Monday, June 02, 2008


A Cautionary Tale

It is perhaps silly to post about a book I have not yet read, but the imp of the perverse in me makes me want to do so. (Note, the bold lettering is all mine).

When Emily Gould wrote about Keith Gessen's then upcoming novel, All the Sad Young Literary Men, she said (in November, 2007):
"And last night, Choire quoted a friend of his who's reading a galley of the book as saying that the book was a cautionary tale. [The friend had written: "I just started reading Keith Gessen's novel — irritating of course, it's the n+1 world, where women are mere accessories, but not bad! But SUCH a cautionary tale.... To me it's screaming *Get out of NY before it's too late*!!! Or, shrink your life in NY... stop going to all those lame competitive parties. Look, I always liked Sloane Crosley too, but when the fact that she is *nice* is the subject of an Observer article, that is a culture in deep, deep decline."]

Keith didn't understand how the book could be a cautionary tale."

Do we take her at her word that Gessen felt his novel was not a cautionary tale?
In his NY Mag article from April, 2008, which I quoted earlier in this blog, he declared:
"I think the guys behave badly, but I'm not sure they're bad guys. I think part of it is that women see that something might be done with them. It's an ancient mistake, or an ancient gift, that women give to men, where they give them the benefit of trying to straighten themselves out. I had a very interesting conversation with an older woman friend who's a well-known and much-admired, by me and everyone else, feminist writer, who was talking about Roth and Bellow and she was saying, "Well, you couldn't possibly write like that anymore. You couldn't possibly have men who treat women in this way in your books." And I thought, Geez, you know, I sort of do in my book."

By May of this year, when asked about his book, Gessen writes:
"I do think it may appeal to young men more than to young women — though young women should read it as a warning — and women tend to read more than men, unfortunately."

Well, I've heard it said that actors can't stand to look at their work once they've filmed a movie, and that musicians don't want to revisit their old recordings. Once one has released a book out into the world, it can't help but take on a life of its own that one never intended. Perhaps even authors change their minds. Or maybe they are misquoted.

I'm sure I'll find out.

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