There's a line in the Alabama Shakes' song "Hold On" when Brittany Howard sings that she never thought she'd "make it to 22 years old." It struck me as amusing when I first heard it, and the line still jumps out out at me. It's the sound of blues, but the age belies the "paying the dues" part that usually accompanies such music.
Of course, it doesn't really. I don't know what troubles Brittany has seen, I don't really know her sorrows. Perhaps the answer lies in the rest of the lyrics, but I've not paid attention and as this is not an Alabama Shakes post, I have no intention to do so now. My point is that I'm an old man who's forgotten that young people can not only have real problems, they can even have existential angst.
So, when I read the blurb at the beginning of Abdellah Taïa's short story, that a narrator faces an existential crisis from "Turning Thirty" I once again smirked to myself. 30? Pffft.
(I'll also disclaim at this point that, despite the somewhat facetious "old man" comment above, I'm only 38.)
Nonetheless, once I got past my generational snobbery, I accepted and enjoyed "Turning Thirty" (that's the story, not my own 30th birthday which I barely remember because I'm pretty sure it was a non-significant event). As you might expect of a story with the promise of anything to do with existentialism, there's a lot of melodramatic inner-turmoil. There are external details though, and while the narrative is sometimes difficult to follow as each detail is interrupted and processed internally, I still found them compelling. I also, thankfully, found the story less annoying than I anticipated.
The author bio at the end makes me think the story is largely autobiographical. And yeah, he's paid his dues.
by John Mutford