All the Sad Young Literary Men

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All the Sad Young Literary Men is the debut novel of Keith Gessen, the founder of the journal n+1. It was published by Viking in April, 2008.


Gessen's novel centers around the stories of three literary-minded friends: Keith, a Harvard-educated writer living in New York City; Sam, living in Boston and writing the "great Zionist epic"; and Mark, who is trying to complete a history dissertation on the Mensheviks at Syracuse University.


The title is derived from F. Scott Fitzgerald's third collection of short stories, All the Sad Young Men. This collection includes two of Fitzgerald's most famous stories about privilege and romance surprised by the chillier realities outside a university's gates, "Winter Dreams" and "The Rich Boy."


In The New York Review of Books, novelist and critic Joyce Carol Oates called the novel "mordantly funny, and frequently poignant," adding "in this debut novel there is much that is charming and beguiling, and much promise."[1] In The New York Times Book Review, Andrew O'Hagan wrote, "Gessen’s style is good-natured and ripe enough to allow a satisfying sweetness to exist in these characters as they journey around the carnival of their own selfishness. Mark and Sam and Keith may encapsulate a certain generational passion for careers over values, but their adventures here often serve laughingly to set them down among the aging troubles of the world. There must, after all, be a way of life in which literary young men are not enslaved to the sad business of always having to do better than 'the people they went to college with.'”[2]

Real-life parallels[edit]

Much of the book appears to be drawn from Gessen's real-life experiences — as a student and then an editor in Manhattan — albeit with some names and datums deliberately fictionalized.

Fictional Real-life Cite
Keith Keith Gessen [3]
Mark Grossman
Samuel Mitnick
Lauren Kristin Gore
Prof. Lomaski Noam Chomsky
Morris Binkel Lee Siegel [3]
New American The New Republic [3]
Debate Dissent [3]
Cafe 1369 1369 Coffee House
Judith Hestermann Virginia Heffernan


  1. ^ Joyce Carol Oates, "Youth!", The New York Review of Books, May 1, 2008.
  2. ^ Andrew O'Hagan, "N + 2," The New York Times Book Review, April 13, 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d Shulevitz, Judith. "Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who's the Cleverest of Them All?". Slate. Retrieved 8 November 2012. 

External links[edit]