In the midsts of reading Douglas Coupland’s latest novel, Generation A, which I’d been struggling with for a time but closing in on the end it’s really coming together, I discovered two more GenX authors.
Well, I didn’t so much discover them as stumble across them, which is one of the advantages of working in a library. You’re constantly surrounded by books, and even those that escape your notice when the first enter the collection can suddenly present themselves again. That’s what happened in the case of the first author.
Vanessa Jones (b. 1970), author of the slim novel, The Kindest Use a Knife, which I noticed only because I happened to be passing through that section and Thom Jones’ collection The Pugilist at Rest caugth my eyes. Pugilist is kind of special book for me; I was new to the MFA program at Western Michigan and Thom Jones was perhaps the first big author that I got the chance to meet. Anyway, V. Jones’ book was next to his on the shelf. I don’t know why I picked it up, perhaps because it was slim and black and the title was intriguing. In any case, a quick glance made me want to read it. And further investigation put this young Brit writer firmly with in Generation X. Of course, whether she considers herself a GenX writer or not is another story. But if she doesn’t like the label, she’s welcome to contact me with her displeasure. I like displeasure. It’s at least part pleasure, right. Knife is not Jones’ first book. Her first was entitled Twelve. Check the description posted on Amazon.com for it:
The dullness of repetition and nonimaginative yearnings define the complacency that permeates the lives of the aimless young Brits in Jones’ debut novel. Though seemingly well-employed and decently housed with a nice enough housemate, Lily, her protagonist, can’t seem to shake her restlessness long enough to decide on a general direction for her adulthood, let alone a specific one. She wonders when she started to identify with the company employing her so much that she thinks of herself and it as “we.” Passively, she goes though the surface motions of living as though rehearsing for the real thing, waiting for some recognizably decisive incident to give her past clarity and her future a roadmap providing the direction and purpose she lacks. This ennui verging on anomie is prevalent in a number of recent writings about bright, thirtyish Brits. Can this be the result of England’s post-Thatcher stable growth, where good jobs and comfortable lives are taken for granted? Where did the rebellion and passion go? Whatever happened to England’s beautiful Angry Young Men?
It just drips GenX. She’s the right age too. Of course, the proof will be in the pudding, i.e. the reading, although some chocolate pudding would be nice right now…mmmmmmmmmm. Of course, I have to get a copy to read it; library doesn’t own it.
Knife is different, a darker tale about friendships and rivalry, but it still seems to fit the GenX ethos, at least that is my instinct. I have to read it still too.
The other author is Lydia Millet (b. 1968), who has many more titles to her credit. I’m particular interested in her recent short story collection — Love in Infant Monkeys. Dig it. What really drew me to this particular book was that the stories are, in part, about famous people. I’ve had a few story ideas that perhaps are similar. Again, I’ve yet to read it. But I’m confident that I’m not jumping the gun. And it isn’t just her age, which is pretty much the same as mine, which makes me feel…lacking to put it mildly, since Millet has a half a dozen book out there already, and I’ve yet to have one. More than her age, it is Millet’s unconventionality that makes her a GenX author of GenX Lit. She’s shelved in regular fiction and yet she was a short-listed for the Arhtur C. Clark Award. Reminds me of Jonathan Lethem, whose writing is bends from conventional human drama to sci fic to noir.
My hope is to quickly finish of Coupland’s latest effort and then dig into these two books, see if my intincts are correct.