I first heard about Mr. Gessen’s new novel when he took part in an online writer round table discussion on a new book discussion website called title page (http://titlepage.tv/). At 33, he falls within the GenX age range, and based on a recent New York Times article his novel seems a viable candidate for condemnation in the X. Lit genre.
I’m jumping to this conclusioin based on the brief description of the novel from the article:
In rotating chapters, the book tells of three young strivers who are frustrated in ambitions great and small: they bungle sexual conquests, struggle to finish writing books and dissertations, and are buffeted by larger historical forces. Tantalized by the potential of greatness, they fear it will perpetually elude them.
That last line is especially descriptive of the GenX ethos, the belief in success in conjunction with the anxiety that in the end it will never really happen.
Aslo, the outtake on Gessen’s life give me a chubby to tag him as an Xer:
It is against this backdrop that Mr. Gessen has published his novel, “All the Sad Young Literary Men,” a distillation of his own years in the wilderness: a youthful marriage soon followed by divorce, and his inability to finish an M.F.A. program at Syracuse University. (Mr. Gessen said he completed the course work, but never turned in a final original work of fiction.)
How so GenX to complete all course work for an MFA and yet not hand in the thesis, and to be perfectly cool with it, not have some Boomer hang up about completion and resolution blah blah blah. You know what I’m talking about, right. Those middle-aged divorcees who opined in Lit class so that all you young people could benefit from the wisdome of their former pathetic existence. Hey, chatty Cathy clip your string, we don’t need to know, okay. I do have to point out that I managed to not only complete course work for an MFA but I also managed to hand in a thesis. It was incomplete, sure, but still… the program was cool with it — I paid my bill, so…you know.
Additionaly information: Mr. Gessen is also an editor and founder of n+1, a newer literary journal, which apparently has developed a reputation for going after some of the old guard journals as well as pick fights with generational contemporaries like David Eggers and his publication, McSweeny’s. This edge snarkiness, a desire to stand up and pick a fight, is further evidence of Gessen’s GenX status. Some of the harsher criticism of Gessen’s novel have been attributed, at least in part, to his penchant for scathing criticsms. Personally, I admire that. I mean, I dig McSweeny’s and what I’d read of David Eggers, but that doesn’t make him immune to rhetorical jabs.
Check the NY Times article, linked above, for specifics.
I’ve not yet read Gessen’s novel, but I hope to. The title does seem a bit pretensious to me, but that’s hardly a reason to keep from at least attempting to read it.