these options are staggering. Yet we also have to face new and absurd dilemmas, such as what to think when someone doesn’t reply to your text but has time to post a photo of a pizza on Instagram. But this transformation of our romantic lives cannot be explained by technology alone. Whereas once most people would find a decent person who probably lived in their neighbourhood and marry by the age of 23, today we spend years of our lives on a quest to find our soulmate.
While Ansari has long aimed his comedic insight at modern relationships, here he teamed up with award-winning sociologist Eric Klinenberg to research dating cultures from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Paris, crunch the quantitative data and interview some of the world’s leading social scientists. The result is an unforgettable tour of the romantic landscape.
It takes a pretty interesting synopsis to compel me to add a non-fiction title to my leisure reading list. Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance had just that, plus the promise of a few laughs – what more could I ask for?
The first thing to note is that I am not one of many die-hard Aziz Ansari fans (6M+ twitter followers). While I’d heard of Aziz Ansari ‘the actor and stand-up comedian’ and had noticed his most recent ‘Live at Madison Square Garden’ show was available on Netflix (a shiny new distraction encroaching on my reading time*), I decided to delay sampling his performance work until after reading this book. How we each respond to stand-up comedy is a particularly personal thing and I didn’t want to bias my reading experience.
I am so glad I did – the results of this little ‘investigation’ of my own is good news for the book. While undoubtedly funny, I found Ansari’s ‘live performance mode’ a little full-on. I engaged with his more laid-back, conversational style narrative in Modern Romance far more. Still sharp and witty, but less in-your-face than a live show:
What comes through as you read Modern Romance is that Aziz Ansari has not simply set out to write a funny book (although it is that). It is clear he had an interest in better understanding what motivates people’s behaviours and has invested the time and sought the advice of experts in order to do so.
He respectfully explores the differences across generations and cultures, generally balancing humour well with results of academic studies. The chapter discussing dating practices in Japan and Argentina was particularly intriguing.
Ansari takes his readers on a journey, candidly sharing the varied experiences of those he and researchers had interviewed (there is something innately compelling about reading other people’s text exchanges), along with his own personal quest for romance (and the perfect meal!).
While this book makes many references to experts in the field, they are in large part interpreted through Ansari’s light-hearted (at times cutting) filter. So Modern Romance remains something best suited to those seeking light entertainment from their non-fiction rather than academic rigour.
A great title to dip in and out of while reading some deeper literary fare.
* Just in case US readers are thinking this person must live under a rock, Netflix has only recently arrived in Australia!
BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 3 / 5 — Overall 3.5
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Genre: Non-fiction, Humour, Romance
Aziz Ansari is a writer, stand-up comedian, and actor. He currently stars in, writes, and directs his own original series for Netflix. At the time of publication, he was unable to decide on a title for his series. In 2014, Ansari became the seventh comedian ever to sell out Madison Square Garden in New York. His two sold-out performances at the legendary arena were filmed for his fourth comedy special, “Aziz Ansari: Live at Madison Square Garden,” which was released in March of 2015 on Netflix. For seven seasons, he starred as Tom Haverford on the beloved NBC comedy series Parks and Recreation with Amy Poehler and other great people. He has also appeared in several films including This Is the End, Funny People, and 30 Minutes or Less. He enjoys eating fresh pasta and watching multiple hours of critically acclaimed television dramas in one sitting.
Eric Klinenberg is a professor of sociology at NYU. He’s the author of Going Solo (Penguin Press) and has contributed to The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and This American Life.
* My receiving a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes did not impact the expression of my honest opinions in the review above.