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New Yorker Fiction Review #237: "Kid Positive" by Adam Levin

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Review of a short story from the March 2, 2020 issue of The New Yorker...

I wouldn't call this a "story" so much as a pastiche, or collage; a bunch of independent but related, stand-alone pieces sewn together to accomplish an overall goal. In this case, the goal is to contrast the writer's own childhood -- in which he was at turns conniving, bullying, violent, and self-obsessed -- with what he perceives (now, as an adult) to be the state of modern childhood, in which, at least in his mind, children seem far more innocent and pure-hearted than he ever was.

I don't know if this piece "works" in the sense it was intended to work, as a broader statement on 80s childhood vs. modern day childhood. We all know that childhood looked pretty different in the 80s than it does today. Even given the way memory distorts things, there were certain basic differences: no computers or cell phones, and no bike helmets, for starters. The world was a lot less "connected" and still moved at that good, slow, methodical 20th century pace, unlike now when there's more data flying around per second than there was in the entire history of mankind up until yesterday, and the world feels like it's on the brink of destruction every year.

Okay, but how does this filter down to modern day kid-dom? Furthermore, although we can all share a few common touchstones (remember having to get up and change the channel on the TV??) it's hard to ever make a blanket statement that "[insert group] was just more [insert adjective] back in my day" and not sound like an old fogie (and Adam Levin is only like 40 or something, too early for the "back in my day" bullsh*t), or a disappointed person with an ax to grind, who is about to make another vastly over-arching and theoretical statement that is, also, probably b.s.

Anyway, is Adam Levin trying to make a grand statement about modern day childhood, or just write a teaser piece for his forthcoming memoir Bubblegum, expected out in April, 2020. I think it's probably the latter. But, having said that, "Kid Positive" was damned entertaining from start to finish and I'd definitely read Bubblegum. So if his objective (or his agent's objective) was to plug his book...well done.

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