In which I cast into the past and snag a barracuda

So last weekend and early this week was a whirlwind of online dating drama, but things have since mellowed, which is cool only it doesn’t provide much in the way of fodder for this here blog.

To remedy that allow me to turn back the clock, to when I first started online dating, signing up pretty much on a whim and plopping down a whole year’s subscription on eHarmony — why not just a six months, or only three even, just to test the waters? Why? Ah, well. Matters not now. Nothing to be done about it.

This particular cast into the past lands us firmly at the end of October, just before Halloween, the most Generation X of all the holidays in my humble but masterfully astute opinion — do not question my author-a-tie! In fact, it was exactly the 30th of the month, when I was first matched with the first woman I would ever date via any online service — I was on yahoo singles (or whatever it is) briefly during my separation but had no luck with it, unlike my ex but that’s a whole other gripe. Anyhoo… back to my online first, the woman who popped my online dating cherry. Let’s call her, oh, say ….Lydia.

Lydia was anything but a tatooed lady — trust me I had ample access and time to investigate — but she was very cool all the same. Or so I thought. What snagged me was how much we had in common in terms of movies and a penchant for reading and TV. Also, she was quite witty, at least at first. Plenty of witty banter  via eHarmony email, which Lydia suggested we abandoned for regular email since being eHarmony wasn’t very, in her words, “work friendly,” by which I now understand her to mean that she was at least slightly embarrassed to be utilizing. I wonder, is she still? Meh. Hardly matters now, does it.

What followed was a barrage of emails, at first, and then chatting via gmail chat. The more we communicated the more we seemed to click. Finally, Lydia suggested we meet. I was all for that. I suggested either Royal Oak or Ferndale as there is much to do  in both places. She put the kibosh on both. “No Royal Oak. No Ferndale,” she insisted. Fine by me although I was more than a bit curious as to why. What was wrong with these places? I supposed I would find out in time. Instead, we met at a bar in Troy, little neighborhood place. We had  drink and talked, and were comfortable enough to order some food. We talked some more. And it seemed to me that the more we talked the more we seemed to click. I was excited to hit it off with someone so quickly. I had been more than tad skeptical of the whole process, and not willing to get my hopes up. But I was wrong. This chick was cool.

And then… Well, apparently for our second date I was not nearly Johnny-on-the-spot enough for her likingI was chastized via chat for not asking her out in the right way, in the right time. Would we have ever gone out had she not suggested it? Fuck if I knew. I was instructed that I needed to ask her out early in the week so that she could properly plan her week and weekends. And fuck me if I didn’t agree. Anyone I told this too insisted it was a red flag. And I did not deny it but for some reason I ignored the warnings.

So we went out on a few more dates through November, leading up to her birthday, for which I decided to get her something. Nothing serious, something fun. I got her days of the week underpants because we both liked the movie “When Harry Met Sally”. I did not expect her to ever even wear them. Also, I got her Reese’s Peanutbutter Cups because chocolate and peanutbutter are her favorite. And a little convertible Hot Wheels car because we’d had a joke — she’d asked me what I was getting her for her bday, and I said, nothing big, just a car. She requested a convertible. There was also a card and a collection of short stories that I hoped she might like, “Bad Behavior”, by Mary Gaitskill. She seemed to like the gifts all around.

Things progressed into December and we actually spent part of Christmas Day together. I introduced her to my brother and his partner. They seemed to like her. My birthday came up and she got me two seasons of SCRUBS on DVD. And we made plans to spend New Year’s Eve together, which we did. I made her dinner, homemade pasta and meatballs, a salad, some wine, a dessert. By New Year’s Day she was done with me. It was clear. She just wouldn’t or couldn’t say it. And for some reason I hung around. Still not sure why.

There were plenty of other red flags and drama and gipes I’d love to expound upon. But I’ll get into those next time. I’m tired.

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Stay Awake: stories

I haven’t written anything in awhile.  I had planned to write about my new job, working in an office that is an interesting mix of Gen X and Millennials, with a few Boomers thrown for good (or not…) measure, but that hasn’t really happened, now has it.

Yesterday, though, on my way home from work, I had to stop at the bookstore — Barnes and Noble because there are no more Borders (B-o-o H-o-o) — to by a copy of “Stay Awake,” a new collection of short stories by Dan Chaon.

I have been waiting for this book to come out ever since I first learned of it’s existence, which was some time ago, although how long exactly I can’t quite recall. No matter. It is here.

I have been following Mr. Chaon since his very first collection of short stories, “Fitting Ends,” was published in 1995 by Triquarterly Books.

I  was still a graduated student in the MFA program at Western Michigan University, hoping to be a writer of short stories myself some day. I must have come across this book at John Rollins bookstore in Portage, MI, right up Westnedge from Kalamazoo, where WMU is located. That was a great independent bookstore. But I’m not sure it exists anymore. A google search does not turn it up. <sigh>

Anyhoo…. I recall being so taken by the stories in “Fitting Ends” that I wrote to the publisher in hopes of contacting the author, Mr. Chaon. This was before it was so easy to track someone down via the internet. To my surprise, the publisher passed on my letter to Dan and he eventually wrote to me. For a time we exchanged letters and emails, which was a fresh technology at the time. Eventually, though, the correspondences ended and life moved on.

I remember I was in the Borders on Woodward in Birmingham, I’m pretty sure, when, scanning the shelves for something to read, I came across Dan’s second collection of short stories, “Among the Missing.”

I remember sitting and reading it but ultimately not buying, perhaps because it was in hardcover and I was a new father and concerned about money and therefore didn’t feel right about dropping that kind of cash on a book (huh, if only my ex had felt the same sense of fiscal responsibility when it came to her hair or clothes). But later I did buy it in paperback.

A few years later, not long after I started my job at the Baldwin Public Library, one of the hot fiction books at the time was Dan Chaon’s first novel, “You Remind Me of Me.”

I spent my early lunch hours absorbed in this exceptional novel.

And of course I was super duper excited when, years later, still working at the library, I saw that Dan’s new novel, “Await You Reply,” was to be released. I counted down the days until the book was available. And immediately devoured it once it was. Of course, because I was the main copy cataloger at the library I was the first one to get my hot little hands on this novel. I had the first hold.

In fact, I believe I wrote a blog spot about it.  Ah, yes. Here it is. In it I identify Dan Chaon as a GenX write, a label he agreed with, you’ll see in his reply to my post. Of course, I was tickled that he’d managed to find my meager little post on my meager little blog.

I remember being exceptionally fascinated with the premise of this novel, at least in part because it was about characters who “just walk away” from their life. I made a comparison to the movie “Grosse Pointe Blank” because it deals with the same sort of thing with John Cusack’s character, who had walked away from his life abruptly one day. I can’t help wondering now if that interested me so much because at the time I secretly wanted to walk away from the life I was living — the oppressively soul-crushing marriage to a narcissist part NOT the being the father to the sweetest little girl in the world part.

Anyhoo…. this brings us back to Mr. Chaon’s new collection of short stories, “Stay Awake,” which, after reading the first two stories, I am sure is going to be exceptional from beginning to end, and which is going to be on of my favored collections for years to come, if not eternity. Well, my eternity anyway. I wonder. What will my daughter do with all my books when I am gone? Will she just donate them? Toss them? Keep perhaps a few? I should probably discuss this matter with her at some point. But probably I should concentrate on getting her through middle school and adolescence and all of that first, hug.

These stories, so far, are hard stories. Harsh. In fact, there almost seem like horror stories in a way. Very grim. Unsettling. But I love them for that very quality. Unlike the  reviewer on amazon who didn’t like the collection because people suffer in it, because it troubled him. This is an attitude, frankly, that I don’t get. What do people want? Short stories are not TV shows; they are not meant to make you feel good so that you’ll be in a receptive mood for whatever advertising comes between portions of the show. But…everyone is entitled to his/her opinion….for good or ill.

What really struck me about the first two stories in the collection  — The Bees and Patrick Lane, Flabbergasted — was how for each main character there is this confusion between what is really happening and what is just a trick of the mind or perhaps a dream or even something else, something unexplainable, and how these worlds, real and imagined and otherwise, mash and mix together. It’s the kind of thing that I like to experiment with in my own writing from time to time, particularly in a longer piece (novella length) that I have been working on.

Having said all that, perhaps far too much at this point, I am eager to get back to the book now.

Because of John Cusak: a story

 

Because of John Cusack


It was because of John Cusack that I contacted Josie.

I was watching that movie “High Fidelity” (based on the novel of the same name by Nick Hornby) in which John Cusack plays a character named Rob who owns a record store in Chicago and who has made rather a mess of his relationship with his current girlfriend and in an effort to understand what went wrong with his life he looks up five ex-girlfriends, the top five.  I’m not sure if Josie even qualifies as one of my top five ex-girlfriends since we were never really together to begin with. (We never got the chance to get to that point. Our relationship, such as it was, never got passed the hooking up stage. How could it? I was sort of dating my now ex-wife at the time. And Josie was in the process of relocating from Michigan to California for her job. We met at work.) But she was special, I knew that. She was smart and sweet, and I liked talking to her, a lot. I thought talking to her now might offer me some insight into where I’d gone wrong in my life.

I have to admit, though, it was more than that. Because even though our relationship never got passed that initial charged infatuation stage, I was sure that the strong feelings I had for her were genuine. I just never got the chance to tell her how I felt. Like an idiot I let her leave without divulging my true heart to her. I was too scared too. And now, now that I was divorced and truly free to pursue something with her, I guess part of me wondered if it wasn’t possible for us to pick up where we’d left off.

I found Josie on Facebook. It was amazing how little time and effort it actually took. But once I did find her I was suddenly leery about contacting her, recalling how abruptly I’d cut off communication with her. Josie hadn’t left the company that we worked for; she’d only taken a position with a division in California. Even so I figured I’d probably never hear from her again. Or maybe I just hoped that I wouldn’t. You see, by that time my now ex was pregnant with our child. It was not planned. In fact, it happened at a time when we were probably on the verge of going our separate ways. My now ex had found out about my relationship with Josie and we’d broken up but for whatever reason we weren’t done with each other. Thus she got pregnant. Anyway, we decided that we wanted to have the baby and we figured we should at least try to do it together, as a couple. Of course, that turned out to be a mistake. In a way, I knew it was mistake from the beginning (I didn’t really love her) but I didn’t feel as if I had much of a choice, and I thought it was the right thing to do. But as it turned out I did hear from Josie again, although she wasn’t the one who made first contact. I had to contact her for a project that I was working on because she had previously worked on it, before moving to California. I sent her an email. It was professional, all business. She replied in kind, answering my questions. But later she sent another email, a casual one, which essentially left the door open for some kind of friendship. I never responded, because I didn’t feel as if I could, because I knew my now ex would not have approved, would have in fact been pretty pissed. So I just let it go. Josie never sent another email. Because of that I thought she might not be very receptive to a message from me now. In fact, it might piss her off. Even so I could not refrain. I had to at least try. So I did. I sent her message via Facebook, hoping she would friend me. And then I waited.

I’ve done other things in my life because of John Cusack. Well, because of his movies anyway. For example, because of his portrayal of Lloyd Dobbler in “Say Anything” I was, in high school, inspired to stand outside of Debbie Kanacki’s house with a boom box blaring a love song in hopes of winning her heart. I did not; she was mortified and her old man threatened to kick my ass. But that didn’t discourage me from dressing like Martin Blank from Grosse Point Blank – black suite, white shirt, thin black tie – for my ten-year class reunion and telling people that I made my living as an assassin for hire. Some people found it mildly amusing, most didn’t get it, though. I’m not sure why exactly but for some reason I identify with John Cusack. I think of him as my famous doppelganger. We’re approximately the same age and sort of look alike, or so I’ve been told. If a movie was every made of my life, I’d want John Cusack to play me. And I’d want Diane Lane to play the love interest, like in “Must Love Dogs,” because she is a “…rare constellation of attributes.”

When, after a couple of weeks, I didn’t hear from Josie, I figured she just wasn’t interested in communicating with me and I gave up hope of ever hearing from her again. That was that. I’d tried and failed, which was starting to feel like the story of my life. But as soon as I resigned myself she responded. And she was actually glad to hear from me. I was over the moon, filled with a sense of possibility that I assumed had escaped me for good. However, my excitement was soon deflated when I learned that she was married and had a child. That was disappointing, to say the least.

So there was no chance of rekindling any flame that had once existed between us. Fine. That didn’t meant I that I didn’t still want to talk to her. I did. I hoped that by talking to Josie I could gain some perspective on my current circumstances. Also, I was eager to hear Josie’s take on our relationship back then, what it meant to her, because I was sure that she had felt it was special, short-lived perhaps but intense and real. I wanted to be reassured at least that we could have been together had our situations been different.

Unfortunately, Josie was reluctant to discuss such things. She was glad to hear from me and sorry that my marriage had not worked out but she wasn’t really interested in rehashing the past. I told her that I understood, even though secretly I was crushed and wanted to beg her to please reconsider. I did not, though. I swallowed any such impulse.

My restraint was rewarded, however, when a few days after our initial email exchange Josie contacted me and for whatever reason was willing to talk about our past but only under the condition that we talk about it once and only once and then never again. From then on we could be email friends and discuss books or movies or whatever but never again our romantic past. I agreed.

I wanted to know how she remembered our relationship. I wanted to know if it jived with how I remembered it. She said she recalled it as being fun and interesting, that she’d found me smart and funny and enjoyed hanging out with me and talking. I was encouraged because what she said matched my memory of things, generally. But then she said something that profoundly disappointed me. She said that ultimately she hadn’t taken the relationship seriously, that she considered it just a casual fling. In part, because she was moving on and she hadn’t wanted to get to deeply involved with anyone, but also – and this is what really bothered me – that she didn’t consider me to be the kind of guy to get seriously involved with anyway, because, she said, I struck her as the kind of guy that was only interested in sleeping with a lot of different women. She said that wasn’t a judgment on me, just an observation. Even so I couldn’t help feeling hurt. I wasn’t mad at Josie, she was just telling me the truth. But it did make me sad. I was glad that we were not discussing this matter in person, and that she could not witness my dejected reaction.

Despite that I wanted to know more. I wanted to know what she remembered specifically?

What did I mean by specifically?
I didn’t want to lead her in anyway. I wanted her to remember things on her own and my hope was that what she remembered is what I remembered. But clearly she needed a little direction. So I said, Like the day we spent in Arbor. Do you remember that?

Of course, I remember that day. Quite fondly in fact.

Yes. But what do you remember about it?

Well, I remember you coming over to my apartment. And we went and had lunch at that thai restaurant. I remember walking around downtown Ann Arbor holding hands and spending several hours in Borders bookstore. Mostly what I remember though was going out to dinner with my sister and her husband. I remember how proud I felt because I was with this smart, funny, good-looking guy. And I remember later that night back at my apartment giving you really great head.

I of course remembered that too. How could I forget? It was the best blow job I’d ever gotten, before or since. When I came in her mouth I felt as if I was sinking into the floor and out of my physical body. It was amazing, almost transcendent. And I remembered everything she detailed, but there were other things that I remembered that she didn’t mention. Maybe she’d forgotten them or maybe she just didn’t bother to mention them, didn’t consider them important. Maybe she just wanted to get through this exercise and be done with it.

That night in Ann Arbor, I was supposed to be spending the night with my college friend, whose apartment was in Ypsilanti, but instead I drove into Ann Arbor to meet Josie. (This was before my now ex found out about my involvement with Josie.) I went to her apartment. We fooled around in her bed, making out and getting naked. We didn’t have sex. We did everything but. Afterwards, we lay holding each other and I distinctly remember her saying to me, “I’ve got you, I’ve really go you, don’t I.” I didn’t say anything. I just nodded, because I wasn’t sure exactly what she meant by that, but it seemed significant, genuine and true. I’d wanted her to remember that detail specifically, but she hadn’t.

I also wanted her to remember her saying to me – not that night, but another time – that she wanted to have six babies with me. I know, it sounds crazy, but I’m sure she said it. Maybe it was just a wild notion that popped into her head. Maybe she didn’t realize what she was saying it at the time, or didn’t recall saying it now. But I do remember her saying it, because is scared the crap out me, and yet it pleased me a great deal. I wanted the same thing, I just didn’t know that I’d wanted it.

And the other thing I remember was her suggesting that I come to California with her. I actually asked Josie if she recalled saying that, but she didn’t. I believe that just she didn’t remember saying it, but that she actually did say it, I know that she did. Maybe she was the kind of person who just said things carelessly and so forgot about them later.

My romantic construct of my relationship with Josie was slowly eroding. And I didn’t like it. But what could I do. I wanted the truth, as much as that was possible. And I was getting it.

I told Josie that I wished that we’d had sex just once before she’d left, but she was glad that we hadn’t, she thought it was better that way. I disagreed. Maybe it was just one of those things that men and women differ on, fundamentally.

The first time I saw the John Cusack movie “Serendipity” – not in the theater, on cable, late at night while my now ex was fast asleep in our bed – I found myself thinking of Josie. I hadn’t thought of her in years but suddenly there she was in my head again. It was intoxicating, just as our relationship had been. Just like the relationship between John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale in the movie. In the movie the two characters meet serendipitously (thus the title) one night and fall instantly in love but since both are with other people they part, casting their faith in the belief that if they are meant to be together they will somehow meet up again one day. Maybe it’s not a spectacular movie but I was really hooked into it and in the end when the two get together I cried, silently, bitterly. I slept alone on the couch that night.

For a time Josie and I maintained a convivial correspondence, mainly through emailing but every once in awhile we’d chat online. I was enjoying our renewed relationship, such as it was, just having her to talk to was…rejuvenating.  And then out of nowhere Josie asked me if I wanted to meet for a drink. She was going to be in town for business. Of course, I jumped at the offer.

I couldn’t wait to see her. I felt that same giddy excitement that I felt when I first met her. I tried to tell myself that we were meeting as just friends, that this was not some romantic tete-a-tete, because Josie was a married woman with a child, but at the same time I couldn’t help wondering if there might be something more to our get together than just two people having a friendly drink. Maybe there was something specific that Josie wanted – no, needed to tell me face-to-face, something very important.

I arrived at the bar early and grabbed a table. I didn’t want us to have to sit at the bar. I wanted to be able to look at her, right into her eyes when we talked. I wanted to feel that spark, that soulful connection that I remembered.

When she didn’t arrive at the time we’d agreed to meet I didn’t think anything of it. She said she might be running late, because she had a long busy day at work. But then fifteen minutes passed and then a half hour. And then past a point that was reasonable. I wondered if something had happened, something bad. Like a car accident. Because if she was hung up at work wouldn’t she have called? I checked my cell phone even though I knew it was pointless. I would have felt the vibration. Maybe she’d texted me. But no, nothing.

I had another drink and waited.

I don’t know why I didn’t just call her. I mean, I was entitled to know why she was late, wasn’t I? But for some reason I couldn’t make myself dial her number. I guess because I knew what she would say, that she wasn’t coming. This way there was still a chance that she might show up. There was still hope.

I can imagine her entrance, like something out of a movie.

Tracing the grain of the wood table top with my finger, I look up just as she enters. She’s dressed in business attire, a dark skirt and white blouse, but she’s let her strawberry blonde hair down, probably undid it out in the car before coming inside, running her hands through the silky mass several times while checking  her look in the rearview mirror of her rental car. She smiles when our eyes meet, a little coyly, blushing slightly. The world seems to stop as she crosses the room, all eyes focused on her. Finally, she reaches the table and slides into the chair across from me. She beams beautifully at me. And I know that I’ve got her, I’ve really got her.

But of course that didn’t happen. Life isn’t like a movie. I just want it to be.

The ice melts in my glass.

Too much [clap clap] time on my hands

The irony of my situation is that when I was married I was always scrounging for time to read and write, and now that I’m single and living on my  own I have plenty of extra time but can’t seem to fill it all up, although I am writing again and doing more reading than I have in a decade. A lot of short stories, especially.

When I was in grad school I could spend whole weekends in front of the computer, tapping out fiction. I’m talking literally 8-10 hours at a stretch. I might not have been writing every second of the stretch, but I was concentrated on my writing, thinking about it. Of course, that was when I lived alone. Once I got roommates it was different story. I figured other writers would understand the need for work and solitude but that was not always the case. Certain roommates I had were huge time sucks. Huge!

I guess that I’m just readjusting to living on my own again. I used to like it in a lot of ways. Sure, it could be lonely, but it allowed me to set my own pace, and I didn’t have to schedule around other people’s agendas. I can remember going whole weekends without speaking a word out loud. Now I talk to myself, like my mother. Whenever my daughter catches me talking to myself, she points out that I get that from Nana. She’s right.

To to some degree it’s probably a matter of stamina an energy. I had tons of enthusiasm for my writing when I was a 20-something grad student. But now, I’m a 40-something divorced, single-dad, and I’m just fucking tired. My enthusiasm has waned shall we say. But what are you going to do, right….

Generation X and divorce

I spent some time today searching for statistics on the divorce rates among Generation X. I didn’t find much. Google Generation X and divorce and what you get is the oft stated assertion that many GenXer grew up with divorced parents, and some rather snotty comments about how selfish and spoiled GenX is and therefore must have a lousy divorce rate, comments clearly made by Boomers. Perhaps it is still to soon for such data to be compiled. Or maybe I just suck at internet research.

Anyhoo… my purpose was to educate myself on the numbers since when I start blogging for JenX67 I’ll be mainly writing about being a divorced GenXer and a single dad. I figured I should know a little bit beyond my on experience. So much for that.

If anyone happens to know of any studies or even just news articles about Generation X and divorce, theirs not their parents’, I’d appreciated being  directed to them.

I did come across a collection of short stories and novella, though, that made me think of my most recent post about Omega Males. It’s titled Greetings from Cutler County, by Travis Mulhauser. And initially I was drawn to it because the stories are set in Northern Michigan. Reading the dust jacket flap only increased my interest, since it was clear these were “guy stories.”  But a specific kind of guy stories:

Most of the characters are young men who think of themselves as losers and outsiders. Short on cash, popularity, and the ambition needed for success, they nevertheless are able to examine their failings with the self-knowing humor and resignation of the perpetually thwarted ne’re-do-well.

That’s definitely a description of GenX Omega Male fiction. Hmm. Did I just invent a new sub genre? Quick! To the copyright office.

Maybe, because of the pending divorce and likelihood of losing my job, I’m just  feeling like I’m at a low point in my life but I get the sense that I’m really going to identify with these characters. Some of them anyway.

Because We Are Here…

… is the title of a short story collection by Chuck Wachtel, which I used to possess.

For some reason, though, I felt the  need to withdraw it from my meager library of short story collection. Not sure why exactly. I suppose I was never really able to get into it, for whatever reason.

Anyhoo…I recently came across a used copy and decided to reclaim it. Not that i’s the same copy. At least, I’m pretty sure it’s not.

I’ve often wondered if I’ve ever reclaimed a copy of a book that I’d previously discarded; I’m considered leaving myself a marker, say, circly the page number 67 or someting like that, see what happens. I’ve no idea why, it just seems like a curious experiment.

Anyhoo part deux… I’m pretty sure I bought this collection new, and it was probably in Kalamazoo at the John Rollins Bookstore, a great independent bookstore, which doesn’t seem to have a web page, which seems odd to me. It was published in 1996, the year I graduated from Western Michigan with my MFA in creative writing, afterwhich I hung around Kalamazoo for a couple more years, adjunct teaching and hanging out in coffee shops, drinking too much coffee and smoking too many cigarettes. Ahhhh good times!

Anyhoo take three… at the time I knew nothing about this author but I’d buy just about any new collection of short stories that I happen to come across. Novels required a recommendation, but I was pig for short stories, and right so, if for no other reason than I discovered David Foster Wallace that way, when I came across a copy of Girl with Curious Hair amongst the remainder books. In fact, there were multiple copies. If I’d only known, I would have bought them all. In any case, that one discovery was well worth all the collections that didn’t cut it for me and were eventually discarded.

Why did Because We are Here not cut it? Hard for me to say now. I mean, the first story, St. Ralphie (great title btw) is about a fairly ordinary guy that gets struck by lightening on the golf course one day and is suddenly invisible. Of course, it is about more than that, but just the basic premise rocks!

On the one hand rediscovering a book like this one delights me, but on the other it makes me wonder how many other good books I’ve junked just because at the time I wasn’t digging ’em. Of coures, I wouldn’t  be a GenXer if I didn’t that such an event wasn’t entirely a good thing.

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.