Aziz Ansari’s take on relationships was on my radar after seeing him promote it on late night television. I thought the concept was interesting: an academic examination of present-day relationships through the filter of comedy. Though I liked the book, and found the material intriguing, I can’t call the format an unmitigated success.
I first came across Ansari during his hilarious turn as Tom Haverford on Parks and Rec and have seen a bit of his stand-up and he is refreshing, honest, and really quite funny. His humor translates well to the page, and it’s clear he is passionate about the material from the anecdotes he provides regarding his own triumphs and failings in his quest for love, but the interaction between the sociological standpoint and his is just too forced. His humor took me out of the academic narrative and was distracting, and this left the book unbalanced. Whenever I was getting into some of the research that was done, it seemed like he or an editor said, “This is where a joke should be” and then he would go on a little tangent which was funny, but disengaging.
The examination of dating was fascinating, and more material was covered than I anticipated: implications of social media, dating in different countries, the impact of our “maximizer” and instant gratification lifestyles, etc. It was not only a comprehensive examination of the challenges of dating in the digital age, but also gave the reader a clear understanding of the big picture, without drawing too many conclusions. The point was to provide information that was interesting not be a preachy self-help book, which I appreciated.
I liked the humor, I liked the sociological examination of relationships, but either one or the other needs to be minimized for this to have been a success for me: trying to have the book be equally academic and funny was too lofty of an aspiration. Almost like his character of Tom Haverford, in regards to his many entrepreneurial schemes, Ansari was trying to do too much. I would love to read a book that he wrote, and I appreciate what he tried to do, but ultimately I think the combination fell short.