‘Young Lions’ by Edward P. Jones

Young Lions by Edward P. Jones, 1992

The magic trick:

Casting the story’s meanings and judgments over an entire generation and not just one character 

In what will be a theme during this week of stories from Lost In The City, “Young Lions” has the feel and scope of a novel. There is so much here to intake and process.

The story introduces us to Caesar. We see his downfall, the reason for his downfall, and then his continued degradation. It’s cinematic, to be sure.

My favorite part is near the end. It’s quick but telling. A bum steps up to reprimand Caesar in a park after seeing him abusing his wife. He stops, though. The narration tells us he knew these young lions. Suddenly, this story doesn’t simply feel like the downfall of one man. It’s the downfall of an entire generation.

And that’s quite a trick on Jones’s part.

The selection:

“Hey there, fella,” the bum said. “we gentlemans don’t – ”

“You want me to come over there and kick your ass?”

The bum was silent. He knew these young lions. He eased himself off the bench and rolled under it. Better to face the rats and the filth than face a young lion in his wrath.

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