It seems a waste to review a book published in 1991, one that cemented the name of an entire generation in place. And yet, here I go.
Generation X is both timeless (e.g. diagnosing all kinds of late capitalism problems like the pain of not having health insurance, the despair at a lack of a coherent future, the inevitability that we’re killing the planet) and very, very much of its time (e.g. it centers mainly white men and revolves around the idea that somehow falling into depression and doing your best to leave late capitalism behind will somehow fix the problems inherent to late capitalism).
I have an incredible soft spot for this book. It is problematic and dropping out of society just means that those who are left can run it into the ground (a thing that the book does passingly comment on); but it reminds me so solidly of a time when I was young, when I was trying to figure out who I was, of a time before the internet when it was so much easier to be aimless. I can’t not love it.
Here’s the book about relationships I’ve been craving, and it’s an old one. Published in 1993 (and one I’ve read and re-read and moved across the country more than once), it’s practically comfort food at this point. The Mystery Roast is about the family we make for ourselves, not just the family we have.
There’s Timothy and Eric (friends), Eric and Inca (romantic-ish), Timothy and Andre (definitely romantic), Lydia and Marec (romantic-ish), Lydia and Jason (complicated), and Eric and Lydia (familial). Relationships and family.
There’s also something about polar bears. We can’t forget the polar bears.
It revolves around a coffeeshop in still slightly sketchy New York City, pre Sex and the City. Andre owns the coffeeshop; Inca, Eric, and Timothy all have apartments in the building. Lydia is Eric’s mother, and it’s wonderful that she gets her own romantic storyline. It’s not something I find much, but maybe I’m reading the wrong stories.
There is a bit of plot to mention about Eric stealing an ancient statue at the beginning of the book, and it sets the plot in motion. But it’s not like he’s a thief, not a professional one anyway. It does turn into a bit of a meditation about desire and when it’s good and when it’s bad.
Basically, I just love The Mystery Roast. It makes me happy, and I’d recommend it to anyone.