Sicha, Choire. “Very Recent History: An Entirely Factual Account of a Year (c. AD 2009) in a Large City”, Harper, 2013.
Money and Power, Love and Connection
Money, sex and politics are the subjects of “Very Recent History”, a look at a city and some young men who try to navigate it. Set after the crash of Wall Street in 2008, the richest person in town is the mayor. The economy is a disaster yet life goes on.
All of us wonder what the future will bring and whenever we reach a new age, we realize that it is not so new and basically a repetition with changes of how we have always lived. Human nature is human nature and no amount of technology or culture change will affect that. Sure, we may change our minds and externally things may appear different but basically our sense of humanity remains the same.
This is the story of a group of friends trying to get through the results of the post-financial meltdown in what I suppose is New York City and it is narrated by a voice from the future. Things have gotten very bad. While the characters’ sexuality is not revealed, there is no doubt that they are gay men.
We meet John and his close friends and look at their lives on a daily basis and we are immediately aware that the very rich remain very rich while the middle and lower classes struggle to get by. The world in 2009 was the world of the Internet, high finance, credit, smart phones and celebrities (who may or may not be movie stars). As John and his friends try to get through days, we are there with them, experiencing what they feel and sensing what they sense. This book instills in us a sense of history that is taught at school. What makes this history important is that it is real and reading it now is like heeding a call for change. We suddenly see what we have been blind to, i.e. the modern American plagues such as student loans, finance, etc. and I have really said nothing of sex and politics. By focusing on the life of a city during one year, the writer focuses on each of us.
This is a sociological study of a very rich city and is strictly, from what I can ascertain, the author’s own view which is presented through sarcasm and through the eyes of a group of wealthy people who do not know how to use what they could they be able to do. At the same time, John and his friends have limited options.
We move through the city slowly—the plot alternate between life in the city and the lives of John and his friends. It is the narrator through his prose that not only sets the scene but also manipulates the characters.