Have you read the new novel by Gary Shteyngart? The reviews are everywhere, from The Atlantic to the San Francisco Chronicle to the New York Times. The “love story” in this dystopian epistolary satire involves Lenny Abramov, a homely, balding, 39-year-old Jewish man from Flushing, New York, and 24-year-old Eunice Park, a Korean American from Fort Lee, New Jersey.
Shteyngart makes great emphasis of the “Korean American” component. But does he do it in a way that’s smart or trite?
One Wall Street Journal reviewer writes:
“Mr. Shteyngart gives a good deal of attention to the anomalies and similarities of Jewish and Korean families. Although he has done commendable homework (Korean words like yamjanae, meeguk salam, ajumma and dolsot bap stick in the narrative like currants in a bun), the members of the Park family—the angry father, the hand-wringing mom, the chubby sister, their dreams and aspirations—feel as clichéd as the Irish and Jewish families in the old Broadway hit ‘Abie’s Irish Rose.’ Eunice’s mother writes emails to her daughter: ‘Dating nice boy extra. But all the time you must to be careful with him because you are woman. Do not give away mystery. Are they any korea boy in rome?’ This kind of thing is doubtless meant in good fun, but it feels lame, as do the ethnic-joke riffs that dot the narrative.”