Gary Shteyngart, “Lenny Hearts Eunice,” June 14/21:
This blatant novel excerpt from Super Sad True Love Story is majorly entertaining, and I think any reader would be hard-pressed not to find laughs here. Shteyngart is an immensely skilled satirist in the tradition of Swift or Heller, and the dystopia he envisions in the novel is pulsing and convincing (occasionally). Lenny Abramov is a slouchy, lovable Jewtagonist in the tradition of Vladimir Girshkin (Russian Debutante’s Handbook) and Misha Vainberg (Absurdistan), and as told through journal entries, he falls for an Asian girl named Eunice Park. It all happens in a future where citizens get scores based on their fuckability and no one reads books (that part of it is upsettingly believable, but of course, predicting the death of print doesn’t take a Nostradamus these days).
I can’t help but be annoyed that Shteyngart got away with slicing off an excerpt as his contribution. He’s a novelist, and has not published short stories; this could have been his chance to have a go at it. Again, we return to my main beef with the series, which is that, whether the writers are short story scribes or not, the most challenging and original presentation would have been to ask each of the 20 to write a brand new, original short story. Shteyngart got a pass, and I was probably more annoyed by his than the excerpts of others, because I’d so enjoy seeing something from him in short form. All that being said, the excerpt is a great read and bound to help sell copies of the book. It’s hard to be mad at Shteyngart—he’s so funny, caustic, and original.