On the surface I really disliked this book. Lenny Abramov is your pretty typical schmuck who believes all the bull hockey that's been fed to him about his role as a man, son, and lover of women. And since people are plugged directly into the um, Internet-network-thing, he's been fed a lot of bovine ice sport euphemism for poop.
Meanwhile, there's our uh, love interest? Object of desire and affection, or at the very least status and unobtainable youth? Eunice is both incredibly shallow and self-involved, but still obviously is able to care for others, if in her own shallow and self-involved way.
There's also not a whole lot going on in this book to really be interesting... On the surface.
However, if you view Lenny's story as a search for authenticity it all of a sudden becomes a much more poignant and less distressing story. Basically, Lenny starts out as a schmuck because he is a schmuck, at the beginning. However, he is in a completely superficial world. Earlier I wrote about how important it is for the Other to influence how you view your Self, but that isn't helpful when there is no self-reflection, and indeed when a society avoids self-reflection like the plague.
By the end of the novel, Lenny has started moving away from the societally accepted norms. Once he makes this choice, I start to, not like, but at least, respect Lenny. Because he was the only man in a world of artifice trying to be more. In this sense there are parallels to Catcher in the Rye (although Caulfield was avoiding being authentic in an authentic world under the premise that being a teenager is more authentic than being a phony adult) and even Ibsen's A Doll House, where Nora had to completely reject society's pre-conceived notions and form her own.
So maybe this is just a reiteration of an old idea, one where we toss away what society says is right and determine for ourselves what is right, but it seems to be a necessary function of
Greg over at The New Dork Review of Books pretty much captures the back and forth of my like-dislike of this book. He's also the reason I actually added this book to my list, despite its luke-warm undertones.
LibsNote: Library Copy.