The Best of Youth: A Novel

The Best of Youth: A Novel

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by Michael Dahlie
     
 

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What happens when an introverted young writer takes on a ghostwriting gig for a violent, drug-addicted Hollywood star? In the case of Henry Lang, the result is a string of outrageous disasters, but disasters that are ultimately hilarious, gripping, and deeply moving.
When twenty-something Henry Lang loses his parents in a sailing accident, he’s left

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Overview

What happens when an introverted young writer takes on a ghostwriting gig for a violent, drug-addicted Hollywood star? In the case of Henry Lang, the result is a string of outrageous disasters, but disasters that are ultimately hilarious, gripping, and deeply moving.
When twenty-something Henry Lang loses his parents in a sailing accident, he’s left entirely alone in the world but also with an inheritance of fifteen million bucks. He decides to head to Brooklyn to immerse himself in the place he’s quite sure is the absolute heart of American youth culture to try and make it as a writer and editor at a young upstart literary magazine. He hopes to fall in love too.
Unfortunately, Henry soon finds himself navigating increasingly baffling social difficulties with both women and work, eventually leading him to near ruin when he’s hired to ghostwrite a young adult novel.Henry’s integrity and entire fortune are on the line, and no one is sure if he can rescue either.By turns uproarious and tragic, The Best of Youth is a brilliant comedy of manners, introducing us to a surprising modern-day hero for an age where the mean-spirited and the famous triumph all too often.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A hapless 20-something tries to make it as a writer while surfing waves of Brooklyn pretension in Dahlie’s second novel (after A Gentleman’s Guide to Graceful Living). Despite a Harvard degree and a fortune inherited after his parents are killed in a car accident that he uses to fund the literary magazine Suckerhead, Henry feels blocked in his writing—and unlucky in love, when he learns that his girlfriend mocks him behind his back. His streak of disappointment continues through his dogged attempts to do the right thing, which usually end in disaster, from accidentally killing a herd of designer goats to being arrested on weapons charges after cleaning out his family home. A ghostwriting job for D-list actor Jonathan Kipling offers potential until Jonathan turns out to be a persnickety editor who seduces Henry’s unrequited crush and picks apart Henry’s work before taking all the credit for the resulting bestseller. Dahlie’s send-up of the quest for literary fame is hampered by its pursuer, whose ability to buy his way out of trouble obviates any feelings about the stress or danger he experiences. With the exception of a critical fistfight, Henry sails through turmoil basically unharmed, a weak substitute for a 21st-century Candide, one whose absurd struggles don’t produce the intended humor. Agent: Douglas Stewart, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Jan.)
Tom Perrotta
“Can a person be too good-natured for his own good? This is the question Michael Dahlie asks in The Best of Youth, his sly, thoroughly engaging novel about love, literature, and the strange ways of Brooklyn hipsters. Dahlie is a wonderful writer, with a keen eye for the ridiculous and a deep affection for his well-intentioned but sometimes clueless protagonist.”
Richard Russo
“Michael Dahlie writes the way Cary Grant used to act, that is, with a seeming effortlessness and grace that is truly maddening to those of us who know how difficult it is. The Best of Youth, his fine new novel, is another infuriating case in point.”
Hillary Jordan
“The Best of Youth is what Jane Austen would write if she were here, now, inhabiting a brilliant, self-conscious young writer who'd just been orphaned and inherited 15 million dollars. This witty, romantic, and irresistible story is a surefire antidote to anyone's modern malaise.”
Matthew Quick
“Seriously funny. Intensely human. Reminds us that we can be fallible—even ridiculous—and still manage to find dignity, goodness, and courage deep down inside. I loved this book.”
Maile Meloy
“I raced through Michael Dahlie's The Best of Youth, which tumbles headlong through the calamities of a hapless young Brooklynite—it's funny, moving, and genially moral, a cautionary tale about inherited wealth and a deadpan comic novel about growing up.”
Sam Sacks - The Wall Street Journal
“[A] lovable, feel-good novel.”
Library Journal
This short book by Pen/Hemingway award winner Dahlie looks like a quick read but ends up being a labor—and not of love. The main character, Henry Lang, is so unrealistically clueless, and his mistakes are so predictable, that readers will find themselves cringing. Henry is a Harvard grad and short story writer whose parents unexpectedly die, leaving him $15 million. He decides, naturally, to move to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to soak up the youthful literary culture. What seems meant to be a charming fish-out-of-water story falls flat on its face. The prose is dry, and the events are too outlandish, from the accidental murder of a rare breed of goats to a chance movie deal with a disgruntled celebrity. VERDICT New York's hipster youth scene is ripe for satire, but unfortunately this novel fails to find the mark. Not recommended.—Kate Gray, Pratt Inst., SILS, New York
Kirkus Reviews
Every young writer can probably tell stories about the chaos and romance of their first year as a working scribe. But Henry Lang, the hero of this novel by Dahlie (A Gentleman's Guide To Graceful Living, 2008), has juicier tales than most. Henry's often humiliating, but eventually triumphant, year includes a failed romance with a fourth cousin, a hellish gig ghostwriting for a famous actor and a disastrous run-in with a flock of priceless goats. This is, at heart, a timeless story about a nerd trying to fit in with the cool kids. Henry is born a multimillionaire thanks to family holdings, but that doesn't help his social status in bohemian, present-day New York. He falls in with the editors of a dodgy literary magazine, who reject his stories after his check clears. His cousin Abby, an up-and-coming rock performer, shoots down his polite romantic advances. And he stumbles into a situation that lands him with a short jail sentence. Harry's cluelessness is at first a bit frustrating, especially after the goat episode, but he grows up fast when actor Jonathan Kipling hires him to ghostwrite an inspirational novel. This plays like the movie My Favorite Year but far less romanticized. Will Henry stay muzzled by the nondisclosure agreement he's signed as a ghostwriter, or will he follow his conscience and put everything at risk? Stay tuned. An engaging novel.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393081855
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
01/28/2013
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Michael Dahlie won the 2009 PEN/Hemingway Award for his novel A Gentleman’s Guide to Graceful Living, and he received a Whiting Award in 2010. He is currently the Booth Tarkington Writer-in-Residence at Butler University in Indianapolis.

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