Keith Gessen Reads from All The Sad Young Literary Men

Topic: All The Sad Young Literary Men

Keith Gessen: I will preface this. So, Mark begins the book happily married, he lives in Queens with his wife, then he decides to go to graduate school to pursue his interest in Soviet History. And then he and his wife, partly under the pressure of living in Syracuse, break up. And then Mark is all alone in Syracuse and he starts to try to figure out what to do. “History was a science, according to the old Revolutionaries. Its laws could be studied. Mark had spent a year mourning for Sasha, yes, mourning, though it might not always have looked like mourning. He played hockey, he went to Taps and got drunk, and gradually, he began to re-learn some of the movements he’d forgotten, some of the expressions his face needed to make to communicate with people who weren’t Sasha. In the realm of women, in the realm of talking to women, it was particularly hard to tell what they thought. And it was hard to tell what he thought, what Mark thought. When he’d been married, all non-Sasha women seemed equally very attractive. Now he had to make some distinctions. In that first year of his mourning, then, Mark studied the internet. He found some very disturbing things. He found a site, for example, that showed the filmed adventures of a group of men who drove around in a van, or a small bus, technically speaking, it was a van, though they called it a bus, the Butt-Fuck Bus, and picked up young women, college girls, possibly, on the street, and paid them a dollar for filmed sex. ‘Fuck yeah, it’s real,’ claimed the site, anticipating Mark’s objections, for he did have objections. He could not believe that one could simply drive around in a van and pick up women, good-looking women, and get them to have sex with you in your ratty little van. What if Mark were to purchase a van? The Butt-Fuck Bus disturbed Mark’s equilibrium. It wasn’t that he wanted to operate his own porn site, exactly. He was fairly certain that was not why he’d let Sasha go. And the anonymity of the filmed and very graphic sex did not appeal to him. It was the only site to which he ever subscribed and he quickly canceled his subscription. Really, it was the principle of the thing. If there were men Mark’s age driving around in a ratty van, having sex with women with complete strangers and paying them a dollar for the pleasure, even if the women were their friends or aspiring porn stars, or were being paid a lot more than a dollar, still, even then, what was Mark doing in the library? ‘I’ve spent,’ he had said the other day to Celeste, ‘most of my life in libraries.’ This was not quite true. He had spent most of his life in hockey rinks and gyms, and the time he spent in libraries these days was mainly spent looking at naked people on the internet. But he’d not spent- this was the point- a single minute on the Butt-Fuck Bus. Now he watched the wasted hours drift away. All those hours he had spent with Sasha, those warm, gentle hours, gone forever with their marriage’s collapse. Mark was like those stunned post-Soviet Russians during the Draconian free market reforms, watching their 10,000 ruble lifetime savings, still active in their memories, turn overnight into $50.00. The devaluation, it was called, and it hurt.”

Recorded: 3/18/08

Mark starts the book happily married.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

What’s behind our appetite for self-destruction?

Is it "perverseness," the "death drive," or something else?

Photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Each new year, people vow to put an end to self-destructive habits like smoking, overeating or overspending.

Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Photo: Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less

Douglas Rushkoff – It’s not the technology’s fault

It's up to us humans to re-humanize our world. An economy that prioritizes growth and profits over humanity has led to digital platforms that "strip the topsoil" of human behavior, whole industries, and the planet, giving less and less back. And only we can save us.

Think Again Podcasts
  • It's an all-hands-on-deck moment in the arc of civilization.
  • Everyone has a choice: Do you want to try to earn enough money to insulate yourself from the world you're creating— or do you want to make the world a place you don't have to insulate yourself from?
Keep reading Show less