Summer Reading – All The Sad Young Literary Men

So, reading ATSYLM reminded me much of, as alluded in the last blog, the disillusioned searching of the grunge era of the 90s. It’s this chronic condition associated with twentysomethings. As I approach the middle of my twenties I’ve read more and more about what’s expected of a 25+ year old and what is appropriate for this decade of my life. Gessen really accurately portrays three guys sort of lost in the plot of their lives.

He created an interesting narrative, though at times I had trouble distinguishing the three voices. Mark, Sam, and Kevin blurred a bit for me. They each had tricky love lives, frustrating jobs, and some fascination with a foreign part. A primary element of the novel dealt with taking ownership of your story. None of the guys have super heroic moments and they each have several “life changing epiphanies” (that don’t really change their lives) but they truck on rather realistically. Lost like your average 20something.
For me it helped to read a novel for adults told by multiple narrators. I’m working on a young adult novel that swaps between two teenage guy narrators and ATSYLM provided me a real glimpse of how difficult it can be to separate their voices.
Everyone knows the old adage, “Write what you know.” For most twenty year olds the thing we know the most about is self-discovery. So it appears in what we write. It’s a universal story – figuring out your role in society – an important universal story.
Though ATSYLM ends with some positive resolutions it avoids cliche happy endings. This is something I will always be conflicted over: happy endings. Sad stories speak to people, draw something out of us. But I also recognize people need to be given more stories of HOPE. I guess for me it’s a balancing act. A question of how to inject the reality with the a narrative of hope.
If nothing else ATSYLM has motivated me to continue practicing. Until I get this story right.


2 thoughts on “Summer Reading – All The Sad Young Literary Men

  1. I know what you mean about happy endings. They can seem cliche and trite. thats why you need to write cliff hanger endings, like in a handsmaids tale. Reel em in and then chuck em back!

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