And now, a word from those of us who are actually threatened by the size of Dana Vachon's $650,000 advance. Or who, at least, think that publishers dole out such advances to highly marketable youngsters at the expense of real novels by real writers— who don't at all feel that Vachon is "the best pure writer to have emerged from the blogosphere" (we've actually read his entire book!), and who don't know him personally and also don't often find "affable Westchester goofiness" adorable in anyone. So! Today's Observer semi-takedown: predictable, yes, but right in at least one important respect. By underlining greasy eminence Jay McInerney's blurbing of both Indecision and Mergers & Acquisitions and dubbing Vachon this year's Lit Boy, Lizzy Ratner makes the point that writing a Bright Lights homage has basically become a literary genre unto itself. What is it about these Lit Boys' books that make them so irritating yet so compelling? Well, maybe Julia Allison, who said that the book made her want to fuck Dana Vachon, is onto something. YES, I JUST SAID THAT.
Thing is, reading M&A probably is a lot like fucking Dana Vachon, or at least, a lot like postcoitally cuddling with him while he bares his soul and discusses the hardship of being a rich person who isn't like the other rich people. It's rare to get a peek into the inner workings of that kind of boy's brain! Maybe reading the book is less like fucking Vachon, actually, and more like what having an actual relationship with him might be like: fast-paced and exciting and even a little bit funny at first, if a little emotionally hollow. And then, as the experience wears on and Vachon palpably puts in less and less effort, the thing becomes increasingly hollow, decreasingly exciting.
This reader kept thinking that five or six more years of actual life experience would have enriched the book considerably, potentially transforming the easy caricatures into insightful portraits. But no one gets that kind of time nowadays; if Vachon had holed up somewhere to hone his craft, we'd be talking about some other fresh-faced, Catholic-nosed specimen's McInerney-anointed debut right now. So the question becomes: why does this uniform take on what it's like to be young, male, and privileged in New York City merit so much retelling?
Maybe it's because the ease with which it can be taken down makes it a publicist's dream. Lizzy Ratner and I fuel the hype machine in the same predictable way, just as sympathizers and enthusiasts like McInerney and Balk fan the flames. There's no winning with this next big thing, flavor of the month shit. We'll all just keep playing our roles and nothing will ever change except for the specifics. It's a dysfunctional relationship, all right, one that leaves us feeling dirty and vowing never to get involved with this kind of guy again, even though we know that we'll probably be a sucker for the next one who comes along.