- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (April 10, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0670018554
- ISBN-13: 978-0670018550
- Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,857,588 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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All the Sad Young Literary Men Hardcover – April 10, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
In n+1 founding editor Gessen's first novel, three college graduates grapple with 20th-century history at the dawn of the 21st century while trying—with little success—to forge literary careers and satisfying relationships. Mark is working on his doctoral dissertation on Roman Sidorovich, the funny Menshevik, but after the failure of his marriage, he's distracted by online dating and Internet porn. Sam tries to write the Great Zionist Novel, but his visits to Israel and the occupied territories are mostly to escape a one-sided romance back in Cambridge. And Keith is a liberal writer who has a difficult time separating the personal from the political. Less a novel than a series of loosely connected vignettes, the humor supposedly derives from the arch disconnect between the great historic events these three characters contemplate and the petty failures of their literary and romantic strivings. But it is difficult to differentiate—and thus to care about—the three developmentally arrested protagonists who, very late in the novel, take baby steps toward manhood. There's plenty of irony on tap and more than a few cutting lines, but the callow cast and listless narrative limit the book's potential. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In his debut novel, Gessen, founding editor of the literary magazine n+1, follows the fortunes of three college graduates struggling to find their footing both in their relationships and in their professional lives. Sam is intent on writing the great Zionist novel, but his visits to the occupied territories only serve to convince him that he is deluded about his goals and his love life. After his marriage fails, Mark humiliates himself through Internet dating and compares his struggles to those of “Menshevik funny-man” and Russian revolutionary Roman Sidorovich, the subject of his doctoral dissertation. Keith takes the world’s problems so seriously that he spends his days worrying and thinking until his girlfriend’s unplanned pregnancy jolts him out of his self-absorption. The three men are only tangentially connected through mutual acquaintances, but their shallow complaints and ineffectual actions are remarkably similar. This failure to sufficiently individualize the characters has the makings of a fatal flaw but is somewhat offset by Gessen’s cutting humor. For more compelling male coming-of-age stories, steer readers to Nick Hornby or Tom Perrotta. --Joanne Wilkinson
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Top Customer Reviews
ALL THE SAD YOUNG LITERARY MEN is a novel about decadence that doesn't seem to know it is a novel about decadence. Ostensibly, it is about three different young Ivy League graduates livining in and around New York, but all three feature the same narrative voice, minimal character development, and barely differentiated story lines. The main literary conceit of the novel is a sort of historical name dropping, ala "But one thing he had learned from the Bolsheviks: history helps those who help themselves." These historical references seem to be thrown in at random; they are never explained, examined, or elaborated upon, and are essentially meaningless. It's sort of like reading movie reviews in The Village Voice, except with historical references pasted in mindlessly instead of pop and alt culture ones. Yeah, being in your 20s is like the Russian revolution, or like the Israelis and Palestinians... nevermind why, nevermind any kind of thought or rational examination of these complicated historical events, nevermind any explanation of the alluded to but never demonstrated "idea"... Mindless stuff.
How bad can it be? Try this sentence opening a paragraph about a main character's reaction to 9/11 [remember these characters live in and around New York City!]: "On the day the World Trade Center was destroyed, Sam watched a lot of television."
There is one good section of the book, pp. 62-75, about a character named Morris Binkel. Read that at the bookstore if you're curious, it's pretty good. The rest of the book is like pulling teeth.
Pseudo-intellectuals would like this book, though, because it is pseudo-intelligent, pseudo-well written, pseudo-deep, and pseudo-literary. It's crap. I've never been more disappointed with a book in my life.
With books like this getting published, we should well and truly pity the sad young literary men in our society, because the publishing industry has really gone to the dogs. Chinese Cresteds.
A doctoral student in Russian history, the recently divorced Mark turns to online dating and Internet porn. He is distress over his Google rating: the number of hits on his blog are declining.
Sam's ambition is to write the Great Zionist Ep;ic, even though he isn't a practicing Jew, can't read Hebrew, and his project is conceived before he visits Israel and the occupied territories.
Keth, a Russian immigrant, is a liberal politico-cultural critic who apparently stands in as Gessen's alter ego. His comments on America's ill-advised military adventurism is cynical and acerbic.
Blundering their way through life, these three protagonists inflict insult and injury--psychic pain--on themselves and on the women with whom they have love-hate relationships.
Believing themselves to be responsible adults, the three anti-heroes behave as spoiled juveniles who need to grow up, slouching their way toward a lonely middle age.