“Nerd.” Both a badge of honor, and often a reminder of painful social isolation. But what does it mean exactly? It often describes a combination of eccentricity and an interest in media and activities that defy social norms. Which begs the question, why do we like what like? And when you like a thing that is obscure, why is it important to seek out a broader community, if your local one won't do? Here to explore such questions and some potential answers is The Four-Day Weekend by Serdar Yegulalp.
Henry and Winthrop are best friends who each find themselves in something a rut. Henry's just been dumped by his girlfriend, and the comic book store that Winthrop runs has become a daily grind, one which has been bringing in less money year over year. In the midst of this, Henry remembers that he'd signed them up for the Baltimore comic convention the year before, and the two of them decide to get away from it all.
The genre here is realism, not speculative fiction, and thematically, we head deep into the territory of why people like what they like, and most importantly, what responsibilities does “liking” a thing entail? The simple answer our culture proscribes is that a person just likes what they like and they shouldn't think about it too hard. And while this attitude is very convenient for big business, which wants volume, it's less great for “fans,” since any level of passion about a thing will prompt caring, which will prompt in-depth exploration, which will inevitably lead to critique, and that will ultimately lead to nuance and sensitivity to details that non-fans overlook.
The novel's locus for this exploration is Diane, who has not intended to join the convention, but runs into Henry by accident after breaking things off rather abruptly with her fiancé. Henry invites her into the fold although she knows nothing about manga, anime, or Japanese culture, but as Henry and Winthrop learn, those with an open mind can appreciate the universal elements of an art that has been curated for an open-minded initiate.
The narrative style is crisp and direct, and the appropriate amount of emphasis is given over to characters' emotions and thoughts. The theme eschews simple answers, and dives into complexity instead. Besides the central cast of three, there are others, existing friends and newcomers both, who each help explore a facet of fandom.
There is no action here of the plot-driven sort, but rather a philosophical exploration in the form of narrative prose, and one executed superbly. I can recommend The Four-Day Weekend wholeheartedly to anyone interested in its themes.