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Very Recent History: An Entirely Factual Account of a Year (c. AD 2009) in a Large City

3.19  ·  Rating details ·  632 ratings  ·  105 reviews
What will the future make of us?

In one of the greatest cities in the world, the richest man in town is the Mayor. Billionaires shed apartments like last season's fashion trends, even as the country's economy turns inside out and workers are expelled from the City's glass towers. The young and careless go on as they always have, getting laid and getting laid off, falling in
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published August 6th 2013 by Harper (first published February 12th 2013)
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Average rating 3.19  · 
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Aug 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book has a really interesting concept but it strains at book length. The writing is, at times, beautifully incisive, but it also feels a bit condescending because the core audience for this book already knows what Sicha is talking about here and probably shares his palpable anger. It all becomes too repetitive, too earnest. The characters are largely indistinct and, though it pains me to say this, at times, I felt like I was reading the man's version of Girls, because this seems to take pla ...more
Stephanie Sun
Once (2013 A.D.) there was a reader, who was also a writer. (This was towards the end of the brief period when most countries with developed literatures considered writers and readers to be entirely separate classes of people because the high cost of operating printing presses and distributing and storing new longform narrative texts for sale limited mass distribution of new longform narrative texts to a finite number each year, leading to a small population of published writers writing for a mu ...more
Sarah Beth
I received an Advance Reader Copy from HarperCollins.

Very Recent History is a non-fiction account that follows the lives and adventures of John, a recent college graduate living in New York City in the economic downturn of 2008, and his large group of male friends. I found the book jacket summary of this book very misleading. It does not adequately describe the unusual writing style, nor does it reveal that John and all of the men mentioned are gay. There's a lot of gay sex and reference to gay
Patrick Brown
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This both a snapshot of New York City circa 2009 -- the height of the financial crisis, with layoffs looming like hurricanes over every desk -- and the story of a guy named John. It is also the debut of a tremendously original voice in fiction. Sicha has cultivated his own idiosyncratic style through years of online writing at Gawker and The Awl (of which he's co-founder), and the confidence of his style shows through here. Some may find the almost bewildering dialog at bar and party scenes (of ...more
Jul 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
I suffered through this. I found it tedious; it felt like required reading. There were glimpses of what I think would be considered innovative or novel, but the payoff never really came for me. I probably just didn't get it.
Check out the FULL REVIEW on my blog Guiltless Reading
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It is so so so good. It's like magical and mundane and beautiful and sad and nuts. I love it so much. His language is so careless and so precise, and the decisions he makes about what elements of modern life to explain and which to let go are so interesting to see and wonder about, and the people and the dialog feel so accurate. It's so funny and weird and great. Read it.
Hank Stuever
Aug 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
I’m a tiny, tiny bit acquainted with Choire Sicha (in the mutual-friends/Twitter sense, though we’ve never met) and certainly an admirer of his work for many years, so there’s that. “Very Recent History” is an interesting experiment in nonfiction, testing the idea that really big subjects (the economy; the wealth gap; the Great Recession) can be interpreted and even magnified in the stories of everyday lives of citizens (in this case, a bunch of self-absorbed gay men in their 20s scraping by in ...more
Peter Knox
Aug 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013, fiction, non-fiction
A fan of Choire's writing (Awl reader since Day One) and having lived this same 2009 year in NYC, I was interested in seeing things from his third-party perspective. He does not disappoint in class rage, matters of (little) money, the types of conversation one has amongst peers, and the rather existential dread that the City can create amongst the drifters looking for a perfect job/apartment/partner, knowing that to have even two of those would be an upgrade.

Choire's at his best when explaining
Aug 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2013
Though the billing of this book as nonfiction reportage seems implausible and unnecessary (did Dawn Powell's skewering of the downtown demimonde sting any less because it was fictional? Did Candace Bushnell's?), I think it's actually true. Investigative journalism with its transcripts and archival research is the only thing that could explain how fucking to a T Choire Sicha nailed what my life was like in 2009. I mean are you fucking kidding me? Down to the littlest detail, this is how I spent a ...more
Aug 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
This is unreal. I've written a full review of this book 3 times, and 3 times, it hasn't posted. Well, this time I'll limit myself to saying that I'm not an objective reader, because Choire is an old and dear friend, and I'm very happy for him that this book has been published.

I'll also say that the central device of viewing 21st century metropolitan capitalism and mores through the dry lens of a distant future works beautifully. The distance permits us to see just how much is contingent in thing
David Dinaburg
Oct 04, 2015 rated it liked it
I thought this book was one thing, and when it turned out to be something else entirely I wasn’t particularly pleased; it occasionally slide back into my a priori expectations so I withheld judgment, picking at each page with my nose held daintily aloft, like a secret Star Trek fan at a weekend convention they are “Just attending because my nerdy friend wants to.” By the end of Very Recent History: An Entirely Factual Account of a Year (c. AD 2009) in a Large City, though, I was swept up in the ...more
Jul 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, owned
Today’s Non-fiction post is on “Very Recent History: An entirely factual account of a year (c. AD 2009) in a Large City” by Choire Sicha. It is 240 pages long and is published by Harper Publishing. The cover has a picture of The City looking up between the buildings to a grey sky with the title and author information in a purple rectangle in the center. There is strong language, talk about sex and sexuality but no violence in this book; 18 and up just to be safe. It is told from an odd third per ...more
Chris Talbot
Oct 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book describes a 20-something gay journalist in NYC and his adventures (or lack thereof).

The main themes the author communicated to me are the following:

The city is expensive, and there are a lot of rich people there who have more than you, and them having more than you reminds you of what you don't have.

The gay bar scene of the younger than 30 set. He nails it as a repetitive ritual of intoxication and make out sessions with people you probably shouldn't be making out with, and who you p
Rebecca Saxon
Oct 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: lgbt, contemporary
I love the originality in the way this story is told: a detached, seemingly-future narrator describing life in 2009 NYC during the financial meltdown, by focusing on a small group of gay men. It basically switches between explaining city living in 2009 to someone who's never experienced it, to detailing John's (a debt-ridden despite having a job, gay man) life and his circle of friends & lovers.

When it's at it's best, the book provides a sharp critique of current society and its many issues. At
May 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is very interesting. I love how Sicha writes as if the reader has no conception of New York (or American or even human) life. As if we're reading this thousands of years in the future and need to know every detail. And that's where the charm is, in how he describes things like the Internet and social conventions and the seasons. I had a few favorite qoutes:

"The backs of knees were shining everywhere. There was maybe no good evolutionary or biological reason for everyone to want to touc
Eugene Beronilla
Aug 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Above all, this is a great, easy read, definitely a nod to New Yorkers. However, perhaps only the politically-minded-slash-hiptistic Citydwellers will get the milieu referenced through winks and elbow nudges peppered in the book. The lack of universal appeal is almost unapologetic, which honestly may be the main intrigue for this novel. Otherwise the structure is the kind of cavalier attitude found among the characters.

An early review from Miller from the Observer sums it best that “sex, money,
Richard Kramer
Nov 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
VERY RECENT EVENTS, a wonderful novel with a wonderful title by a wonderfully named author (Choire Sicha), follows the lives of a handful of young men in New York in 2009. They get jobs, they lose jobs, the jobs they find still leave them with strings of days with no money at all. They kiss each other in bars, they live with their parents for a while; they watch the bills for their student loans pile up in front of them. And another thousand people just got off of the train ... Sicha limns, to s ...more
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One thing I have learned about myself is that I ravenously consume any media relating to the 2008 Recession. I graduated from undergrad in 2009, which was a sorry time to emerge from any kind of cocoon. I often describe graduating and going to grad school during the Great Recession thusly: Some very smart people whose Plan A was to get jobs couldn't get jobs, so they chose Plan B, which was to go to grad school. I was one of the legions of people for whom Plan A was grad school. But just because ...more
Aug 10, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the strangest book I've ever read, and I thought about putting it down at least once. However in the end I think I kind of liked it. The characters do seem to be interchangeable but that is actually true amongst groups of gay friends. I think I have been friends with at least a couple of the guys in the book (and I don't live anywhere near "The City"). I thought I was going to read a book about some guys struggle during the great crash of 2009, instead I got a modern gay novel. However I ...more
Kerry Riffle
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book - and did enjoy the author's conceits of non-fiction written as fiction and describing everything as if we were visitors from a far planet or the far future who had no point of reference to c. 2009 - but ultimately that conceit wasn't enough to sustain even a short tale of some struggling but shallow(ish) late 20-something NYC gays. I often had a hard time keep track of who was who as they were all mostly indistinguishable from the lead character, John. And he d ...more
Aug 14, 2013 rated it did not like it
Literally & figuratively a thin book. Half mock anthropological text half documentation of gay NYC 2009. The book seemed to have little to no point. The characters were thin as thin can be--interchangeable "J" named men with interchangeable partners and I get that's a bit of the point but the characters had no depth or detail except to chronicle boring party conversations and errands. So happy I'm done reading this book. ...more
Aug 06, 2013 marked it as to-read
Shelves: to-read-soon
God I love Choire Sicha. Here is a piece he wrote about New York money and nostalgia and fame and also more money.

I want this book so super bad.
Sep 11, 2013 rated it did not like it
A poorly written soap opera.
Sep 28, 2020 rated it liked it
The concept of this book is really fun: like science fiction, it addresses current social and political issues by distancing the reader from them to allow a more objective view to the inanity of human behavior--except that it's written about the present, not some distant future. Student loans, mayoral voting, dating, corporate layoffs, and consumerism all appear as if under some alien's curious eye, leaving them (and us, the readers!) shaking their heads. Humans--what a weird bunch!

Toward the e
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
Bad Bret Easton Ellis for millennials. Two stars for the social commentary and the Bloomberg parts but the endless hookups between Chad, Jason, John, and [insert random white's guy name here] added nothing here. Sicha said in an interview I read that this wasn't a book for people in their 40s and above and he was right.
Jessica Keltz
Aug 11, 2020 rated it liked it
I am the audience for this book. I moved to NYC as a 30-year-old unemployed professional trying to rebuild my career, at the end of 2009. A former coworker is even mentioned, and the author’s opinion of her is as low as my own. But I was not a fan of the conceit/writing style and would have enjoyed a more straightforward fictionalized memoir more.
Heather Clitheroe
Jul 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017-reads
The storytelling is well done, but I feel like this book should have been about as half as long to be twice as good.
Brian Bakofen
Jul 01, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a very odd book. I couldn't put it down and I think I enjoyed it, but now that I finished it I am not sure I care much about it, though I am glad I read it.
Aug 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
. . . now the nuances and gradations of society in general seem of the same importance as the overtones of society in particular; sauce and trimmings make better eating than the meat. And we predict a frightful pandemonium to eat it in unless indeed every generation has gone through the same difficulties of adjustment. It may be that this one is simply more expressive. Oddly enough we have but one set of contemporaries. It has always surprised us that whether there is a war or not we will always
Aug 14, 2013 rated it liked it
I don't believe that the malaise felt in Very Recent History's troubled economy (i.e., the American economy, ca. 2009) applies exclusively to Very Recent History's City (i.e., NYC), but the local politics described in Choire's novel is a different story. I didn't have many expectations of this book, and while I can't say I was disappointed, I can see how others might find the narrative to be a jarring & seemingly pointless account upon first glance. I only finished the book a few minutes ago, an ...more
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“Sometimes work was just what you clocked into while you were falling in love. Sometimes sex was just something you did while you weren't at work. Drugs were something you did sometimes when you couldn't deal with one of those things, or with yourself. The City was so expensive and so grueling sometimes that it was easy to be unsure why you were there. Many were there to make money, money that could largely only be made there, in the long spiny arms of industries that could never grow anywhere else or anywhere smaller. Some people just liked it, its loudness and crowdedness and surprises. Some started there for a reason and then couldn't imagine being anywhere else, but maybe lost track of that reason along the way. Some people had a plan. Some were just chancing it. Either way the months flew by, and over the years you came up with something or you came up with not much.” 3 likes
“Sometimes work was just what you clocked into while you were falling in love. Sometimes sex was just something you did while you weren't at work. Drugs were something you did sometimes when you couldn't deal with one of those things, or with yourself.” 0 likes
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