Good Advice for Young Trendy People: Edited by Jennifer Blowdryer By Sean Carswell

Apr 02, 2007

I’m not young or trendy, and I don’t think much of giving or taking advice, so why would I read this book? Well, because someone at Manic D wrote me a nice letter and asked me to look beyond the title and give the book a chance. So I did. And I was pleasantly surprised. Good Advice for Young Trendy People is a collection of essays written by older, trendy people who give advice on how to be a transsexual, or how to survive in prison or rehab, or how to make a token black friend, or how to be a cool parent, or how to live in debt, or how to be an art star, and so on. On the one hand, if you read the book for actual advice, you’re missing out. Everyone has to find his or her own path in life. Most of the writers in this collection understand this. This is particularly evident in Mykel Board’s essay on living in debt. It’s a tongue-in-cheek guide to personal financial ruin, and a pretty funny one at that. On the other hand, if you read the essays as a personal glimpse into how different people learned to accept who they are and find a little peace in a chaotic world, then it makes for an interesting read. Though I don’t have any intention of becoming a woman, I was really taken by Sherilyn Connelly’s essay on how to make the transition from man to woman. It was an unflinching, unapologetic piece about how she became comfortable in her own skin, despite the criticisms of those around her. Brother Man X does a nice job in his essay “Black Friend,” simultaneously tackling serious race issues and making a joke of their absurdity at the same time. Punk mama Pamela Holm delivers an insightful essay about parenting and balancing an anti-authoritarian outlook into her new, authoritarian position. The real standout in this collection, though, is Bucky Sinister with his essay, “Use Your Contusions.” It’s essentially an essay on how to take the most painful parts of your past, embrace them, and turn them into something positive. Sinister has done this well in his poetry (check out Whiskey & Robots. It’s the best combination of punk rock and poetry that I know of, and I’m not just saying that because I published it), and he does it well again in this essay. It’s clear that he’s not giving advice to anyone but himself, and that he doesn’t have much real interest in being trendy. He’d much rather be honest, and that’s what makes him such an impressive writer. The weakest points of this collection come when writers actually try to give advice. I don’t need someone to tell me not to smoke too much pot (I already taught myself that lesson) or to tip well in restaurants. Still, on the whole, reading this book is like walking into a bar full of freaks (and I mean that in the best way) and getting to hear them all tell their stories. –Sean Carswell (Manic D, PO Box 410804, SF, CA 94141)