All The Sad, Arrested, Young Men

Josh Spilker

Gessen is arrested / New Yorker

Novelist and sad literary man Keith Gessen was arrested during some OWS protests in November. His tale about peanut butter and stuffing Corn Flakes in his jacket and life in the Tombs is in the New Yorker.

It's an interesting read, but one that's starting to become familiar as more and more creative types put themselves in the movement and then respond to it. Gessen's magazine N+1 has been at the forefront of the movement in terms of response, holding panels, etc. trying to figure out what the heck is going on. Also, I think they started the Occupy Writers movement, which is kind of funny — no one from what I can tell think writers are the problem, except for journalists who have misreported a few issues here and there. And in all actuality, I'm not sure which side Gessen thinks he's on. He went to Harvard, after all, which 99% of people get rejected from. He probably could recognize more people through the Wall St. windows than on the ground encampments.

But, no matter Gessen's true credentials, as the OWS movement keeps flourishing (or at least persisting), a new The Armies of the NIght will probably emerge in some form and Gessen just may be the person to do it. The Armies of the Night is Norman Mailer's acclaimed protest novel that began as a piece about him getting arrested during the March on the Pentagon in 1967. Mailer of course took some liberties with what happened, but the central arc of it is that Mailer gets arrested. What makes the book work, however, is the build-up–the protest atmosphere, the organization and the personalities on the ground that made it happen.

Whether it be David Graeber or the NYPD or Bloomber or Adbusters or anyone getting shut down in Oakland there are some real characters coming out of this OWS thing and ripe for the retelling.

Novelists like a good revolution because it has all the right plot elements. An old guard. A new guard. Uncouth young people taking matters in their own hands. You've got to have CHANGE for a story to work, or it's not a story.

I'm not sure of Gessen's plan, but he's putting himself in the right place. And stuffing Corn Flakes in your pocket while in jail is not just a strategy to avoid hunger, but good, specific detail.

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