Sarah Beth's Reviews > Very Recent History: An Entirely Factual Account of a Year (c. AD 2009) in a Large City

Very Recent History by Choire Sicha
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it was ok
bookshelves: harpercollins-advance-reader-copies

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 relationships in this book, which is fine, but was unexpected. I thought the book would be looking at a broader and more diverse segment of individuals from New York; instead the vast majority of people referenced are white, gay males, making it difficult for me to distinguish between individuals.

The writing style of this book is truly unique, as it is written like an anthropological study of New York Life, as if from a distant observer to be read by individuals from a foreign culture. The city is not named, nor is the mayor, although its clear what the author is referring to. In addition, Sicha goes out of his way to define terms and concepts that are generally accepted as known by most readers; "This was called credit, and in modern times, what these men invented was called a charge card. The card was a signifier that one held money; the holder of the car would pay the issuer of the card at the end of the month; the issuer of the card would pay the stores at which the person had received goods or services" (74).

While this unique style of writing and distance from the subject matter forces the reader to look at New York culture in a new light, however what Sicha illuminates is a sad tale. John and his companions are all miserable. They work in cubicles at unsatisfying and underpaying jobs, are constantly broke, are deeply in debt thanks to college loans, and the culture of casual sex and infidelity is prevalent. Simcha is strictly reporting their movements and actions though, so no conclusions or allusions to their fates following the end of this book are hinted at. It is up to the reader to analyze John and his peers, and, in turn, take a more objective look at the choices made in our modern world.

I was really disappointed in this book. I found its contents depressing, and its writing style ultimately very grating. Although I think there is some merit in writing in an anthropological style, I did not find this an enjoyable or particularly valuable read.
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Reading Progress

June 11, 2013 – Started Reading
June 11, 2013 – Shelved
June 18, 2013 – Finished Reading
August 9, 2013 – Shelved as: harpercollins-advance-reader-copies

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