Monday Book: All the Sad Young Literary Men

All the Sad Young Literary Men by Keith Gessen

I actually read this about a week or two ago, so it’s not particularly fresh in my mind, but let’s give this a go. The first thing I thought was how similar it was to (Gessen’s fellow N+1 editor) Benjamin Kunkle’s book Indecision, and the second was how similar both books are to (McSweeney’s editor and sworn enemy of N+1) Dave Egger’s book A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. What? OK, on the surface, these three books have relatively different plots, but really all of them are about young, well educated, painfully self-aware upper-middle class American men who are trying to figure out what their lives mean and what exactly they should do with them. Eggers gets points for having the added dimension of being an orphan and having a very young brother to take care of (although, oops, I guess it’s not a race since the other two are supposed to be fiction. My bad.)

For the most part ATSYLM is well written, although I’m sure I’m not the first reader to be confused about which character we’re talking about at any given point, or the first to then decide I didn’t really care, because maybe they’re all just the same character? But all of them are generally likable/annoying/remind you of several people you probably know and kind of like/are annoyed by. It’s also a very male book, something I actually tend to like.

Summary: because I generally like self-indulgent, self-aware, slightly annoying but also endearing young upper-middle class men with just a touch of hipster in them, I generally liked this book. Also, I’ve already given a copy to one of my best friends as a present, so if that’s not a recommendation I don’t know what is.


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