Even if Kevin Brockmeier hadn’t modeled one of his stories in his recent collection, The View From the Seventh Layer, after a choose-your-own-adventure-book (loved those when I was kid, along with the Dr. Who books), he’d still qualify as a GenX author.
Born in 1974, he is demographically (is that the right word?) within Generation X, although age alone does not make one a GenXer. His age does make me feel like even more of a slacker as a writer, since he’s seven years younger than I am and already has six books to his credit — two novels, two short story collections, and two books for young adults/teens/whatever. But that’s whole other deal.
Of course, for me perhaps the strongest argument for Brockmeier to be lumped into the GenX category comes not from this collection of short stories but from his previous book, a novel entitled The Brief History of the Dead, which is an end of the world story but much more complex and moving than your typical apocalyptic tale. It is a striking portrayal of loneliness and alienation but also perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds, a feeling perhaps all too familiar to Generation X. Also, it takes some good shots a the callous capitalist notions of American Corporation, specifically the Coca Cola company, which one of the main characters works for but is conflicted about, something I think is true for many GenXers — of course, one needs to work, make a living, contribute to society and all that but working of a corporate cylcops can induce some level angst and regret about what one’s efforts are contributing to exactly. Mainly it is the end of the world scenario, which strikes me as a preoccupation of GenX, at least it was for me and for a good number of people I knew. Fear of nuclear anihilation and all that from the Commies in Russia or from an adle-minded American Pres who thinks he’s making a movie and not really the leader of the free world.
The stories in this collection are quite diverse. It’s difficult to pin Brockmeier down, yet another trait that qualifies him as GenX. Clearly he’s interested in sci-fi, fantasy, magicalnesss (is that a real word?) and yet his writing can hardly be said to be genre fiction. It is both literary and fantasy. Perhaps magical realism would applay, but not entirely.
GenX label aside The View from the Seventh Layer is a remarkable collection of stories and worth reading regardless of how it or its author is labeled, by me or anyone else. But I still maintain that he is a GenX author, more than anything else. I mean, there’s also a story that is essentially a retelling of the Trouble with Tribbles episode (first aired on the day I was born) from Star Trek, told from the POV Chekov. And if that’s not GenX, well then I don’t know what is. And I do kno what is…