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9

Keith: The Vice President’s Daughter (I)

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6
notes

Gessen, K. (2008). Keith: The Vice President’s Daughter (I). In Gessen, K. All the Sad Young Literary Men. Viking, pp. 9-34

9

It was just at the point when things were finally cracking up for me that I ran into Lauren and her father on Madison Avenue. Jillian, my fiancée, was visiting her family in California and I, I had raced up to New York in our car. I didn’t know what I was going to do there, in fact the people I contacted to announce my trip were people I barely knew—but the main thing was to get out of our apartment. The life I had then was slipping away, I could feel it, and I had developed the notion that some nudge, some shift or alternately some miracle, might help me fit everything back into place. I would hold on to Jillian, I hoped, and last until the next election, and then we’d see.

—p.9 by Keith Gessen 1 year, 2 months ago

It was just at the point when things were finally cracking up for me that I ran into Lauren and her father on Madison Avenue. Jillian, my fiancée, was visiting her family in California and I, I had raced up to New York in our car. I didn’t know what I was going to do there, in fact the people I contacted to announce my trip were people I barely knew—but the main thing was to get out of our apartment. The life I had then was slipping away, I could feel it, and I had developed the notion that some nudge, some shift or alternately some miracle, might help me fit everything back into place. I would hold on to Jillian, I hoped, and last until the next election, and then we’d see.

—p.9 by Keith Gessen 1 year, 2 months ago
14

[...] I opened Ferdinand’s CD book, having no CDs of my own—a few years earlier I’d made the determination, based on my extensive purchasing of cassette tapes throughout junior high, that the compact disc was a technology bound for speedy obsolescence, and decided to wait it out—but Ferdinand’s collection was all greatest hits, greatest hits, Allman Brothers, greatest hits. All those hours, those irretrievable hours, I’d spent studying for the SATs. All those days, those irretrievable sunny days when I flipped through the catalogs, considered my applications, wondered at the roundedness of my character—and now Ferdinand was my roommate? He was the first in a series of disappointments at that bitter place, though eventually I think they formed a pattern, and I tried to read it.

—p.14 by Keith Gessen 1 year, 2 months ago

[...] I opened Ferdinand’s CD book, having no CDs of my own—a few years earlier I’d made the determination, based on my extensive purchasing of cassette tapes throughout junior high, that the compact disc was a technology bound for speedy obsolescence, and decided to wait it out—but Ferdinand’s collection was all greatest hits, greatest hits, Allman Brothers, greatest hits. All those hours, those irretrievable hours, I’d spent studying for the SATs. All those days, those irretrievable sunny days when I flipped through the catalogs, considered my applications, wondered at the roundedness of my character—and now Ferdinand was my roommate? He was the first in a series of disappointments at that bitter place, though eventually I think they formed a pattern, and I tried to read it.

—p.14 by Keith Gessen 1 year, 2 months ago
19

Lauren began to come by in the evenings, and often she was drunk. Are the rich very different from you and me? Judge for yourself. She was drunk, and it was my role to sit in the room I shared with Ferdinand and try to work on my junior paper. “It’s important that you do this,” Ferdinand told me. “You need to be, like, the Scholar. It creates an atmosphere.”

I didn’t like this very much. “Why can’t someone else be the Scholar?”

lol

—p.19 by Keith Gessen 1 year, 2 months ago

Lauren began to come by in the evenings, and often she was drunk. Are the rich very different from you and me? Judge for yourself. She was drunk, and it was my role to sit in the room I shared with Ferdinand and try to work on my junior paper. “It’s important that you do this,” Ferdinand told me. “You need to be, like, the Scholar. It creates an atmosphere.”

I didn’t like this very much. “Why can’t someone else be the Scholar?”

lol

—p.19 by Keith Gessen 1 year, 2 months ago
22

As I began to expound on this, I thought I saw her looking at me in a way I hadn’t seen a woman look at me in a long time. Probably she wasn’t, or she was just startled by all the words, but already in my mind, in my loins, I sensed a looming ethical dilemma. And I took a deep breath, a pause, because first I needed to tell her what I thought of things, and I needed to blow her mind. It wasn’t Ferdinand himself that I wanted to dissuade her from, exactly, and not in favor of me, per se, but the idea of Ferdinand, and the idea of me: it was important that I arrange these properly in her mind. Because fun—I turned the word over in my mind. Did she mean sex? Boats? Ice cream? There was right action and wrong action. There was Kierkegaard. There was fun, and then there were those ten minutes before the Grille closed, the music turned off, the lights coming up to reveal the beer spilled on the floor, the plastic cups lying there, and people’s coats had fallen off the little coat ledge in the corner, and you’d be going home alone. How was I going to explain all this to anyone? To Lauren, for example, poor privileged Lauren for whom no amount of grooming and training (and we were all getting it, in our way, the grooming and the training) would turn her into the person she actually wanted to be? To Lauren, who’d passed out on my bed?

—p.22 by Keith Gessen 1 year, 2 months ago

As I began to expound on this, I thought I saw her looking at me in a way I hadn’t seen a woman look at me in a long time. Probably she wasn’t, or she was just startled by all the words, but already in my mind, in my loins, I sensed a looming ethical dilemma. And I took a deep breath, a pause, because first I needed to tell her what I thought of things, and I needed to blow her mind. It wasn’t Ferdinand himself that I wanted to dissuade her from, exactly, and not in favor of me, per se, but the idea of Ferdinand, and the idea of me: it was important that I arrange these properly in her mind. Because fun—I turned the word over in my mind. Did she mean sex? Boats? Ice cream? There was right action and wrong action. There was Kierkegaard. There was fun, and then there were those ten minutes before the Grille closed, the music turned off, the lights coming up to reveal the beer spilled on the floor, the plastic cups lying there, and people’s coats had fallen off the little coat ledge in the corner, and you’d be going home alone. How was I going to explain all this to anyone? To Lauren, for example, poor privileged Lauren for whom no amount of grooming and training (and we were all getting it, in our way, the grooming and the training) would turn her into the person she actually wanted to be? To Lauren, who’d passed out on my bed?

—p.22 by Keith Gessen 1 year, 2 months ago
29

[...] The administration had conceded a great deal to the Right, but I knew that Lauren’s father would take it all back, if only he knew how many of us there were, there are, who were with him; if only, as I had sometimes felt with Lauren, he could convincingly be reassured. And as I began to submit articles to the liberal magazines in D.C. and New York, I tried, in every word I wrote, to reassure him.

I don’t know if it worked—that is to say, obviously it didn’t. But if he wasn’t reading, others were. I had tapped some kind of vein, and editors responded to the things I sent. Quickly I found some of the bitterness of my Harvard years dissipating, and the rest of it going straight into my prose. Everything I wrote then had a kind of glow—from a spark that I had hoped but did not know was in me—and it returned to me in print, or online (I had so many ideas that I started a blog at one of the liberal magazines), with an alienated majesty. It was a time of online love affairs and paper billionaries—a space of some sort had opened up in the universe, a distortion—and with my belief in my own moral purity, and in the destiny of Lauren’s father, I stepped right into it. I was big, for a while there—reading my e-mail each day was like watching a parade. People wrote e-mails of praise, e-mails with offers in them—people asked for advice, over e-mail. Oh, you should have seen my in-box!

—p.29 by Keith Gessen 1 year, 2 months ago

[...] The administration had conceded a great deal to the Right, but I knew that Lauren’s father would take it all back, if only he knew how many of us there were, there are, who were with him; if only, as I had sometimes felt with Lauren, he could convincingly be reassured. And as I began to submit articles to the liberal magazines in D.C. and New York, I tried, in every word I wrote, to reassure him.

I don’t know if it worked—that is to say, obviously it didn’t. But if he wasn’t reading, others were. I had tapped some kind of vein, and editors responded to the things I sent. Quickly I found some of the bitterness of my Harvard years dissipating, and the rest of it going straight into my prose. Everything I wrote then had a kind of glow—from a spark that I had hoped but did not know was in me—and it returned to me in print, or online (I had so many ideas that I started a blog at one of the liberal magazines), with an alienated majesty. It was a time of online love affairs and paper billionaries—a space of some sort had opened up in the universe, a distortion—and with my belief in my own moral purity, and in the destiny of Lauren’s father, I stepped right into it. I was big, for a while there—reading my e-mail each day was like watching a parade. People wrote e-mails of praise, e-mails with offers in them—people asked for advice, over e-mail. Oh, you should have seen my in-box!

—p.29 by Keith Gessen 1 year, 2 months ago
30

And as I had to go to these places fairly often, mostly by myself, there were conversations, flirtations, with women. I accepted them, as I accepted all those e-mails, as part of the largesse of the late Clinton years. And one night in New York I stepped out into a hallway—I would have liked to say, a balcony—and a woman, just a few years older than I was, but already established, and impressive, with long straight black hair and a way of dipping her head down when she smiled, looked at me and said, “You can have anything you want.” Was she crazy? Maybe she was crazy. But sometimes you are young, and strong, and you believe that because of this you have a right to the things that others have—because look at the mess they’ve made, and look at how tired they are. The woman said, “You can have anything you want,” and on the long drive back to Baltimore I wondered what she meant.

—p.30 by Keith Gessen 1 year, 2 months ago

And as I had to go to these places fairly often, mostly by myself, there were conversations, flirtations, with women. I accepted them, as I accepted all those e-mails, as part of the largesse of the late Clinton years. And one night in New York I stepped out into a hallway—I would have liked to say, a balcony—and a woman, just a few years older than I was, but already established, and impressive, with long straight black hair and a way of dipping her head down when she smiled, looked at me and said, “You can have anything you want.” Was she crazy? Maybe she was crazy. But sometimes you are young, and strong, and you believe that because of this you have a right to the things that others have—because look at the mess they’ve made, and look at how tired they are. The woman said, “You can have anything you want,” and on the long drive back to Baltimore I wondered what she meant.

—p.30 by Keith Gessen 1 year, 2 months ago