Nathan Heller on Twentysomethings, and the power of the second-person pronoun

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Nathan Heller is a patient, comprehensive reader, a man not prone to snap conclusions.  Which is why I enjoyed his recent New Yorker story (January 14, 2013 issue) on twentysomethings.  He remembers himself all those years ago.  He reviews the literature of the young and the literature of those who purport to know about the young, and he wonders out loud in a voice both determined and delicate.  This is how he ends his piece—a masterful, undamning, bittersweet conclusion.  Here is how you is I, and how you is us:

The shock of the twenties is how narrow the window of experience really is, and how inevitable it seems both at the time and afterward.  At some point, it is late, too late, and you are standing on the sidewalk outside somewhere very loud.  A wind is blowing.  It's the same cool, restless late-night breeze that blew on trampled nineteen-twenties lawns, and anywhere young people gather.  Nearby, someone who doesn't smoke is smoking.  An attractive stranger with a lightning laugh jaywalks between cars with a friend, making eye contact before scurrying inside.  You're far from home.  It's quiet.  All at once, you have a thrilling sense of nowness, of the sheer potential of a verdant night with all these unmet people in it. For a long time after that, you think you'll never lose this life, those dreams.  But that was, as they say, then.


Kelly H-Y said...

Wow! Especially those last couple sentences!

Christine Griffin said...

The sheer potential of a night with unmet people! SO encapsulates the pure potential of the as yet unjaded twenties! Something of it reminds me of Gatsby!

Ru Freeman said...

I loved that piece too. And for the same reason.

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