Literary Liaisons, On the Shelf

On the Shelf- All the Sad, Young, Literary Men

For this edition of On the Shelf I decided to go to a book that has literally sat on my shelf for a few years without having been read: Keith Giessen’s All the Sad, Young, Literary Men. I picked it up on a whim because the title intrigued me (it’s an F. Scott Fitzgerald reference) and it’s possible I never started it because I was afraid the title described me. But in the end, my belief that no book on my shelf should ever go unread won out and I decided to make a concerted effort to finish this potential existential examination.
Never in my life have I read a book with its head so far up its own ass. This pretentious drivel is sixteen kinds of flawed. Every sentence is an over-wrought exercise in proving just how smart the author is. Ostensibly this is for comedic effect. Playing up the shallow intellectualism of the East Coast literary elite. But whether due to an inability to bring this humorous vision to the page or, more likely, a failure to really understand how terrible his characters are; the joke never quite lands. Instead, it reeks of that smug, self-deprecating jab one takes at one’s self in order to get away with doing it again. “See you can’t be mad at me for being an asshole, because I’m self-aware enough to know that I’m being an asshole.”
I could spend more time dissecting my problems with this book. I could talk about how its three protagonists are interchangeable voices with no discernible personality differences or how these uncannily similar characters show no real development or arc throughout the course of the novel. Or I could talk about how the female characters might as well be cardboard cutouts for all the depth they’re imbued with and just how annoying and unnecessary the numerous point of view shifts are. But I’m not going to. Because I do not want to waste another minute of my life thinking about this wretched piece of garbage. If a copy of this book is sitting on your shelf burn it. Well don’t burn it because burning books is bad but maybe see if the paper its printed on is recyclable?

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