After his academic job search, his journalistic career, and his marriage proposal go down in flames, an angry young man moves into his mother's basement and starts a radical movement that pits millennials against baby boomers.
Cassie and Mark, both bluegrass musicians, meet at a gig in Williamsburg, where "maybe fifty bespectacled recent college grads milled around drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon from the can and Miller High Life from the bottle." Cassie reflexively rebuffs Mark's friendly overtures, fearing that her girlfriend will notice and take umbrage. (Perhaps girlfriend is not the right word. "They lived together in a kind of Heiddegarian phenomenological relationship present, in which only the present moment of drinking or playing music or fucking existed, an immediate Dasein of mutually undecided and uncommented-upon cathexis, Eros and lust.") Despite Cassie's lack of enthusiasm, the two soon find themselves in a band, a relationship, and a shared apartment. But shortly after Mark gets her a fact-checking gig at the glossy magazine where he's on staff, their lives take starkly different turns. He loses his job, spends a year writing an essay on Emma Goldman that no one reads, then makes a financial and romantic mistake so serious he is forced to move home to Baltimore. There, he puts on a David Crosby mask, sets himself up in front of an upside-down poster of Jerry Garcia, and begins to issue YouTube screeds against baby boomers. His message: Retire now, greedy pigs, and free up the jobs for us. The videos go viral. Cassie, meanwhile, is riding a wave of good luck. She's become Director of Research at a new media company called RazorWire and is having a passionate relationship with a brilliant female co-worker. The money is fantastic even if the job is something less than that, fact-checking articles like "Seventeen Great New Recipes That Use Splenda Instead of Sugar." But when Mark, now known as Boomer1, loses control of his movement, bad things start to happen, first to Bob Weir, Eddie Bauer, Jann Wenner, and the AARP. Torday's (The Last Flight of Poxl West, 2015) gifts as a writer are brilliantly displayed in the details of Cassie's and Mark's inner and outer worlds. A third main character, Mark's mother, is not as compelling, and when this ambitious social novel comes to rest with her, it loses some steam.
Stylishly written, cleverly observed, and boldly imagined.