Lenny Hearts Eunice – Gary Shteyngart – Review

Imagine a toned down version of Transmetropolitan and a more death obsessed  White Noise had a lovechild via Facebook.  What you might get is Gary Shteyngart’s short story, “Lenny Hearts Eunice” with the sad sack Lenny a protagonist much closer to Jack Gladney than Spider Jerusalem.

This is a weird story.  Shteyngart doesn’t explain anything about the setting, instead he drops small details that unsettle the reader as the picture begins to take shape.  Imagine machines that broadcast your credit score when you walk by.  Imagine smartphone type medallions worn around the neck.  Imagine no one reading, and an industry built around eternal life for the wealthy.

The basic premise could be a love story.  It’s quite obvious from the title.  Lenny Abramov is approaching forty and in love with a twenty-four year old woman named Eunice Park.  They are total opposites, and she doesn’t really love Lenny, or at least not initially.  For the reader, Lenny is lovable in a quirky, earnest, sad sort of way.  Maybe those facets are what pulls Eunice toward him.

The story bounces around from Lenny writing in his diary, it opens with:

Lucky diary! Undeserving diary! From this day forward, you will travel on the greatest adventure yet undertaken by a nervous, average man sixty-nine inches in height, a hundred and sixty pounds in heft, with a slightly dangerous body-mass index of 23.6.

to Eunice writing messages to a friend that she refers to as “Precious Panda,” and scenes played out in first person from Lenny’s perspective.  The shifting point of view allows us to see different sides of the characters without being too obvious.

Initially, the story starts out in Italy, where Lenny meets Eunice.  It then shifts to New York City, as Lenny goes back to his job at the Post-Human Services Division of the Staatling-Wapachung Corporation, where eternal life is reachable to those whom are young, beautiful, and/or wealthy.  The story is a broadcast of a possible future.  People are overly connected through digital means, following streams of data, having an interconnectedness that is superficial.  Lenny resists this superficiality even though he works for it.  For Eunice, she’s never met anyone like Lenny.  The world has moved on while Lenny holds on to the past.  What would eternal life be like if you lived in a world with which you no longer identified?

He knew that I would never make it as a past-tense man in a world set to the future.

He knew that all the green tea in Japan would not regenerate my liver, that SmartBlood would never run through my veins.

I thought of how it was all just too beautiful to ever let go.

For Q&A with Gary Shteyngart, click here, or read the other stories in “20 Under 40

3 Responses to “Lenny Hearts Eunice – Gary Shteyngart – Review”

  1. Anonymous

    >I find it amazing that the New Yorker could print such awful short-fiction. In the entire summer fiction issue most of their selections are horrid. Not to mention a few duds throughout the year.Dorian Gray

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    >Well i didn't find the reading to be that awful…but thats my personal opinion…i found that your description of the story was pretty much spot on…I had to read this for a critical inquiry class but found myself interested with the story..i could be biased because i'm korean and really like how a random korean girl was included in this but yea…

    Reply

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