Once in a rare while, an item comes along that embodies the entire cultural zeitgeist of a particular time and place. Ladies and gentlemen of the creative underclass, we have just such an item in our hands today. And it's up for sale to YOU, the public! The players in this strange saga: Harvard-educated literary it-boy and haughty heartbreaker Keith Gessen; Gawker, sworn enemy of literary culture and pimp of kittens; and a copy of Gessen's poorly reviewed but terribly important book, All The Sad Young Literary Men, with a very special twist. Here's the entire story of how this item came to be, and how you can-and must-buy it, in order to win the culture war and house the homeless:
I am the least literary of all Gawker writers, and therefore the least qualified to comment on the contents of Gessen's book (which I haven't read). So I just complained that he talks about Harvard way too much (which he does). But Gessen responded!
Hamilton: I do say Harvard a lot, don't I? It's impolite, right? You know who doesn't ever mention where they went to school? People whose parents went there before them, or paid for a lot of tutoring. In my book I was writing about a certain subset of guys and I didn't think it served any purpose to be coy about where they went to school. But how's this—if you send me your copy I'll cross out all the references to Harvard and replace them with the college of your choice.
So I did. Sheila donated her copy of his book, and I took it and gave it to him at his party. I considered having him replace all Harvard references with Oral Roberts University, but eventually settled on Florida State University, on the theory that middlebrow is even funnier than lowbrow.
Do you agree? Disagree? Either way, you fall on one side or the other in the culture war!
Gessen lost Sheila's book, but, to his credit, replaced it with a brand new copy, and kept his word by replacing every reference to Harvard, by hand. And there are a lot. In the front of the book, he wrote (as best as I can make out):
At the request of Hamilton Nolan, all references to Harvard in this copy of All the Sad Young Literary Men have been replaced with "Florida State" or "FSU." I've also replaced dorm names and bar names, where necessary.
The "Sam" character still moves to Boston after college-I don't see why he wouldn't be able to do that just as well from FSU. Of course he would find the weather more depressing. Otherwise the tone of the force(sp?) of the book and its complaint(sp?) remain intact.
Please: take a moment to reflect on all of the various threads of the literary, social, cultural, urban, educational, academic, media, and Gawkerist zeitgeist that are summed up in this single item. It is truly staggering. Do you want to keep it under glass? Burn it? Either way, it has a power over you that you cannot deny.
We are auctioning off this totemic volume for charity. All proceeds will be donated to the New York Coalition For the Homeless-the organization that will be responsible for sheltering all of us once this writing hustle plays itself out.
The link to the eBay auction is here. We listed the book last night at $10; bidding currently stands at $105. But it should rightly go much higher. It's for a good cause.
What price is too great to pay in order to own this, the new version of the "Morris" character's speech on p. 72?:
"There's this thing about guys from FSU. They think everything's fine, just because they went to FSU. And for them, you know, it is. Even the most mediocre mediocrity can make a nice life for himself in New York if only he went to Florida State fucking University."