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Generation What?
Dispatches from the
Quarter-Life Crisis

Edited by
Bess Vanrenen

Essays by
Jennifer Banash
Joshua M. Bernstein
Nick Burd
Vince Darcangelo
Mark Dye
Caitlin Dougherty
Matt Farwell
Rebecca Landwehr
Harmon Leon
Jared Jacang Maher
Justin Maki
Courtney E. Martin
Hal Niedzviecki
Catherine Strawn
Kate Torgovnick
Erika T. Wurth

Price:á$15 - Trade Paperback

Essays | Self-help
ISBN: 978-1-933108-12-4 (PB)
978-1-933108-44-5 (Ebook)
5.5"áx 8.5", 162 pages

Generation What? is a collection of essays by young writers about that awkward phase between adolescence and adulthood, infamously labeled the ?quarter-life crisis.? Though no road map to a contented adult life, the stories provide assorted experiencessome heartbreaking, some hilariousof this very real phenomenon that seems to be afflicting more twentysomethings with each passing year.

If disparate in subject matter, the personal experiences recounted by these individuals pull at a common thread: the inconsistent quarrel between hoping to exist on the fringes of childhood and wanting to participate in the arena of adult responsibility.

One writer encounters a quick, coming-of-age lesson when he contemplates losing his virginity in an East Asian red light district. Learning of her father?s sexual improprieties, another writer finds her worldview shaken by the knowledge that parents, too, are fallible. Some essays focus on leaving schoolor not wanting to leave schooland facing the ?real world,? be it during the emotional 2004 election, in Afghanistan, or in a florescent-lit human resources office.

The Lost Generation nursed the devastating wounds of World War I. The Greatest Generation conquered both The Great Depression and totalitarianism. The Beat Generation sped along the counter-culture pathways. The Baby Boomers embraced protests and free love, while Generation X birthed mass technology and post-modern malaise. And Generation Ythe young people of the millennium who have more resources, technology, and education than any before has?what?

Bess Vanrenen lives and writes in Denver. To anyone seeking out a quarter-life crisis, she recommends graduate school.

Essayists include editors from Broken Pencil and Jane Magazine and contributors to The New York Times, The Village Voice, Bust, Adbusters, and Plenty, as well as young authors with books forthcoming from Harper Perennial and Simon and Schuster.

Jennifer Banash lives, works, and writes in Iowa City, Iowa, where she is a doctoral candidate in English literature at the University of Iowa. She authored the novel Hollywoodland: An American Fairy Tale and co-runs Impetus Press, a publishing company specializing in books that fall contentedly somewhere between the elite literature of the literati and mass-market paperbacks. Born and raised in New York City, Jennifer has also resided in Phoenix, Arizona. Jenniferwho shares her home with a beagle named Sigmund, a great listeneris happily unmarried.

Joshua M. Bernstein, a Brooklyn-based freelance writer, says he spends his days puttering around his apartment in boxer briefs, checking email every two minutes, and eating his roommate?s cold pizza. In his more adventurous moods, he publishes the zine Rated Rookie, gets drunk for the New York Press, eats himself into a coma for Time Out New York, cares about the environment for Plenty, and pens the occasional puff piece about dolls. Yes, dolls. And sometimes teddy bears. Luckily, his parents are very proud of him, and they?re finally able to acknowledge that he once edited porn. In his essay, Joshua describes the deleterious effect this disreputable occupation had on hima recent college grad, new to New York City. Writing ?Non-Babe in Pornland? brought him down, pun intended, almost as much as the actual experience did.

Nick Burd is a fiction graduate of the MFA writing program at the New School. He lives in Brooklyn and works for the Pen American Center, the world?s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. Nick is currently at work on a novel. His worst job, however, entailed adhering stickers onto puppy calendars. Playing and touring with a band, not by any means among the most evil of his employments, did engender some tumultuous timestimes he?d managed to forget until scribbling down this story. Nick can also bend his fingers back really far. This skill comes in handy at cocktail parties.

Vince Darcangelo, who hails from the suburbs of Pittsburgh, is an award-winning writer and the managing editor of an alternative newsweekly. In his essay, he describes the night he decided to quit using drugs. Vince made the slow transformation from user to addiction counselor? to writer. Though a journalist by trade, he still works for the Addiction Recovery Center, putting hours in on Saturdays and major holidays. Vince says his essay is not a moral tale, nor is it intended to be sad, tragic, or inspirational. It?s more of a sitcom-type moment of self-awareness, when you look around the room and say, ?I?ve got to get some new friends.? Vince says he can?t imagine having grown up in a world without professional wrestling.

Caitlin Dougherty is a twenty-five-year-old, ex-Peace Corps volunteer from a small town in Montana. Caitlin spent two years in Togo, Africa, followed by a traveling stint through northern Africa and Europe. She labels her childhood self ?odd,? teeter-tottering with worms and pecking dead fish. As an adult, she misses the carelessness of her early years, especially during her time waiting tables at TGI Fridays. She has no comment when asked about her flare. As revealed in her essay, she dreams of becoming a professional writer, but Caitlin, currently enrolled in a pre-med program, also hopes to one day work for Doctors Without Borders. She is currently seeking French conversation partners or Togo-enthusiasts.

Mark R. Dye, who hails from Honolulu, Hawaii, remembers unearthing a packet of meticulously drawn sci-fi characters dating from the fifties in the attic of his childhood home. The excitement of that moment of discovery has become the yardstick on which to measure happiness and success. Very few events have lived up to it. Mark is the author of the book College and the Art of Partying, an attempt at guilt-free gratification. It was, he says, a partially successful try. Mark works as a technical and freelance writer in Austin, Texas, where he has found himself contentedly settled.

Matthew Farwell is currently serving as an infantryman with the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan. He shares a concrete and plywood room with ?nine crazy infantrymen?digs not too different from the dumps he lived in during college. Previously Matthew was an Echols Scholar at the University of Virginia and a Davis Scholar at the United World College of the American West; he also played competitive beer pong. Raised in Utah, Turkey, Germany, Virginia, and New Mexico, Matthew comes from a line of military men, his father and brother also having served in the army. He enjoys long walks on the beach and deep meaningful conversation.

Rebecca Landwehr is a Denver-based freelance writer who?s spent the last ten years covering the Mile High City first as a business reporter at the Denver Business Journal and most recently as senior editor at 5280 Magazine. At her worst job, an intern for a trade magazine, her hardhearted boss, also ?Rebecca,? forced her to go by ?Reba.? Rebecca?s own quarter-life crisis happened at age twenty-eight when she left her childhood sweetheart and the comforting cocoon of that ten-year relationship. The good newsshe survived. Rebecca is now happily married, step-mom to an amazing seven year old, and new mom to Baby Asher. She also finally paid off more than $23,000 in credit-card debt wracked up during her roaring twenties.

Harmon Leon is the author of The Harmon Chronicles, which won a 2003 Independent Publishers Award for humor, as well as Republican Like Me, which also won an Independent Publisher?s Award for humor in 2005. Harmon?s latest book, The Infiltrator, was released fall of 2006. He has also penned stories for Esquire, Stuff, Salon, NPR?s This American Life, Details, Maxim, High Times, Hustler, Penthouse, Black Book, Cosmopolitan, and Wired. Harmon has performed comedy around the world, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Holland, and Denmark, and has appeared in solo shows at such places as the Montreal, Edinburgh, and Melbourne Comedy Festivals. He?s appeared on The Howard Stern Show, Penn & Teller?s Bullshit, The Jamie Kennedy Experiment, Blind Date, as well as the BBC. Harmon is low in sodium and perfect for the elderly.

Jared Jacang Maher has worked as an associate editor for Adbusters Magazine and as a scriptwriter and assistant producer for Free Speech TV, and was a 2003 fellow at the Academy for Alternative Journalism. He has written for Punk Planet, Clamor, and, and served as coeditor of the literary anthology Life and Limb: Skateboarders Write from the Deep End. For the first time, Jared wrote about his family in his story for Generation What? He particularly enjoyed describing his father?s unique laugh, which, he says, is in itself funny. Jared currently lives in Denver, Colorado, where he is a staff writer at Westword.

Justin Maki acquired a four-year bachelor?s degree without learning a thing about agriculture, engineering, medicine, law, business, political science, or geography. After graduation, he inexplicably found himself in Japan, somewhat confused yet intrigued, and ended up staying for four years. While teaching English conversation in public schools, he used holidays for his first exploratory travels outside the United States. He has been lost in numerous countries. At present writing, Justin may be spotted somewhere along the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia.

Justin surprised himself when it took several drafts to finish ?Salvation in Wordplay.? He wonders if the way he understood the events described in it lacked either perception or honesty.

Courtney Martin is a writer, teacher, and filmmaker. Her book, Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening Normalcy of Hating Your Body, came out in April 2007. One of her essays appears in We Don?t Need Another Wave: Dispatches from the Next Generation of Feminists. Her work has also turned up in The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, NPR, The Village Voice, Publisher?s Weekly, Clamor Magazine, Bust, and Bitch Magazine. She is the co-director/producer of two short documentaries, Stuck in Harlem and Letter to My Mother. Courtney has a master of arts degree from the Gallatin School at New York University and a bachelor of arts degree from Barnard College. She is currently an adjunct professor of women?s studies at Hunter College.

Writing ?11.2.04? made Courtney realize how na´ve, and then devastated, she was at that time in her life. She is currently neither na´ve nor devastated. Courtney?s brother surprised her by making such a central appearance in the essay. They used to write dirty words on the wall of the attic in their childhood home.

Hal Niedzviecki is a Toronto-based writer and editor. He is fiction editor and founding editor of Broken Penci, the magazine of zine culture and the independent arts, and co-founder of the annual Canzine Festival of Underground Culture. He is the author of six books, most recently Hello, I?m Special: How Individuality Became the New Conformity and the novel The Program. Afraid of what writing about this time in his life would dredge up, Hal has avoided it until now. At the same time, he says he?s probably been writing about this era in his life ever since without realizing it.

Catherine Strawn, who still can?t drive by her family?s first house, which the tacky new owners have cruelly disfigured, grew up in Canton, Ohio. She earned her bachelor and master of arts degrees from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Catherine briefly lived in South Africa, reporting on lifestyle, health, and social issues for The Star in Johannesburg and the Weekend Argus in Cape Town. She now works at Jane Magazine in New York City, in a one-room apartment that pales in comparison to the beautiful Tudor domicile of her infancy. She says her favorite food is peanut butter.

Kate Torgovnick writes investigative features for Jane Magazine, and her articles have also appeared in The New York Observer, British Glamour, The Village Voice, and the New York Daily News. For the past year, Kate has traveled across the country, following three college cheerleading squads for her upcoming book, Making the Castle, which will be published in January 2008. At a low period in her life, Kate wrote and coded spam email, one of which she received herself. She got fired from that job. Kate originally hails from Durham, North Carolina, but left the South for Barnard College in New York City and has stayed there ever since. In addition to writing, Kate loves discovering new bands, swimming competitively, watching bad sci-fi films from the eighties, and playing with Rubik?s Cubes.

Bess Vanrenen works as an assistant editor at Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. She received her master of arts degree in English literature from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2004. She has lived in New Jersey, Egypt, Nevada, Florida, New York, and France. She had a brief stint waiting tables at a TGI Fridays in Paris, where she saw a small cockroach climbing across a tray of apple fritters. Her French coworkers seemed unperturbed. She has also worked a paper route (for one night), smiled at and greeted IHOP customers (where she received the laurels, ?Employee of the Month?), chauffeured packages around her college campus and later sub sandwiches (though she was convinced the selling of sandwiches merely disguised the selling of more interesting, albeit illegal, substances), and provided elderly folks with debatably humorous holiday cards.

Erika T. Wurth is thirty years old and lives in Iowa City, commuting to her job as a creative writing professor at Western Illinois University. She is a mixed-blood Indian woman (Apache, Chickasaw, Cherokee), and was raised in a small town in Colorado although she has lived in different places off and on. Erika has published poetry in SAIL, AMCRJ, and Cedar Hill Review and fiction in Fiction, Raven Chronicles, and Pembroke. Her book, Indian Trains, is expected to be published in 2008.

Erika says writing this essay provided her with a chance to reconstruct some of the stories she has woven together about herself. She knows, though, it?s just one of many tales she could tell.

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