Writers in their 20s give varied expression to “the everyday process of living out youthful ideals in a world of questionable merit, and of learning how to reconcile what is with what can be.”
These prose works, poems, photographs, and artworks are valuable fragments of a collective consciousness, made into one simply by being the products of 20-somethings, a transformative decade of life whose fruitfulness is in full evidence here. First-time editors Karlin and Borofsky have gathered 46 contributions and grouped them under the loose categories of navigating, working, relating, and dreaming. This is well-trod and very youthful ground, and it isn’t surprising that hackneyed comments like “a desire to fill life with something beyond work and money” arise, nor is it hard to believe that the contributors here are indeed “people who do not look for labels.” But much of the material is a fresh look at learning how to compromise without sinking yourself, a mix of possibility, passion, and practicality. On sheer plentitude, for example, we read that “Freedom is not all it is pumped up to be: your mind can go haywire with alternatives,” and there is the matter of simply losing it, as in Lee Konstantinou’s anomic “The Schrödiger Treatment.” Jedediah Purdy marches firmly forward in the project of “achieving and sustaining a tradition,” while a poem about a father’s death appreciates the role of the past without being quite sure of its meaning. The ground is shifting under these authors’ feet even as they write—the nature of relationships is fluid when not unstable, and ideas like “quirkyalone” and “friend crush” are at once familiar and novel. Amid all this turbulence, it’s bracing to find the balm of humor as well, notably in Andy Isaacson’s “Take-Back-the-Siesta.com.”
A “multilogue” of voices worthy of being listened to by anyone wondering what occupies the space between a 20-year-old’s ears.