Should we stay or should we go….

…to California.

According to this Time magazine article about the Golden State the answer would be, well, duh!

Even with it’s problems — the budgets, unemployment, housing market — and all the braying doomsayers that are sure that California is going to go busto, it’s still a mighty fine place to be right now. Anyway, it’s got to be better than Michigan. Plus, as I”ve harped before, it’s got great beches, the Pacific Ocean, huge national parks, cool deserts (if you dig that sort of thing, and I do) and there’s something to be said for not having to wear pants. Plus, this article makes California seem like a place that we’d more at home in, more in tune with the thinking and attitudes.

In the interest of comparison, Time has also been conducting an on-going long-term reporting projec on the city of Detroit. Of course, we don’t live in Detroit proper, but still.

It doesn’t help Michigan’s cause any that after cutting the K-12 budget by approximately $10 million they are cutting it yet again, to the tune of $165 per pupil, and possibly more. We won’t know for sure until the standoff in Lansing if brought to a close.  The most frustrating thing about it is that the schools already budgeted according to what they were told they would be afforded only to have to readjust after the fact, because pols in Lansing can’t get their shit together.

GenX Lit

Title: It Feels So Good When I Stop

Author: Joe Pernice

Genre: novel

feels so good_

This is basically slacker fiction, about a  white, 20-something [nameless narrator] who bolts his marriage after only one day. Not sure what the point of not naming the narrator is exactly. Is it supposed to make him more of an “everyman,” a concept that I’ve always found rather pretentious? That particular descriptor doesn’t seem to quite fit this book. Maybe Pernice just never got around to naming the character. Sort of like the “you” in Bright Lights, Big City, which I’ve read many times, and I’m still not sure where the main character’s name is actually mentioned, if at all. Maybe Pernice is paying homage to BLBC. Who knows? Does it matter?

It’s set in 1996 and from what I can gather I’d be about the same age as the narrator. In 1996, I was graduating with my MFA from  Western Michigan, after which I hung around Kalamazoo for a couple more years, teaching adjunct at the university and working maintenance and cleaning at Oasis Hot Tubs.

I like this book. I’m still in the midst of it, though. Good narrative drive. Witty. Sarcastic. And just the right amount of pop culture references; doesn’t feel forced, like the dude is trying too hard. Of course, I particularly love the music references, something I wished I was better at in my own writing, but my knowledge of music is simply not very sophisticated (is it redundant to say “simply not very sophisticated”?).

I have to say after starting strong, though, the first part seemed to rush to an end, with an incident that seemed perhaps overly dramatic and then isn’t really dealt with afterwards, or at least not yet. It’s not a big deal. Not something I’d call a flaw even. More of a quirk really.

I wasn’t familiar with Pernice before I picked up this book. Or rather I wasn’t aware that I was familiar with him. He appeared on TV show the Gilmore Girls, which my wife loves.  I like it too, for it’s very GenXness, especially the sarcastic, quick-tongued humor, and boundless pop culture references.

This is the kind of book I wished I could write, not just in subject matter, but in size. My writing tends to spiral out of control, growing and growing like an invasive species or something. I’d like to be able to keep it more…controlled, you know. Condensed. I think that creates an energy in the prose.

Salon.com review of Chabon’s new book..

… “Manhood for Amateurs.”

excerpt:

Another of the book’s consistent motifs is the disappearance of childhood. With vivid access to his own, Chabon is able to contrast the ways in which his kids’ imaginations are imposed upon and pre-imagined by, for example, the “authoritarian nature of the new Lego” and “the orthodoxy of ‘Toy Story.'” To Chabon’s mind, these products lack the open-endedness of “crap” entertainment like the short-lived “Planet of the Apes” TV show of his youth, into whose shaky plotlines a child could more easily project himself. Still, he trusts in the innovative potential of the child psyche: “Kids write their own manuals in a new language made up of things we give them and the things they derive from the peculiar wiring of their own heads.” As a manual to Chabon’s own peculiar wiring, “Manhood for Amateurs” makes for an insightful and highly entertaining guide.

read full review here

Chabon’s conjuring of his childhood is perhaps my favorite part this book as well. And I can relate to his lamenting of the loss of childhood freedom like the kind I knew. <sigh>

I’m reading this book slowly, savoring every piece like a fine piece of chocolate. Mmmmmmmmmm.

GenX politicians…..

…are stepping up and taking the reigns, even if we have to shove a few gray-hairs (McCain) and Boomers (Billary) aside to get there. Hey, that’s politics! Better luck next…oops, that’s right,  there won’t be one. Sorry. <shrug>

It’s happening elsewhere too, like Nevada. Check this column about the governor’s race there. Which I was hipped to by JenX67.

And locally here where I live, though on a much smaller scale. There is a Library Board election and one of the candidates, whom I met, I’d put at about my age, which pleased me because there seem to be far too many of the old guard still in place. Some of whom just won’t go, even though they probably should.

Mine and other GenXer’s hope is that our generation of politicians will be more pragmatic. Will disagree but work together. Will dispense with the parroting of one-note campaigns. Will simply do the work that needs to be done in a fashion that is respectable.

Of course, as a typical GenXer, I am wary. But I am more hopeful than I have been in some time.

GenX Manhood

I’ve been reading this new book by Michael Chabon. Nonfiction: a collection of essays. Entitled “Manhood for Amateurs.” With an every growing pile of fiction that I want to read, I’m pretty selective about nonfiction books. But I’ll read anything by MC.

His novel “The Mysteries of Pittsburg” is still perhaps my favorite early-twenties coming of age novel; I’ve read it three times, and probably will again. For pur entertainment sake, “Wonder Boys” is superb. And what can one say about “The Adventures of Kavalier and Klay” other than it’s an absolute masterpiece, a Pulitzier Prize-winning novel about comic books. How cool is that? And, his short story, “Son of the Wolfman” is so good that reading it is inspiring and makes me want to give up writing simultaneously.

There was an article in the NY Times over the weekend that dubbed this collection “Daddy Lit,” a companion genre to go with “Mommy Lit,” but it is much more than that. What I like about it is that it is a collection. And even though I’m sure much care was put into the ordering of the essays and is intended to be read from beginning to end, just like short story collection, there’s nothing keeping you from jumping around. Plus, short, well-written essays, like short stories, when done well, can really pack a punch. And these essays do- WOMP! BLAM! ZOWEEE!

The second essay in the book, Williams and I, Chabon ruminates on how little a man has to do to be told by a complete stranger that he is a good father. Where as a woman has to do what?

“….perform an emergency tracheotomy with a Bic pen on her eldest child while simultaneously nursing her infant and buying two weeks worth of healthy but appealing break-time snacks for the entire cast of The Lion King.”

Of course, ultimately the essay addresses the fact that he, Chabon, like a lot of GenX dads these days, does do much more than haul his kid along on a trip the grocery store. Unlike men of his father’s generation, he’s more than a distant, slightly mysterious and perhaps at times menacing bread-winner.

Heck, in my family, I am not the main bread winner. In fact, my wife makes at last twice what I do. My job was selected because it is less demanding and more flexible; I can always be available for my daughter if need be. That way C doesn’t have to worry about skipping an important meeting or rushing an important report in the event that, say, Addy has to be picked up from school sick or something like that. I rarely have meeting, and they are never really that important. Also, because it is a city  job basically, it provided good health insurance. And, it is not very taxing so I have brain wattage left over at the end of the day to write.

It doesn’t and never has bothered me that my wife makes more than me. I’m among that 89% of people (men and women) who say that it’s all right for women to not only work but make more money than the man in a marriage. For us, such a circumstance was probably inevitable. C thrives in a corporate setting, whereas I was stymied by it and would prefer not to work in the world if at all possible.

What does bug me, though, is that women still aren’t paid as well as a man for doing the same work. That not only deprives my wife of her due, but my family of income, earned income. And that’s just bullshit on a stick!

Sometimes it’s confusing being a GenX Dad/Man. We’re the transition generation, the first to have to operate under new and very different rules than our fathers’. But it’s cool too, because to a certain dergree we get to make up the rules as we go. We get to be pioneers in a way. We can decided, to a greater or lesser degree, what being a man/Dad means. It can be as traditional or as progressive as we want. No doubt in most cases it ends up being some mixture of the two.

Anyhoo…so far these essays seem like they will serve as good jumping off points to talk about different issues of manhood.

New Featured Blog

It’s been awhile since I last updated my Featured Blog. Partly because I’m slacker extrodinaire. And partly because fuck if I knew what to change it to. So a couple of blogs got an extended ride on the jundrawer67 Featured Blog spotlight, which must have brought them so many hits their hard drives started smoking. Oh yeah…….. I’m big baby!

Anyhoo… my NFB belongs to author Bonnie Jo Campbell, whose latest collection of short stories, American Salvage, was recently nominaged for the National Book Award.  I was totally blown away when I read about it the NY Times Sunday paper, which I’d put on hold some time back and it just started up again this Sunday. Of course, I probably would have learned this news eventually.

I was an MFA student at Western Michigan University at the same time as BJC. So it was particuarly exciting news. Although not all that surprising. BJC was, as I recall, one of what we lesser scribblers in the program called the Big Gun writers. You just knew she was writing great stuff, and that she was going places, writing-wise.

So a big congrats to Bonnie Jo Campbell. And here’s hoping you bring home the prize. And if not, fuck it, have damn good time while you there!

And just to add a small self-egrandizing kudos for myself. Of the five works of fiction nominated for the NBA I’ve read three. The novel Far North by Marcel Theroux, which I recommend; most of BJC collection, American Salvage, as well as Lark and Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips, who has long been a favored author of mine. Column McCann’s novel Let the Great World Spin was on my reading list as soon as it passed through my grimy  little paws at the library — no seriously, i’m not bsing. And, as for the story collection In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin I did pick it up and start it but filly admit to never finishing it and never getting around to returning to it.

I’m just saying that after picking three Pulitzer winner: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, and years back The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay by Michael Chabon,  plus some other, I’ve got a pretty good nose for prize-winners when I read them.

Impressive, eh. Yeah. I know. Not so much. But can’t you just let me have my little dillusion for a little while. It ain’t hurtin nobody.

X men and aging

The generation not the comic book heroes. Sorry…

Mindlessly surfing the web — well, not exactly I was doing my  irregular (why does that seem like such a GenX word?)* search for GenX authors/Literature that I may not yet be aware of — I came across this article by Douglas Coupland on aging. Figures — one can’t spit within the search results for anything Genertion X without hitting Douglas Coupland.

Anyhoo… I’ve always found this to be a curiuos subject because most of the time people mistake my age, often thinking that I am younger, sometimes much younger. This was particularly so in my late-twenties and early-thirties. By my late-thirties not so much. But since I’ve hit forty people are more often than not surprised when I tell them my age. Of course, this no doubt has as much to do with my juvenile personality than anything else.

It seems to me that Coupland’s attitude toward aging is indicative of the GenX attitude in general. That is, he doesn’t really mind aging so much because he understands that everyone else is aging right along with him. Sure, no one like aging but it is a fact of life and you either come to terms with it or spend your time foolishly wasting time and money trying to deny it, which seem more typical of Boomers. After all, they’re the ones that coined the phrase 60 is the new 40 blah blah blah. And they’re still doing it. I’ve heard 70 is the new 60. Please…

I’ve often thougth that GenXers will make not necessarily better but more graceful seniors than Boomers. For many of us it will be like a second go-around with our twenties — no job or only part time work in the service sector, lots of time on our hands to spend in places like Denny’s and the mall, and engaging in long, meandering cafeine-fueled conversations that are immensely interesting to us but to outsiders seemingly pretty dotty.

I predict that our music and clothes will be cool no matter what our age. And we sure as shit aren’t going to try and relive Lollapalooza; we’ll just let those younger than use have their turn. In case you’re not getting the hint Baby Boom your fucking Woodstock reunion was lame!

Anyway, the article is way more interesting than my blather, so check it!

*perhaps under different circumstances Generation X could have been dubbed the Irregular Genartion….or not.