All the Sad Young Literary Men


The New York Observer has a piece up today on the latest trend in literature: the anti-hero. So cutting edge! Apparently, there are two kinds of modern anti-heroes: the “emotionally misshapen,” socially dysfunctional tough guy, of which the prime examples are Holden Caulfield and the narrators of Notes from Underground and Fight Club, and the “the somewhat indulged, un-grown-up guy who has sort of philosophical ideas or objections to society and doesn’t know what to do with himself.”

We don’t get any examples of the latter from the Observer, but if you’re looking for one, you might start with the book that shares this post’s name. The piece lavishes most of its attention and praise on Fight Club, which strikes us as odd. While Notes from Underground and The Catcher in the Rye may be classics, we don’t think Fight Club has the same longevity. Joshua Ferris tells the Observer that the book “catches the zeitgest against IKEA conformity and the J Crewification of the nineties,” which is all well and good, but more than a decade after its publication and in the midst of a financial crisis, the desperation to disengage from society and blow up one’s condo no longer strikes the same chord it did in 1996.

Plus, J. Crew’s designs have gotten so much better since then.