Saturday, February 14, 2009

Talkin' 'bout My Generation

Corresponding with the first Baby Boomers collecting Social Security, a proliferation of books, recordings, and lectures on my generation and those that have followed. We kicked off the semester learning about the Millennial generation, the traditional college ages students we serve, but much of the presentation described the Baby Boomers because, after all, we make up a huge percentage of college and university faculties.

Meanwhile, I'm reading Shelia Weller's Girls Like Us, the story of Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon. Their lives are presented against a backdrop of the sixties and seventies, so along with these three music icons, I am reading about their counterparts--James Taylor, Crosby, Stills, Nash, Judy Collins--and about all the volatile events and issues that helped to shape us. My reading goes slowly because I have to keep stopping to download music onto my iPod, building what is become a soundtrack for the book.

At the same time, I've been listening to Joe Queenan's Balsamic Dreams: A Short but Self-Important History of the Baby Boomer Generation. His jaded, satirical take on Boomers makes me laugh at times and cringe at others (especially when some of his observations hit too close to home.) I realize, though, that while I wield sarcasm as deftly as the next guy, that I tend
to lean toward the optimistic and accepting. I can enjoy books or songs or movies without feeling I have to make generational judgments.

I want to say, "Give Dan Fogelberg a break. He's dead, after all. And he was pretty." No, I don't think Stephen King will ever give Edgar Allan Poe a run for his money, but I don't think any one cultural critic has the power to decide now what works of literature will and will not stand the test of time. And every movie can't be the first Godfather.

Queenan does have a point, however, that we Baby Boomers are self-absorbed. Yes, we do tend to mark points in our life that happened to other people. (For the record, I know EXACTLY where I was when I heard Kennedy had been shot, the space shuttle had exploded, Elvis had died.) He's probably right, too: People over forty-five should have to pass an audition before being allowed to dance in public.

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