We enjoyed reading about the exploits of the young literary man at the center of Adelle Waldman’s debut novel The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. so much that we were eager to hear more about her favorite sad young literary men in fiction. Here’s what she told us:
“With all due respect to F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose 1926 collection of short stories was called All the Sad Young Men, the recent popularity of the phrase ‘sad young literary man’ owes itself to Keith Gessen’s allusively titled 2008 novel, All The Sad Young Literary Men, a very smart and funny book about young would-be writers. Gessen cleverly put a name to a type that we all recognized, and it’s no small credit to him that his book’s title has become part of our lexicon.
These are some of my favorite young literary men of literature. (Some are sadder than others.)”
Lucien Chardon in Honore de Balzac’s Lost Illusions
Honore de Balzac’s 1843 novel Lost Illusions is still, as far as I am concerned, the best book ever about today’s literary scene — never mind that it was about Paris in the 1820s. More important than the period details, or the fact that the technology was a bit different (no Twitter!), are the people, who don’t change. Ambition, vanity, sycophancy — there’s nothing new under the sun. Aspiring poet Lucien Chardon, like many of his modern counterparts, relies on financial support from his more practically employed loved ones back in the provinces. He taxes their finances as he tries to navigate Paris’s literary demi-monde and gets sidetracked by a scene in which it is all too easy for him to give way to his worst impulses. A must-read for any aspiring writer.