Friday, February 1, 2013

Relating With “All the Sad Young Literary Men”


The New Year commenced in a haze will all the events that happened within my immediate family circles. Add to that the fact that I was not able to properly cocelebrate the January 1 welcoming as I was in an awful condition, no thanks to that bad cold which paid a visit to my unready body. These may seem to be weak excuses for not updating Viole(n)t Mugs but – just like before – I desire redeem myself. Even if one month has elapsed already.

Thus I chose to share a fiction work which took the role of a companion while I was darn sick during the last few days of the previous year. Keith Gessen’s “All the Sad Young Literary Men” was, and still is, a great find for me. Much of this book’s contents speak of the vast experience set-ups that young men may find themselves in.

Written in different viewpoints and alternating first-person, third-person narratives, “All the Sad Young Literary Men” is about the lives three young men who are in their varying stages of changing lives. Some for good. Some, well, are for worse. All the lives read here revolve around the theme of writing, be it a dissertation or a write up meant for the public, but corrupted by their experiences and beliefs.

To a large extent I can relate to most of the experiences and thoughts expressed by the author through his characters. Although some viewed the work in a bad light, I came to see it as a lietral companion. In the absence of frequent friends to talk to (unlike in college days), I learned to regard the characters as people who were able to tell me things about me as a male (or as a young man to be more precise) which I could not have possibly realized on my own. Sure, they may be seem to rude from a female’s viewpoint but you can treat that as man talk, part of reminding one’s self every now and then to talk things about being a man and its accompanying ups and downs.

There are two thoughts I would like to recount, the first one about having screwed up life:

“When you are young...and you’re on your way, and you have everything before you and everyone with you – you don’t know anyone else – and you look at all the others with their screwed-up lives and you know you’ll do things differently, you know you will, and you do.

“You are kinder, gentler, you are smarter.

“And then one day you look up and you’ve done all the the things you said you were going to do but somehow you forgot something, something happened along the way and everyone’s gone, everything’s different, and looking around you see you have the same screwed-up life as all those other idiots. And there – you are.”

The second is above love, something which I think is fitting to mention as Valentine’s Day is just a few days from now:

“We hurt one another. We go through life dressing up in new clothes and covering up our true motives. We meet up lightly,..., and then we give each other pain. We don’t want to! What we want to do, what one really wants to do is put out one’s hands – like some dancer, in a trance, just put out one’s hands – and touch all the people and tell them: I’m sorry. I love you. Thank you for your e-mail. Thank you for coming to see me. Thank you.

“But we can’t. We can’t. On the little raft...only one other person could fit. Just one! And so, thwarted, we inflict pain. That’s what we do. We do not keep each other company. We do not send each other cute text messages. Or, rather, when we do these things, we do them merely to postpone the moment when you’ll push these people off, and beat forward, beat forward on our little raft, alone.”
 

  
Which means, in one point of view, that we cannot do everything for all the girls out there. Only one can be worthy of all your efforts.

In the end, even if I try to digest every single part of the book here, I would not be able to do justice to it. And so, as always, I invite you to read this short work of fiction. (But you may probably need a working knowledge on Soviet history and the Israel-Arab countries conflict.)

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