South on Highland (a trunk review)

Small confession. This is a resurrected “trunk” review. Most authors have novels they lock away in a drawer, or hide in the back of their closet . . . assumedly in a trunk . . . which they wrote years ago, but haven’t looked at in a dozen or more years. Perhaps they didn’t think their skill as a writer was good enough, or some plot line just wouldn’t line up in their mind. Maybe the world just wasn’t ready for the type of story they had written. Perhaps they just managed to get distracted at the exact moment they were going to hit publish.

Apparently, I have trunk reviews. This one hasn’t been maturing in my cellar for the previously mentioned dozen years (try sixish). There’s not a special occasion for which I’m revealing it (honestly I only started digging around in old drafts because I ran out of time to write a review of a different book). What I assume happened is that I probably wanted to make some clever point which I wasn’t nearly clever enough to come up with and so I decided to let it marinate for a while to see what else came of it.

Turns out nothing did.

But after six years, a quick read through to discover it was mostly a complete review, and not remembering in the slightest what half formed idea I wanted to let congeal, I decided to go ahead and publish it anyway. Please enjoy this look back at 25 year old me . . .

This was a really intense read. The beginning of this book has a certain vacation like charm. Leila is pretty “cool”. She’s smart, witty, successful and most importantly she’s adventurous in a way that seems easy but certainly is not. We get to live an insane life style vicariously through her binges and we don’t really feel any of the side effects of what is going on. The highs are much clearer and expressive than the lows and so we feel, perhaps as Leila herself feels, that there are no consequences to these actions. And it’s wonderful.

But of course, it can’t last and with the flip of a switch we’re back on our asses wondering what the hell is going on. I had to put this book down several times because it got so “heavy”. It’s a tribute to Maeby’s writing though that I kept picking it back up. I finished the book pretty quickly as I kept putting off obligations and cancelling plans to read. Had to get my fix I guess 😉

I found the portrayal of Los Angeles (or I suppose I mean Hollywood really) extremely interesting as well. So much beauty and wealth and excess and not a single strand to keep it grounded. So many people in search of intense feeling and not a single thing getting felt. Shallow and deep at the same time.

Of course I also enjoyed the point of view. Leila is 23. I will be turning 25 in a week or two so I felt like we were pretty close in age if not actual experience. The larger subtext of the way she feels is one I think most of my generation can feel even if we weren’t doing Adderall in high school. One of the later characters is incredibly nostalgic about the movie Rent which had a special place in my own coming of age. The whole book is pocked with little details like that which place it in time. Place it in my time. I haven’t felt that in anything I’ve read . . . maybe ever.

Definitely give this one a read, especially if you’re a college student or young professional. Just do it.

Thank you 24-going-on-25-year-old-me (this is 30-going-on-31-year-old-you speaking) . . . How insightful. Ahh youth.

I’m having vague flashbacks to this book being called Less than Zero for millennials. I think past me wanted to write something smart about that but never did figure out what to say other than yea . . . it’s got a similar vibe and takes place (I think) in the 80’s. But that was as far as I got. Sadly older wiser me is not closer to that brilliant connection. Sometimes it be like that.

It seems like young me thought this book felt generation defining at the time I read it. I’m curious what’s being written now for 25-year-olds that their feeling seen by. I wonder if I’d feel old an curmudgeonly reading those books now

Anyway, for any readers that have actually managed to read this post, let me know if you’ve given this one a read. I’m anxious to hear your thoughts.

Also, what are the “generation defining” books of today? Leave em in the comments.

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