Title: Very Recent History: An Entirely Factual Account of a Year (c. AD 2009) in a Large City
Author: Choire Sicha
Source: from publisher for TLC book tour
Review Summary: One part humorous imagining of how people in the future will view our society to two parts confusing and muddled narrative.
The narrative moving this narrative non-fiction forward is the story of a group of interconnected young men, most of whom are homosexual and several of whom seem to be bankers or stock brokers. This is the story of their struggle to navigate a big city (never specified, but I’d bet it’s New York) and the vagaries of their financial and romantic situations. Interspersed with this narrative are sections describing society in 2009 as though to someone so far in the future that even the most basic of terms need to be explained.
I loved the parts written as a pseudohistory, explaining our society to someone of the future. Even mundane parts of our lives can be strange or humorous if you really examine them, as this book forces you to do. This part reminded me very much of The Motel of the Mysteries, a book written as though someone was staging an archeological dig at a motel from today some thousands of years in the future. Had this been the entire book, I would happily have given it 4 stars. Unfortunately, these parts got more uncommon as the book progressed until the second half was almost entirely narrative. Additionally, readers should be warned that these fake history sections subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) promoted a definite political view point by imposing value judgements on current society. Even when I agreed with this political commentary, I found it a little annoying because it’s just not what I signed up for when I decided to read this book. Very sneaky, Mr. Sicha.
The narrative part of the book was fascinating, but hard to follow. Of the dozen or so men in the story, five of them had names beginning with J! Now, maybe the author was trying to make a point about people in the big city being interchangeable and if so, kudos to him for an effective literary device. However, this was a choice that made it incredibly difficult for me to remember who was who. Many of the guys were connected because they’d dated the same other guy at some point and that, on top of the similar names, meant that I found the narrative muddled. Had the book been all narrative and no funny historical anecdotes, I would probably have given it two stars. I would recommend this book if you’re looking for something very odd and very literary.