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Party Like It's 2009: Life And Friendship In The Great Recession

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Party Like It's 2009: Life And Friendship In The Great Recession

Book Reviews

Party Like It's 2009: Life And Friendship In The Great Recession

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JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden. Ask almost anyone old enough to remember and they'll tell you exactly where they were when they heard about the death of John F. Kennedy, the attacks of September 11 or even the killing of Osama bin Laden. Big events tend to stick in our memories.

One such event from recent times was the collapse of Lehman Brothers. It was the beginning of a time that certainly made an impression on writer Choire Sicha. His new book is called "Very Recent History: An Entirely Factual Account of a Year (c. AD 2009) in a Large City." It follows a group of friends living through the great recession. Here's Alex Espinoza with our review.

ALEX ESPINOZA, BYLINE: It's an interesting time. A mysterious virus is going around. There's a rich, blind governor and a sketchy mayor campaigning for a third term. Add it all up, and what you got is pretty clearly a view of New York City in the year 2009. Our guide to all of this is John. He used to be a freelancer. He made more money. Now, he has a regular job, but he's so poor he can't even afford socks or haircuts.

John spends his nights partying with his group of friends. There's the sensible Chad, who tutors the city's wealthiest children. There's Chad's boyfriend, Diego, who he met on a dating site called DList. There's the likable Kevin with his incredibly symmetrical face, who sometimes sleeps with John, and beautiful Tyler whose skin is so pale that you can see inside his head a little.

Sicha's glib rants about cigarettes and social media could come off as vapid, but they don't. You'll see this group of men as complex people. They're trying to be heard and remembered in the face of all of this annihilation. And in the relentless bombardment of text messages and non sequiturs, one-night stands and obsessions about money and jeans, they actually manage to be incisive on love and worth at a time when it seemed like the entire world would unravel.

The book's full of biting wit and cynicism. But underneath that, I found a writer exploring the underbelly of human capital. The book's terrifying and funny, even as it forces you to consider the nature of profits and losses. In the end, Sicha asks us this. What's a person worth to himself and his friends when everything he knows is crumbling around him?

LYDEN: The book is "Very Recent History" by Choire Sicha. Our reviewer is Alex Espinoza. His latest book is called "The Five Acts of Diego Leon."

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