GenX Divorce Fiction

Usually when y0u think about GenX fiction you think about flannel-wearing hipsters working in coffee shops and other young adults slackers stuck in McJobs of all sorts who sit around waxing cynical and showing off their encyclopedic knowledge of movies, music, TV and other forms of pop culture. Not  so for for Jonathan Tropper’s novel This is Where I Leave You.

This novel is about a 40-something Judd Foxman whose marriage is on the rocks after his wife has an affair with his boss and friend. Oh yeah, and his father has just died and wants the entire dysfunctional Foxman clan to sit shiva.

I was initially drawn to this  novel because first I enjoyed a previous Tropper novel, The Book of Joe, and second because the subject matter seemed germane to my own life. I’m 42 and getting divorced, but not because of a cheating wife, and I’m not Jewish. But still, I was right, even more than I could have imagined. It’s rare that a novel’s subject and themes strike so close to home, but this one did. I’ve been plowing through it all last week and this weekend.

But I was also delighted by the generous use of pop culture references, like the death of Kurt Cobain. There’s even a character that is known for his ability to recall at will scenes from movies and song lyrics. That’s the Generation X part. Suffering through their own divorces is the newert facet of GenX fiction and rightly so — as a generation we’re growing up. I can certainly vouch for that.

I never was able to write my GenX slacker 20-something novel or my GenX 30s boom and bust office drama. Maybe I can do the GenX 40-something divorce saga, with just the right amount of humor and insight. And don’t forget the pop culture references, plenty of pop culture references, because it just wouldn’t be GenX fiction without them. Okay, that’s not a mandatory criteria but it’s one of the major ones.

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Fight Club: the novel

For all the times that I’ve seen the movie Fight Club, I’ve never actually read the book, although I’ve always meant to. But then I’ve always meant to read a lot of books.

Still, Chuck Palahniuk is a GenX writer and Fight Club is a very GenX book, a male-centered one to be sure but no less GenX for that.

Anyway, I managed to nab a copy, so at least if the impulse hits me I won’t have to hope that the library has it on the shelf.

Question: Did they ever market Fight Club soap?

Of course, first I need to finish the Philip Roth novel, The Plot Against America, that I’ve been meaning to read for years. I’ve even started it a few times but just couldn’t get into it. Not sure why. It’s a great bit of writing, but then it’s Philip Roth so of course it would be. But this one now probably ranks as one my favorite Roth novels.

The story is alternate history, supposing what would it have been like had Charles Lindbergh become POTUS, defeating FDR in the 1939 election. Apparently Lindbergh was something of anti-semit e as well as isolationist, or so posits the novel, and as such strikes and agreement with Hitler to keep America out of WWII. But that’s not the worst of it. Gradually the US become or less and less hospitable place for Jews. The events unfold through the eyes of a nine-year-old boy named Philip Roth, and how it effects his family living in Newark, New Jersey.

Finally getting into it, I’ve hardly been able to put it down.

Discovered: 2 new GenX authors

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.