May 21, 2016 Log No. 646

Every “Serious” Contemporary Novel Set in NYC

…has a 20-something-yr-old male protagonist who is poor and of uncertain background (or an orphan) but has rich friends who take him under their wing because he is just so fascinating. Oftentimes his field is very liberal artsy–art history, writing, classics, etc etc–and not very lucrative (he’s just waiting for his big break!) but he scrapes by and still gets exposed to the high life. Usually by the end of the novel he MAKES it. Usually of ambiguous sexuality. Usually has some metaphorical rats in the closet that he hates to divulge, which makes him seem “mysterious.” (And literal ones in his apartment, the poor artiste that he is, at least until his friends see what squalor he lives in and invites him to move in.)

I mean, I have nothing against this type of person but after reading several novels by several different authors, all of high critical acclaim (now which books could I be talking about…), I’m a little baffled that these seemingly independent stories are all centered around this character. You know, you can be a young person in NYC and not be outrageously poor but fascinating or outrageously rich and bored. I know that of course people write about what they know and I don’t doubt that these authors are drawing from their own experiences, but it gets tiresome seeing it book after book.

Generally the books are still very good and have moments of clarity and great characterization, so I still read them, but I can only take so many of these:

“He looked down, knowing he was down to single digits in his bank account, but also knowing that Geoffrey wouldn’t ask him to pay a cent, and wondered, not for the first time, if he could really continue living like this” etc etc.

(Thank you, thank you, that’s 100% my brilliant authorship right there.)

(And to dispel the mystery, the books in question are The Goldfinch, The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards, and currently A Little Life.)

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