An old GenX story…

In many ways Tisha Kulak-Tolar’s novel, Gen X, is an old story.

Girl meets boy. Girl befriends boy. Girl shares a place with boy.  Girl pines for boy while boy boffs a string of ditzy, sex-pots. Girl and boy eventually fall in love. Then fall out. And eventually have one last good-bye shag. And all is far from being right with world.

Well, an old Generation X story, anyway.

Of course, that is reductive; there is more to this story than that.

And let me just say before I proceed any further (or is it farther; I need to watch Finding Forrester again to clarify). Anyone who bothers to read my blog knows that I read a lot but also that my posts about books are more like reactions than reviews. At least, that is how I think of them. Because I may start out talking about the book but end up on the planet of irrelevant tangents. So with that….

Of course, I was flattered that Tisha would want me to “review” her book on my blog (she is the first but hopefully not the last author to do so) but I was also a little leery because it seemed a bit chick-lit-ish to me, and at risk of coming across as some kind of literary snob I have to admit that such fiction is really not my thing. But I figured if Tisha went through the trouble of contacting me and sending me her book, at no charge to me, then the least I could to do was give it a go. So I did.

And as I read something happened. I began to care about what happened to Genevieve Xavier, aka Gen X, (clever, I know), and that is arguably the main ingredient for a successful story.

Gen X is a 22-year old woman who lives with her friend Jared,  a man-boy on whom she has a crush, but Jared is too busy banging anything with a hole and heartbeat and a big rack. Or so it seems. One night he tells Gen how he really feels about her, if one is to believe such a scoundrel. But hey, Han Solo was a scoundrel too and he turned out to be a stand-up guy?

Jared turns out to be a stand-up comedian, a pretty good one at that. And before Gen and Jared know it they are on their way California where Jared is going to be a big star and Gen is going to manage his career.  But Gen is quickly maneuvered out of that roll by a savvy, ruthless agent who has here designs on Jared. After a brief stay at the home of an actor that Gen had an almost tryst with back in Philly, the city she and Jared started in, and where she meets a budding sweetheart of an actor named Scott, Gen finds herself living back at home with  her parents — ugh! — and working a suck-ass McJob for a Temp Agency. Could things possibly get any worse?

Then answer is: yes they can. They always can. Every GenXer knows that. Gen meets Chris, a guy with a big brown eyes and, it turns out, drug habit.

And this is where the story takes a darker turn and where you really find yourself alternately routing and fretting for Gen. Will she end up stuck in her home town? (The horror!) Will she make it back to Philly? (Mmmm cheese steak sandwiches!) Or even California? (living large, or at least relatively warmer than on the east coast) What will happen when Jared returns to Philly while on tour? (Dunt dunt da!) Well, you’ll have to read the book to find all that out, won’t you. I’m no spoiler.

The thing that is so (oddly?) compelling about Gen X is that you can pretty much see the mistakes the Gen is going to make. But that doesn’t deter you from reading on. It’s like watching the painful home vidoes on that show with that guy that makes mildly amusing remarks to an laugh track that is way too amused. You want to look away, but you just can’t.

You want warn Gen — No, don’t do that. Can’t you see what a mistake you’re making? But of course you don’t, because Gen is, after all, just a fictional character. And that would be just silly, like yelling at Rocky Balboa to get up in that final scene of Rocky. It’s pointless, but I did it anyway.

I don’t know. Maybe I saw my 22-year-old self in Gen, making poor decisions, and what I really wanted to do was save myself. Ugh! I sound like a Boomer in therapy. Somebody shoot me. Now!

Even if you could communicated with Gen, we all know it wouldn’t make a difference. Because she’s not going to listen. I know I wouldn’t have at that age. And to tell you the truth, I don’t really regret. Well, not too much anyway. Besides, it’d be a pretty boring novel if Gen didn’t end up in a tangled web of regret and broken hearts. That’s drama!

Finally, I have to say that I really admire the gumption to self-publish. I’ve not mustered the moxie to give that a go myself. Of course, I’d have to have something completed to do that anyway. It must be difficult. And one of the downsides of it is not having professional copy editors and proof readers to go over your prose, tune it up, and make sure to parse out all typos and mistakes. This book could have used that kind of care, because no matter how much I tried I couldn’t help marking corrections, like when I was a freshman comp instructor. It was distracting, but not so much that I didn’t keep reading.

It was fun! And who doesn’t like a spot of fun now and again?

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The new GenX books are here! The new GenX books are here!

Anyone who bothers to read this humble blog knows that I read… a lot. And from time to time I like to fancy myself a bit of literary opine-er, pontificating on and about the book or books that I happen to be reading at the given moment. In the past, I’ve always chosen the book. But that has recently changed.

Twice in about two weeks two different authors contacted me, asking if I would review their books. I was both surprised and delighted, and of course flattered. Often I figure the only people reading my blog are the few family and friends that no my fragile ego needs constant bucking up.

I’m also a little angsty over the prospect. First, it would be just my luck that such opportunities would come up just as I am starting my class at the community college  — reading and studying to do. And I’m on a  deadline to finish a short story to enter in a contest. Things always seems to come on like that, all at once. Make me nervous, and honestly want to downshift into comfy slack mode. But I’m determined to not do that this time.

Anyhoo… here are the two books that I’ve been asked to review.

First, a novel entitled Gen X by Tisha Kulak-Tolar, which I’m about two thirds of the way through already and should finish soon, and which is available at amazon.com.

And second, a nonfiction book about generation x in the workplace entitled What’s Next Gen X?: keeping up, moving ahead, and getting the career you want, by Tamara Erickson, which I’ve only overlooked briefly to start with but am eager to dig into. Usually, I’m not that interested in these workplace/business books about Generation X but recently I’ve been thinking that my own career — yes, I have a job! — away from the computer, this blog, my fiction efforts, could stand an upgrade. Hopefully, I get some useful info out of Tamara’s book.

Thanks to both authors for seeking me out. I promise to deliver.

Generational Quiz

 

When you see this picture, you think:

A. That looks tasty

B. Cholesterol – bad egg!

C. Hey, that’s my brain on drugs!

D. What does an egg have to do with anything?
If you answered:
A. You are a “Mature”

B. You are a “Boomer”

C. You are an “Xer”

D. You are a “Millennial”

Detroit Gen Xer forgoes $ to do good

Here’s a young woman who is an example of the best kind of Gen Xer attitude, helping homeless teens and young people to get off the streets instead of raking in the big bucks. Way to fucking go!

Last week, I was shown around by Melissa Golpe, their marketing and public relations director. A trim, attractive 31-year-old who grew up in Dearborn, she easily could be making far more money. She certainly would be richer if, for example, she had stayed with the major commercial PR agency she spent a few years with after graduation.

But she found out that wasn’t her. “This really seems much more meaningful, gives me much more satisfaction, telling their stories,” she said. I saw a number of the young adults who are staying there, working part-time, getting clean, getting right in their heads, working on their high school degrees.

Check out the full article, a column by Jack Lessenberry, who writes regulary for the Metro Times, a free weekly for Metro Detroit.

http://www.metrotimes.com/editorial/story.asp?id=12814

X Lit.

There was no place for irony in marketing: it made people want to look for deeper meaning. There was no place in marketing for that, either.”

Jennifer Government, by Max Barry

Do a quick google or amazon search on Generation X and the majority of the results that turn up will be about business, i.e. marketing to GenXer’s, managaing GenXers at work blah blah blah. Yeah. I don’t really dig that shit much. I mean, I get it. Business is, well, the business of most people, but I don’t really care. Don’t mistake that for apathy. It is simply a refusal to participate, which is not the same thing.

I’m just more interested in books and movies, TV and pop culture in general. What do you want? I was an English major in college. Hell, I even went to grad school for Creative Writing. It was the mid-nineties and the job market was no great shakes. So, I figured, why not waste a few more years in school. Grad School was easier than undergrad. Besides it fit with my goal to avoid a real job for as long as fucking possible, which I managed to do until after 30 thank you very much. Of course, I couldn’t avoid “the real world” forever. But it only took just under 4 years in corporate cube land for me to realize very clearly that I did not belong there. And I hope I never have to return. The horror! The horror!

Anyhoo… after recently rereading Douglas Coupland’s novel, Generation X, I’m on this new kick — actually it is an old kick rejuvenated — too seek out and identify authors and works of fictional (mostly) that reflect the Gen X ethos in some way. I’m sort of developing a way of evaluating novels and short stories and the like through an Xer’s lense, sort of speak.

Hence the quote above from a novel that I am currently deeply immersed in.

The author, Max Barry, is from Australia but I don’t see the Xer ethos as strictly an American one. In fact, I would say that Gen X is more international than any generation before it. Of course, the Mellenials will be even more so. Barry is 33, which puts him in the age range. Of course, this in and of itself does not qualify one as a Gen Xer or possessing of the Xer ethos, but it’s as good place as any to start.

But perhap Mr. Barry wouldn’t appreciate being slapped with the Gen X tag, but no matter. I’ll likely never run into him anyway. So even if he can kick my ass, and no doubt he can, I’m probably safe.

Regardless of whether it is welcome or not, this novel contains a pretty strong Xer vibe.

To begin with the tone is ironic, and funny.

Also, the portrayal of corporate entities as basically soulless behemoths that rob individuals of dignity and identity is quite in sync with the Xer view. In this fictional world, a person’s last names depends on the company that they work for. Hence, one of the characters, Hack, works for Nike and as such is named Hack Nike.

Technology, especially computers and the internet, play a prominent role in the story. Also very Xer-ish… or whatever.

Creativity is not only NOT respected, it is exploited and stolen out right for the singular purpose of making money.

Profit is more important than human life. The book begins with a marketing strategy to sell a new brand of Nike shoes that involves assassinating people who purchase them in order to establish “street cred.”

Even the government and so-called public services are corporate here. Police nvestigations into crimes, even the most serious, require funding by the victims. One must be a paying member of an emergency service first before an ambulance will be sent to your assistance in the event of an emergency.

Yes. It is quite a cynical vision of the immediate future, with of course the United States as the worst purveyor of corporate greed and manipulation, but, even though I’m only half-way through the book, I sense that actions by individuals at the lowest levels, working diligently without praise or even the slightest acknowledgement will be prove the heroes of this tale.

If you need more proof, visit Max’s web site which is linked on my blogroll here. I got my own novel to work on.

Real World turns 20 — OMFG! Has it been that long?

Check out this article in Details magazine by Jeff Gordinier, author of the recently published book, X Saves the World:

http://men.style.com/details/features/landing?id=content_6746

When it came out people said that Mtv’s The Real World was knock off the 1973 PBS documentary series An American Family. Today The Real World has been hailed as the precursor to Reality TV as we know it, the show that paved the way for such dynamic television real-life drama as, oh, Celebrity Fit Club. But check it — Gordinier it making a new inference here, from The Real World book that was released after the first four season of the show to capitalize on its populatiry. Gordinier sees in the layout of this book the basic template for social networking online, i.e. Facebook and MySpace etc.

Name-dropping post script: I totally new Andre from the first season of The Real World. Okay, I didn’t know him know him, not that well. We weren’t best buds or anything. Actually, he didn’t even know my name, much less who I was. I guess you could say we’ve occupied space in the same room at parties once or twice. Okay, once. God, I’m so pathetic. And I feel so cheap and dirty. Oh my GenX values, why I did I forsake thee? Why?!

Gen X feminist chicks defy their Mothers

An article on slate.com this morning illustrates some typical self-centered Boomer behavoir, by feminists of The Greatest (in their own mind) Generation in this case. Apparently, there are young women out there who are actually bucking the notion that they should support Hilary Clinton simply because their mothers, or someone from their mothers’ generation, instructs them to do so. Imagine that — people actually thinking for themselves, instead of merely falling into line in order that a generation of self-entitled Boomer women can “feel validated” by a woman in the White House.

http://www.slate.com/id/2189406/

The fact that Hilary Clinton is a woman is not a reason to support her, nor is a reason to not support her. She is NOT a woman candidate. She is a candidate who happens to be a woman. To label her as The Woman Candidate, which Boomers seem to be fond of doing, to themselves as well as members of other genertations, is reductive and patronizing. Not that I am against patronizing or reducing HC. I’m not at all. In fact, I’m all for it. And apparently I’m not the only one.

Note: Recent news reports are saying that Hilary Clinton’s campaign is in debt by some $10 Million. Does anyone else besides me see this as a bad omen?

Generation X (the book) revisited

Just finished reading Douglas Coupland’s novel, Generation x: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. After reading X Saves the World, I figured it was time to return to it. It’s been almost 18 years since I first read this book. I’ve reread it maybe once or twice since then but my memory of it is fuzzy. Still, I’ve toted it with me wherever I’ve gone since it was presented to me as a gift by a college friend. I’d forgotten just how good a book it is, how affecting (or is it effecting?) it was/is for me. It must have impressed me, right. Otherwise why hang onto it for so long?

Though the impressions are vague, I do remember being excited by Coupland’s first novel. And I remember being eager for his next work, which was Shampoo Planet, and then being sort of disappointed by it. But I’m thinking now that I should read it again. Perhaps there was something I missed. I mean, that was true for Microserfs, which I didn’t finally read until this past year, after reading several new books by Coupland — Elanore Rigby, jPod, and The Gum Thief, all of which I enjoyed. I don’t know what kept me from reading Microserfs. Perhaps it was the disappointment over Shampoo Planet. In any event, I am pleased to have returned to Coupland’s work, and since I’ve neglected it for so long there are many works that I have yet to read, and I look foward to doing that. I just hope that I can find the time now. Before “adulthood” — marriage and children and mortgages etc — I had much more opportunity to read and yet I think I actually read less. Well. Nothing to be done about that now.

Anyhoo… one of the really cool things about Coupland’s book are the GenXisms that appear in the margins of the pages along side the narrative. Little terms usually with accompanying definitions that help to define the X ethos as portrayed in this novel.

For example, here’s a rather famous one, which is not part of the popular lexicon:

MCJOB: A low-pay, low-prestige, low-dignity, low-benefit, no-future job in the service sector. Frequently considered a satisfying career choice by people have never held one.

I’ve hgad my share of these. Like when I was grad student in the MFA department at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. When I wasn’t teaching English 105, WMU’s version of Freshman Comp, I worked at a Oasis Hot Tubs, doing cleaning and maintenance. It was considered a semi-cool job because it was kind of exotic and you got to tub for free, plus the owners threw kick ass and sometimes wild Christmas parties, but at the same time it was drudge work and it wasn’t as if I was going to make a career out of it or anything. I had bills to pay. But here’s the kicker: my TA position with the university didn’t pay much better, and in fact probably paid less, considering the time and brain-power that went into it. But still it was kind of prestigious to teach at a university, my high school classmates seemed to think so at my 10 year class reunions, anyway.

A lesser known Xism, but one of my favorites is:

EMOTIONAL KETCHUP BURST: The bottling up of opinions and emotions inside oneself so that they explosively burst forth all at once, shocking and confusing employers and friends– most of whom though things were fine.

I’m guilty of this one. Ask my wife and daughter. Every once in a while I’ll just bust out with all this crap that’s been festering in my head for God knows long.

I’ve been considering some of my own Xism to add to Couplands. Like something like:

GENERATIONAL HOSTAGE TAKING: The tendency to co-opt members from a different generation and ascribe them membership in one’s own generation in order to boost one’s self-esteem or position in the world at large by association with said person.

Supposedly I am guilty of doing this with Barack Obama, whom I insist is a GenXer, but whom I’ve been told by a responder to one of my earlier postings on this blog is actually a member of Generation Jones, whatever the fuck that is. Of course, I refuse to accept this nitpicking relabeling. Obama is X. Because he sure as shit ain’t a Boomer. And next to no one knows what the hell Generation Jones is. I’ve asked. People give me blank stares and then say to me: “I’m going to go over here now.” And then walk a few feet away to stare into space.

A variation on this idea is when members of another generation tries to convince you that you are in fact a member of their generation because their idea of your generation is a static cliche in their addled little minds, combined with their fear of aging and becoming increasingly irrelevant and in the end dying, leaving graves to be pissed on by a younger generation still pissed off because of all the bullshit that they had to put up with at the hands of the previous generation. Of course, I’m speaking primarily of the Boomers.

I came by this notion when I was participating in a blog discussion on slate.com that turned into a flame ware when self-righteous Boomer assholes didn’t like me confronting them with some of their generations uglier tendencies. They tried to dismiss me as young and juvenile, to which I replied that I was 40, married, had a healthy happy daughter, owned a house, worked a full-time job etc. This was met with the smug remark that because I was 40 I was a Boomer. Of course, I felt the need to explain that in fact I was not. I am a GenXer who has simply turned 40, while reminding these jerk offs that Boomers were now turning 60 — i.e. Hilary and Bill and W. Needless to say that they did not appreciate being reminded of their state of decline, both physically and mentally. The self-involved, self-centered, solipsism of their attitudes that Xers are perpetually 20-something without jobs, living in their parents basements, was fucking astounding. Although you’d think by now a cynical Xer such as myself would no longer be able to be surprised by the depth of self-centeredness that Boomers can exhibit. Also the clumsy mental move to pull a younger cohort under the umbrella of their generation smacks of a neurotic-bordering-on-psychotic generational tendency to thwart extinction.

Nice try Boomer Boys and Girls. But it ain’t gonna work. You got to, and will, die some time. (Aw, how sad for you.) Of course some not soon enough, for some of us.

Gen X Jesus speaks on Technology

Anyone who thought this post would be about religion somehow — sorry.

I’m not sure who I’ll catch more flack from, though. Hypersensitive, overly serious Christian types for what is no doubt in their view, using the Lord’s name in vain. Or, the Gen X Jesus himself, Douglas Coupland, for participating in the collective persistence to associate him forever with Generation X. I’m damned either way. Dammit! But I’m not too worried, because, you know, Christians have to turn the other cheek — it’s in their rule book or something — and I’m pretty sure I can take Coupland in a fight if it comes to that. I’m a little younger, and while I’m not in that good of shape I know how to fight dirty, and have no problem doing so. Bring it on, Dougie!

Anyway about a month ago Coupland, filling in for Stephen Fry, wrote an interesting Dork Talk column about technology for the The Guardian newspaper. Check it out:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2008/mar/22/gadgets.ebay

Some quotes taken out of context:

Any gadget we use invariably morphs our perception of time’s passing.

These shifting perceptions of time are what give eras in human history their specific textures. I was in Austin, Texas last spring and bumped into a friend from my stint at Wired magazine in the mid-90s. The encounter went along the lines of, “John – I haven’t seen you since… eBay! I haven’t seen you since… Google! I haven’t seen you since… BlackBerrys!” The point was that the use of decades and calendar years to mark eras is over. Time is measured in tech waves, and not only do these tech waves demarcate eras, they also define them.

I remember in the 80s … if you saw someone using a cellphone on a street, you immediately thought they were an asshole … Twenty years later, we’re all assholes. … And with cellphones and handhelds, we collapse time and space and our perception of distance and intimacy.

Is this a good thing? Maybe, maybe not. … But then it’s hard to imagine the current boom in procedural crime dramas without the cellphone. Cellphones have, if nothing else, turned TV crime writers into lazy sloths.

I agree: CSI, Law & Order — they all suck!

But to add a counter point, check out this New York Times Magazine article about how cell phones can be used to help lesson world poverty. Of course, the article headlines implies that the ubiquitous gadget may end world poverty, but as an Xer I simply can’t buy into that possibility. You can’t end something like poverty. But you can do what you can do. To wit:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/13/magazine/13anthropology-t.html?_r=1&ref=magazine&oref=slogin

 

Obama and GenX politics

“Each and every time, a new generation has risen up and done what’s needed to be done. Today we are called once more–and it is time for our generation to answer that call,” declared Barack Obama, uttering the word “generation” no fewer than thirteen times in his speech announcing his intention to run for President.

This is from an article in the The Nation about Obama, the first GenX candidate for the presidency. It details how, despite the stereotypes foisted upon Generation X by asshole Boomers (mainly marketers and advertisers in order to fabtricate an easily definable so-called buying block, which of course didn’t pan out because GenX is not easily definable, which is why these same jag offs turned their attention back to their own now retiring minions and their frightening plastic, star-obsessed, technology-obsessed-to-the-point-of-zombification, incable-of-relfection, progenty, the Mellinials), we care, we’re active and involved, and in addition, some of us are pretty fucking pissed off at the havoc that two back–to-back Boomer’s in the White House have reaped on this country and the world. We’re sick of the self-indulgent, solopsistic, self-entitled bulshit politics of this self-entitled revolitonary generation.

Hey Booomers! You had your chance. Now get the hell out of the way because GenX is read to take the lead. And we will do it better, smarter, and with a hell of a lot more integrity.

Link to the full article:

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20071203/chaudhry

But here are some interesting quotes as well:

“In the back-and-forth between Clinton and Gingrich, and in the elections of 2000 and 2004, I sometimes felt as if I were watching the psychodrama of the baby boom generation–a tale rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago–played out on the national stage,” writes Obama [in his book The Audacity of Hope]

and

Senator Clinton and others have been fighting some of the same fights since the ’60s. It makes it very difficult for them to bring the country together to get things done.”  [Barack Obam in an interview with Fox News (suck!)]

and

“We hear plenty about people in their teens and twenties, and even more about people in their fifties, but the stodgy old species known as the thirtysomething has been shuttled off, like Molly Ringwald herself, to some sort of Camp Limbo for demographic lepers,” fumes Details editor at large Jeff Gordinier in his upcoming book, X Saves the World. A recent Chicago Tribune article on Obama’s message of generational change focuses exclusively on 18- to 30-year-olds, discussing every other living generation in passing but with nary a mention of his own peers.

I suppose as GenXer I could be pissed at Obama for neglecting to mention his own generational cohort. But anyone who understands the X ethos knows that this does not matter. The attention is not what we care about. Boomers care about that, crave the spotlight. Xers toil away on the fringes, which is better because we can go undisturbered, allowing us to get shit done. It’s how we, along with many others, have helped to get Obama to this point. And we’ll keep on toiling  until that man has shut down Hilary and won the Democratic nomination and can enter the general election to take on Senator McCain.

To wit:

As Jerome Armstrong, founder of MyDD.com and best known as the Blogfather of the progressive netroots, says, “It’s people drawn from Generation X–the people who have gotten involved in politics this decade–who have brought about the whole new movement of progressive Democrats.”

And though Xers have been accused of apathy of every sort, especially the political variety, please consider this point:

Bill Clinton was at least partly responsible for the lack of political engagement that characterized the ’90s. His election in 1992, when he pulled in 52 percent of the under-25 vote, marked a hope-stirring thaw during a long winter of conservative dominance. Gordinier says Clinton was in many ways “our first political love who broke our hearts. We’ve never been able to trust any politician quite in that same way again.” The sense of betrayal combined with the ugly partisan politics of the era reinforced the sense of disillusionment. Gary Ruskin, who directed the Congressional Accountability Project at the time, told The Atlantic Monthly, “Republicans and Democrats have become one and the same–they are both corrupt at the core and behave like children who are more interested in fighting with each other than in getting anything accomplished.”

And as far as activism goes, well:

Third parties were no longer the answer–even though many X-ers had voted for Ralph Nader in the past–and X-ers had never embraced street protests like the boomers. So they turned to the medium most of them knew best: the Internet.

The point in this quote is particularly significant, I think. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been chastised either directly or indirectly by some fucking Boomer of the 60’s activist ilk on how me and my generation (X) have no senses of activism, no willingness to “take the streets and force change” blah blah blah. That’s right, we didn’t often take to the streets. But we are taking to the blog-o-sphere, and that is how in primary contest after pirmary contest, not to mention fund raising efforst we have helped Obama hand Hilary her ass. No small feat when you consider the size of the sucker! (Yeah. It was mean. And uncalled for. But I’m okay with that. It was funny. Only a self-important solopist that has undergone a humor-labotomy would think otherwise.)

Well, you get the point. And thanks if you actually bothered to read this far. Check out the article.

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20071203/chaudhry