YOUNG AMERICANS by Jordan Castro
‘YOUNG AMERICANS’ is a deeply sad book. There’s a lot of ambiguity as shown in the use of ‘or something’. It is as if Jordan Castro has no idea what’s going on half the time. Confusion reigns over Castro’s life. Part of him wants to improve yet he remains even indecisive about self-improvement. He states as much in the poem WILLING:
“i’m not sure how willing i am
to get better
What’s nice is how the last two lines lie on another page, divorced from the ambivalence of the first part, indicating that two separate desires exist outside of each other. Later on in ’10.10.11.5:30AM’ he states he needs to “get my stupid fucking life in order”. This is the part of the book that deals with the isolation of a dorm and of college in general. Despite being surrounded by plenty of people there’s the simultaneous sense of being completely alone.
These poems are wretchedly beautiful. While one may not be able to fully sympathize with Castro’s plight one can have a sense of understanding. Isolation is a huge part of the book, something that finds everyone. Through Castro’s isolation or seeming distance from the world there’s a need to fill that gapping void with words. With these words Castro tries to reach out and find someone or something. Parts of the book read like an attempt at self-motivation, if not for Castro, then for the reader, to avoid the fuck-ups of life.
The blankness of the book reinforces this loneliness. Mixture between the all CAPS LOCK titles with the diminutive all lower case shows a conflict. While Castro would love to be certain of something that goal is unachievable. Rather he is constantly trying to fend off his isolation. Many of the poems remain highly observational. Anger is shown by his desire to tear off most of the limbs of everyone on Earth. Due to his internet addiction he wants them to comment on his blog to complement him and his work. Hence there’s this problem between wanting people, hating them, yet needing them. It is hard to find a balance between those options.
Drugs are a huge part of the book. By using drugs Castro is able to disassociate himself from his surroundings. Pooping in a public place becomes easier that way (and indeed there’s an unusually large amount of pooping going on in these poems). There’s a strong temptation to simply say “Jordan Castro is ‘the shit’ of Alt Lit”. The temptation is very strong. Once more though by simply sitting there going to the bathroom nothing is expected of him. The same explanation goes for the drugs. Avoiding interaction is possible through either one of these actions. Existing on drugs lets Castro observe the world without being expected to engage in any specific way. In fact he even feels more worthless when he calls everyone, trying to engage the world, and only has one person answer their phone: the drug dealer.
How it ends is with a series of extreme levels of sadness. Castro states to be as specific as possible. Avoiding hurt is an important (perhaps the most important) part of life. By remaining completely clear and completely unambiguous about meaning, there’s less chance of being hurt. Whether or not anyone will ever do that remains unknown. That’s fine. That’s okay. It is hard to be clear sometimes. Being clear can hurt. And life can be full of hurt though it doesn’t always need to be that way. That’s the purpose of ‘YOUNG AMERICANS’: to realize the hurting parts and to minimize them for they will always be there.