Aziz Ansari’s debut novel Modern Romance: An Investigation is a humorous and informative fresh take on love, dating, marriage and everything in between in today’s technological world. With the help of co-author and sociologist Eric Klinenberg, a professor at New York University, extensive research and interviews were done involving hundreds of people in various cities around the world, like New York City, Wichita, Tokyo, France and Buenos Aires. The results were, as expected, all very different and extremely interesting.
What’s so refreshing about Modern Romance is that there aren’t really any other books out there like it. Ansari’s inspiration came from his fascination of the challenges we face today that simply didn’t exist 30 or so years ago in finding romance. He couldn’t find much in his exploration to find a “comprehensive, in-depth sociological investigation.” That book simply did not exist yet, so he decided to change that and wrote one himself. It is a nice change from the usual self-indulgent celebrity memoir (I’ll admit I am guilty of enjoying those); this was much more academic. (Quick side note: You do not need to like Aziz as an actor or comedian to get something out of Modern Romance as it’s not really about him.)
An array of relevant topics were researched, such as: finding romance today vs. in the past, the whole “soul mate” notion and how having the world at our fingertips through online dating sites and apps is making it harder than ever to find said “soul mates,” how texting is both helping and hindering us, cheating, marriage, divorce, and what was particularly interesting, how different the romance scenes are in Tokyo, France, and Buenos Aires. For instance, in Tokyo, a sort of epidemic is spreading where men are simply not interested in dating and sex, so much so that the government is intervening by paying for and orchestrating dating events! France, somehow unsurprisingly, is much more loose, open, and nonjudgmental about romance and sex compared to the U.S. Buenos Aires, quite the opposite of Tokyo, has their own problem—the men are overly sexually aggressive.
Any generation should be able to connect to Modern Romance, whether you’re older, struggling with today’s technology and yearning for a simpler time, or you’re younger and know nothing but the electronic world we live in right now and learning about how and why people met 50 years ago will fascinate you.
With all of Ansari’s subject matter discussed and all of his results summarized, he hits the nail on the head, providing a really important connection between book, author and reader, and hopefully between all fellow readers: “We each sit alone, staring at this black screen with a whole range of emotions. But in a strange way, we are all doing it together, and we should take solace in the fact that no one has a clue what’s going on.” We’re all in the same boat; we’re all enduring this struggle, how about we endure together? Another valuable takeaway from Ansari is to not lose oneself in electronic technology: “…no matter how many options we seem to have on our screens, we should be careful not to lose track of the human beings behind them. We’re better off spending quality time getting to know actual people than spending hours with our devices, seeing who else is out there.” Well said Aziz!