All The Sad Young Literary Men is for college grads wondering “how this works,” says Gessen.
Question: Who is your reader?rn
Keith Gessen: Above all, I think this book is for people who are getting out of school, and they’re wondering, as I wondered ten years ago, how this thing works, and what’s going to happen to them. And they’re probably not in New York. They’re probably in Cleveland or Philadelphia or Portland. And they’re wondering, how do I make a life for myself? As a writer, as an intellectual- now, you won’t actually learn that from the book- you learn a lot of things that you shouldn’t do. <chuckles>
But I think if, you know, I felt like when I- and I loved reading books about writers when I was younger, and I still do- and those books, you know, Balzac, Lost Illusions, one of my favorite books- New Grub Street, by Gissing, where everyone starves- everyone literally starves. And those books are very funny, and yet, in a way, they’re- they don’t actually- they’re not that useful to a writer in a- you know, a young person in 2008. They are very dramatic. They’re very melodramatic. The choices that they put before their characters are very stark. In fact, it turns out that the choices that you have in this life are a lot less stark than that. They’re very subtle, and so it’s- I tried to be true to that experience.rn