The Best of Youth

Michael Dahlie. Norton, $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-393-08185-5
A hapless 20-something tries to make it as a writer while surfing waves of Brooklyn pretension in Dahlie’s second novel (after A Gentleman’s Guide to Graceful Living). Despite a Harvard degree and a fortune inherited after his parents are killed in a car accident that he uses to fund the literary magazine Suckerhead, Henry feels blocked in his writing—and unlucky in love, when he learns that his girlfriend mocks him behind his back. His streak of disappointment continues through his dogged attempts to do the right thing, which usually end in disaster, from accidentally killing a herd of designer goats to being arrested on weapons charges after cleaning out his family home. A ghostwriting job for D-list actor Jonathan Kipling offers potential until Jonathan turns out to be a persnickety editor who seduces Henry’s unrequited crush and picks apart Henry’s work before taking all the credit for the resulting bestseller. Dahlie’s send-up of the quest for literary fame is hampered by its pursuer, whose ability to buy his way out of trouble obviates any feelings about the stress or danger he experiences. With the exception of a critical fistfight, Henry sails through turmoil basically unharmed, a weak substitute for a 21st-century Candide, one whose absurd struggles don’t produce the intended humor. Agent: Douglas Stewart, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/26/2012
Release date: 01/01/2013
Genre: Fiction
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