Aziz Ansari: Comedian, actor, and now… writer! The man behind our beloved Tom Haverford on the TV show Parks and Recreation has now branched out to writing, and I’m happy to say that his new book Modern Romance does not disappoint. I’ve read a few other books by celebrities before (I’m looking at you, Mindy Kaling) and I’ve really enjoyed them, but this book is not at all like the usual memoir or collection of essays written by a famous face.
Instead of concentrating solely on his own life, Ansari has chosen to write a research-based book on something that impacts all of us at one point or another: romance. Although he does include personal anecdotes about his own experiences, the bulk of this book is based on the research he conducted with sociologist Eric Klinenberg. It’s refreshing to see a celebrity write about a topic beyond him or herself, especially one that is rooted in research rather than pure opinion. Ansari’s opinions are certainly present in this book, but he continually emphasizes that he does not hold any judgments about how people should incorporate romance into their lives. Instead, he provides the reader with an abundance of information about romance in our technological age, from the rise of cell phones and dating sites to the standards that we hold when looking for a romantic partner. He also discusses the differences between romance today and decades ago, as well as how dating is viewed in cultures beyond that of the United States. Modern Romance is surprisingly comprehensive in regard to its wide scope and attention to detail, particularly for such a short book.
Right from the introduction, Ansari does an excellent job at explaining his motivations for wanting to write this book, the research methods used, the parameters of and organizations involved with the research, etc. His research is conducted in a variety of ways, from polls and surveys to focus groups and even interviews with the elderly at a retirement home. My only complaint with the heavily researched nature of this book is that I don’t think Klinenberg ultimately receives enough credit. While Ansari did the actual writing of the book itself, there’s absolutely no way that he could have done all of the research on his own. Let’s be honest: Ansari is an actor, not a sociologist. I was disappointed to see that Klinenberg’s name does not even appear on the front cover of the book, almost making it appear as though Ansari had no help whatsoever. This point is perpetuated by the fact that Ansari himself is the sole image displayed on the front cover. In fact, if you didn’t take the time to read the introduction you may not have even been aware of Klinenberg’s involvement. In my opinion, Klinenberg should receive a lot more credit than he is given; after all, he is the one who is educated to conduct this kind of in-depth research in the first place.
With that said, Modern Romance does cover a wide spectrum of fascinating topics. In particular, I really enjoyed learning about how our dating practices and views on romantic relationships in general differ from the beliefs of people living fifty or more years ago. For example, it’s interesting to note that most of the older women they spoke with wished they had had more time to explore and experience adulthood “single” instead of rushing into marriage as soon as they finished high school. Ansari also explains that today we have a much higher, idealized standard of what a soul mate should be when compared to people’s’ beliefs in past decades. In our modern society, we often strive to find that “perfect” individual with whom we can spend the rest of our lives; however, in the past people would frequently just marry someone from their neighborhood who seemed decent. It certainly puts our dating practices into perspective, especially when thinking about marriage.
I really appreciate how open and inclusive Ansari is in Modern Romance. Although he says outright that due to the limited size of the project he does not focus on same-sex or other relationships besides heterosexual ones, he emphasizes that he is not specifically arguing for or against any particular lifestyle, type of relationship, way of communicating, etc. He reassures the reader that online dating is common in today’s society, stressing that there shouldn’t be a stigma surrounding it and that he or she is not alone in turning to the digital world to find love. However, he does assert that people should use online dating only as an introductory tool to meet people. Often times people spend so much time messaging back and forth with people online that they never actually make the effort to meet anyone in person. I completely agree with this argument: nothing can take the place of face-to-face interactions, especially when it comes to dating.
“There’s not a dating service on this planet that can do what the human brain can do in terms of finding the right person.”
I listened to the audio book version of Modern Romance, and I’m so glad I did. Ansari is an excellent narrator, and I loved the funny voices he did to differentiate quotes and other people speaking from his own narration. His voice really brought out the personality in his writing, although I’m sure that his personality would have been apparent on a printed page as well. The only downside to the audio book format is that the listener can’t see any of the graphs or graphics included in the printed version. I’m not sure how much this actually detracts from the book in the grand scheme of things, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Overall, Modern Romance offers a fascinating new perspective on dating in the technological world of modern society. Written with the hilarious and engaging personality Ansari is known for, this book is an important example of how celebrities can break the barrier from writing about themselves to writing about topics that involve a larger community. Regardless of your personal views on dating, marriage, and romance in general, there’s certainly something for every reader in Modern Romance.
My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) 4 out of 5 smileys.
Would I recommend it to a friend?: I would definitely recommend this to friends if they’re fans of Aziz Ansar already. They would probably enjoy it either way, but I think it’s an even better reading experience if you’re familiar with Ansar’s other work as an actor comedian, etc.
What are your thoughts on this book? Are there any other books written by celebrities that your would recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!