Back When Everything Was Fun

October 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

Still working on Harper’ses and New Yorkers from June, back when the election was still talked about in abstractions and the weather was getting warmer. I particularly don’t expect much out of Harper’s these days, especially in the fiction department, so Karl Taro Greenfeld’s “Fun Won,” from the June issue, was a pleasant surprise:

You should see who my friends married in the Nineties. It wasn’t like now, when girls are marrying, like, handsome, mixed-race guys with good hair who ride bicycles. Do you know what men were like in New York in the Nineties? White and boring. They had real jobs—lawyers, architects, doctors. And they were dull. I had girlfriends I used to get stoned with every night and do blow with at Limelight and who would even suck some guy with dreadlocks at Robots, but who ended up marrying, like, an IT guy from Boston. Pretty girls who would go from dating an English junkie to a Long Island accountant. Those seemed like the only choices back then. Now you have these hybrids. I don’t know what guys do anymore, but it seems like when I meet a man in his twenties or thirties, he does something in online advertising or marketing but is more defined by his hobby of riding fixed-gear bicycles or some intense and very particular food enthusiasm.

Greenfeld gives a convincing first-person voice to a young female narrator living at a time “when you could still dream of being a writer, when writing for magazines and then writing books and all of that added up to a good life.” The time, of course, is the Nineties, and she’s a Conde Nast Senior Editor with a taste for the herb, a brother with an ample supply, a co-worker who knows a good deal of famous people (Jean-Paul Gaultier, Naomi Campbell, Giuseppe Cipriani), and a wealthy sort-of-boyfriend who converts old buildings into condominiums. The bubble of Everything Going Right allows the characters to bounce and careen without consequence through the evening, which includes a written-off dinner at Cipriani’s restaurant (a perfect opportunity to use the passive voice, as one just happens to be on the receiving end of things one cannot control):

Six plates of egg-noodle pasta with a light sauce of cream and caviar were brought over, and Giuseppe shaved generous slices of truffle onto each of our plates. Two bottles of Barbaresco appeared, and then another two, and once we had eaten, whatever anxiety or incipient paranoia I had felt seemed miraculously lifted.

The story reminded me of much of what I liked about A Visit to the Goon Squad (which, I am ashamed to admit, I remember very little about other than that I loved it). “Fun Won” is apparently an excerpt from Greenfeld’s novel Triburbia, which was released in August and is now on my Amazon Wish List.

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