Keith Gessen's first novel, All the Sad Young Literary Men, centers on three young men, recent college graduates, filled with the angst of looming adulthood. Mark fights the temptation of free library internet porn. Sam struggles with his novel, the first great Zionist epic. Self-Googler Keith draws and redraws the political-is-personal line to varying degrees of success (he proposes to his girlfriend in the heady moments following Al Gore's presumptive win of the 2000 elections only to suffer from proposer's remorse when the election is called back). The characters' self-indulgence could easily grow annoying if it weren't clear that Gessen is well aware of it. The result is a narrative that rings true with the moral and social grapplings of the educated (dare I say "elitist") set, sad as that might be. The humor is understated and ironic in a way that is appropriate to our post-Seinfeld era. In one particularly funny scene, Keith calls Google in an attempt to rectify his shrinking internet presence. The scene is an appropriate centerpiece for a book about young people trying to find a place for themselves in a tumultuous political landscape.
Tue., May 6, 7:30 p.m., 2008