February 2nd, 2012

books, reading

What you mean "we", white man?

They lost me with the very first line on the inside of the book flap: Our lives, our half century, followed by a history of ourselves. I knew what that meant. It meant yet another celebration of how every American who has ever been born was a preteen playing stickball in Brooklyn and going to malt shops in the 1950s; a hippie or a Vietnam veteran in the 1960s; a twentysomething hedonist in the 1970s; got serious about their jobs in the 1980s; and made a fortune in the dot-com boom of the 1990s, every last one of us.

Of course, for my particular generation, it isn’t a book about "us"; it’s a book about "them", the plague of locusts that preceded "us" every step of our lives, destroying everything just when we were getting ready to use it. The people who made movies in which children were Satan right when I was born; who gave America AIDS right when I was getting interested in the opposite sex; who elected Ronald Reagan President during my youth and will never admit having voted for him; who gave America a big fat recession right when I got out of college; and who peaked the economy the day I had some spare income to invest. Right now, they’re enjoying America's going-out-of-business sale, looking for bargains to play with and waste among the things I'll need 20 years from now. I can time to the day the moment when Social Security will be abolished. It will be the day Don DeLillo's "us" stops using it and the rest of us need what we've already paid into it.

Context is singularly unimpressed by Boomer self-importance.