The Impulsive Life Not Chosen

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Media Outlet: The New Yorker

We often look to others for models of freedom. It just so happens that Neyfakh sees this possibility in an obscure rapper from Milwaukee—and perhaps those who read his book will, too. The inspiration remains real and lasting, even if, by the end of this book, the actual, day-to-day Juice seems to have drifted from the author’s impossible ideal. Why don’t we write tributes to our friends? As I finished “The Next Next Level,” on the train home from work, my mind inevitably drifted to how I had spent the past fifteen or so years of my life, all the scenes of people lunging for the “wheel” of their lives, whether in the name of art or its seeming opposite. Hundreds of hours spent in libraries and cafes, looking up from my tiny tabletop universe every now and then, gazing at all the other people spending their daylight hours nursing a cup of coffee, working on dissertations, screenplays, first novels, Web sites, business models, drawings, and schemes. We weren’t “geniuses,” and all that mattered was the ambiguous promise of whatever happened next.

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Hua Hsu is a New America fellow, working on a study of immigrant culture and American ideas around diversity. He is an associate professor at Vassar College, a contributor to the New Yorker, and an executive board member of the Asian American Writers Workshop.