Mean Boys: A Personal History (Hardcover)

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"This book is a rare comfort, a companion . . . Makes you say: yes, that is exactly how it is.”-Torrey Peters

A ferocious inquiry into art and desire, style and politics, madness and salvation, and coming of age in our volatile, image-obsessed present.

You know them when you see them: mean boys take up space, wielding cruelty to claim their place in the pecking order. Some mean boys make art or music or fashion; others make memes. Mean boys stomp the runways in Milan and Paris; mean boys marched at Charlottesville. And in the eyes of critic and style expert Geoffrey Mak, mean boys are the emblem of our society: an era ravenous for novelty, always thirsting for the next edgy thing, even at our peril.

In this pyrotechnic memoir-in-essays, Mak ranges widely over our landscape of paranoia, crisis, and frenetic, clickable consumption. He grants readers an inside pass to the spaces where culture was made and unmade over the past decade, from the antiseptic glare of white-walled galleries to the darkest corners of Berlin techno clubs. As the gay son of an evangelical minister, Mak fled to those spaces, hoping to join a global, influential elite. But when calamity struck, it forced Mak to confront the costs of mistaking status for belonging. Fusing personal essay and cultural critique, Mean Boys investigates exile and return, transgression and forgiveness, and the value of faith, empathy, and friendship in a world designed to make us want what is bad for us.

About the Author

Geoffrey Mak is a queer Chinese American writer whose work has appeared in the New Yorker, the Guardian, Artforum, the Nation, Art in America, Interview, Spike, Guernica, Highsnobiety, and other publications. He is cofounder of the reading and performance series Writing on Raving. Mak holds an MA in Cultural Reporting and Criticism from NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. He lives in Brooklyn.

Praise For…

“In eight arresting essays, Geoffrey Mak probes culture and selfhood.” —Vanity Fair

“Mak investigates art and desire, transgression and forgiveness, and ultimately, the value of connection in a sick world.” —Nylon

“No one before Geoffrey Mak has so well described the 'feeling' of the Millennial era that ended with the pandemic-or acknowledged the absolute vanishing of this 'feeling' ever since, along with the alienation and exquisite spiritual longing left in its wake. This book is a rare comfort, a companion, a book that makes you say: yes, that is exactly how it is.” —Torrey Peters, bestselling author of DETRANSITION, BABY

“A piercing inquiry into the long 2010s: platform Crocs and Normcore; failed digital media strategies and right-wing trolls; American expats in Berlin and the rebirth of the rave. Mak tries to figure out what sanity should look like when the world is deranged. He finds one thing is certain: the old models are obsolete.” —Emily Witt, author of FUTURE SEX

Mean Boys charts the anxious contradictions of being of two worlds at once and invites us to feel the past as it is and then again as it was. Geoffrey Mak's precision, perspective, and approach reveal a masterful pen.” —Camonghne Felix, author of DYSCALCULIA

“Geoffrey Mak has a rare ability to inhabit and narrate the contemporary, that enticing hollow of the now, as seen and heard and felt from its current cores of Berlin and New York. There, art, fashion, and nightlife are one continuous attraction, best investigated through the art of hanging out, at which Mak is both a deft hand and delightfully self-aware. What emerges are many of the themes of our times: psychosis, vertigo, addiction, identity, status, casual sex, casual violence, the post-industrial hustle. In the corners lurk the mean boys, avatars of the sheer carelessness of power. Yet Mak also discovers something like a faith in the precious, passing quality of anything that can be truly cherished. His is a sensibility of shelter in the storm.” —McKenzie Wark, author of RAVING

“An intellectually rigorous memoir-in-essays that pairs reflections on [Mak's] difficult sexual coming-of-age with sharp musings on the digital era . . . By turns heartbreaking, enlightening, and frenzied, this burrows deep in the reader's psyche and doesn't let go.” —Publishers Weekly

“A young, queer, Chinese American writer 'well versed in the theoretical discourse' takes on fashion, social media, and urban nightlife . . . [Mak] offers trenchant observations about the emasculation of the Asian American male and identity-based rejection . . . After fashion, career, psychosis, and recovery, a personal essayist finds 'grace in the ordinary.” —Kirkus Reviews

Product Details
ISBN: 9781635577945
ISBN-10: 1635577942
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication Date: April 30th, 2024
Pages: 288
Language: English