What Richard Katz (one of Jonathan Franzen’s characters) sees when he goes to a Bright Eyes concert

Kiddies were streaming onto the floor from every portal, Bright-Eyed (what a fucking irritating youth-congratulating name for a band, Katz thought) and bushless-tailed.  His feeling of having crashed did not consist of envy, exactly, or even entirely of having outlived himself.  It was more like despair at the world’s splinteredness.  The nation was fighting ugly ground wars in two countries, the planet was heating up like a toaster oven, and here at the 9:30, all around him, were hundreds of kids […] with their sweet yearnings, their innocent entitlement – to what?  To emotion.  To unadulterated worship of a superspecial band.  To being left to themselves to ritually repudiate, for an hour or two on a Saturday night, the cynicism and anger of their elders.  They seemed […] to bear malice toward nobody.  Katz could see it in their clothing, which bespoke none of the rage and disaffection of the crowds he’d been part of as a youngster.  They gathered not in anger but in celebration of their having found, as a generation, a gentler and more respectful way of being.  A way, not incidentally, more in harmony with consuming.  And so said to him: die.

Oberst took the stage alone, wearing a powder-blue tuxedo, strapped on an acoustic, and crooned a couple of lengthy solo numbers.  He was the real deal, a boy genius, and thus all the more insufferable to Katz.  His Tortured Soulful Artist shtick, his self-indulgence in pushing his songs past their natural limits of endurance, his artful crimes against pop convention: he was performing sincerity, and when the performance threatened to give sincerity the lie, he performed his sincere anguish over the difficulty of sincerity.

Jonathan Franzen. Freedom. Fourth Estate, 2010.

What Rick Vigorous (one of David Foster Wallace’s characters) sees when he visits his alma mater

Whom do I see, here?  I see students and adults.  I see parents, obvious parents, the ones with name tags.  I watch the students, and they watch back.  Ability to Handle Oneself, elaborate defense structures, exit their eyes and begin to assemble on the ground before them.  But the eyes and faces are as always left bare.  In the girls’ faces I see softness, beauty, the shiny and relaxed eyes of wealth, and the vital capacity for creating problems where none exist.  For some reason I see these girls also older, pale television ghosts flickering beside the originals: middle-aged women, with bright-red fingernails and deeply-tanned, hard, seamed faces, sprayed hair shaped by the professional fingers of men with French names; and eyes, eyes that will stare without pity or doubt over salted tequila rims at the glare of the summer sun off the country club pool.  The structures spread out, grow, wave at me with the epileptic flutter of the film-in-reverse.  The boys are different, appropriately, from the girls.  From each other.  I see blond heads and lean jaws and bow-legged swaggers and biceps with veins in them.  I see so many calm, impassive, or cheerful faces, faces at peace, for now and always, with the context of their own appearance and being, that sort of long-term peace and smooth acquaintance with invariable destiny that renders the faces bloodlessly pastable onto cut-outs of corporate directors in oak-lined boardrooms, professors with plaid ties and leather patches at the elbows of their sports jackets, doctors on bright putting greens with heavy gold shock-resistant watches at their wrists and tiny beepers at their belts, black-jacketed soldiers efficiently bayoneting the infirm.  I see Best faces, faces I remember well.  Faces whose owners are going to be the Very Best.

David Foster Wallace. The Broom of the System. Viking Penguin, 1987.