Summer Reading – All the Sad Young Literary Men

It seems to me one of the main things contemporary Literature (and in most cases Film) attempts to do is ask, “Do you know who I am? Who I am supposed to be? What I am supposed to do with my life?” It’s as if a mass of twentysomething youngins are standing around with their lives (looking something like play-do) in their hands and have no idea what to do with them. It could be that I just get into kicks where I read several books that seem that way, and watch a couple movies that seem that way, and then I listen to Creep and there’s this overwhelming repressive sense of feeling. Like someone or something is feeding our disillusion, creating this confusion.

Enter All the Sad Young Literary Men by Keith Gessen, featuring three young men at varying points in a non-linear narrative, but mostly between the ages of 22 and 30. Each struggle with some definitive thing, one often thinks the question, “Do you know who I am? Do you recognize what I have to offer? Can you tell me what to do with it?”

Realistic and tough questions. And I’m not saying I haven’t been there. But what is this fascination with our own extended adolescence? I read an article the other day from Relevant Magazine called “11 Things You Should Know by 25-ish”. It’s insightful and, refreshingly, it offers solid advice in figuring out my role as an adult in society. In reality, we have it easy. Across the board we haven’t been forced to grow up by a war (like the generations of the World Wars), collectively the worst things we’ve experienced are a recession that still leaves us with more money than most areas of the world and a shrinking job market (which is yeah, frustrating). So, there aren’t going to be as easily defined roles for us to jump into and take over as the older generations retire and pick up the golf clubs. What’s the appropriate response?

Bellyache? Watch tons of TV, play video games? Or spend hours on a psychic hotline like Winona Ryder inReality Bites?

Obviously not.

The three guys in the story eventually do work out feasible realities for themselves. It reminded me a bit of my decision to forego a 5 year or 10 year plan. When those things don’t work out it can be very difficult to get back on track. So, take it as it comes… figure it out. That way it’s not disappointing to you when you discover you’ve morphed into a different person than you expected you’d be at 16, or 20, or yesterday.



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