My friend and yours The Woods Warrior had an interesting entry about the generation gap between Generation X and Y, namely, how there isn’t one. I have to confess that I, too, feel as though I my own proclivities don’t stray far from your basic teen.
Yes, I’m married and have a kid, which now labels me as Unthinkably Old, but let’s look at some similarities:
1) crave distraction
2) obsess over new technology
3) completely addicted to email and the Web
4) quickly bored by art that doesn’t go anywhere
5) vestigal acne
6) crave gossip
7) emotionally affected by network television dramas
8) wear pants that hang very loose in the drawers
9) skate shoes
10) stupid hair
11) rampant masturbation (just kiddin’, ma!)
The only thing that really sets me and the Woods Warrior apart from your eclectic 18-year-old is that we can spell, and we actually bothered to vote in the last election. And I’ll tell you something else that will marry these two generations: no decent art is going to come out of either one.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this – “reactive” generations, like the “Lost” generation of the 1920s, typically give us our best art. It was why the poetry from WWI was awesome, and the “poetry” from WWII was dreck (Civic-minded generations are typically sentimental and ham-handed). Whether you believe in cyclical generational theory or not, our cadre of kids born 1961-1981 were in a unique position to churn out the next Hemingways, Pollocks, Brubecks and Langes.
So far, we have failed utterly. There are notable standouts in literature (Jonathan Lethem, Michael Chabon), music (Nirvana, Beck) and other fields, but there is certainly no Algonquin Round Table, no Mimi and Richard Farina and Dylan in the West Village, no Beats, no Haight. There won’t be a single person 25 years from now saying, “gosh, I wish I’d been living in Chicago in 2005.”
Tessa mentioned that the indie film scene of the early 90s in Austin (Rodriguez, Linklater and occasionally Tarantino) might have been fun, but those guys are all making blockbusters now, and independent film is two steps from dead in this country, digital media be damned. Shit, Gen X can’t even take credit for hip-hop or techno, both forged by late-era Boomers.
What the hell happened to us? We all had crappy childhoods, came of age in a recession, found a technology boom that evaporated as quickly as it began, suffered the worst terrorist attack in history as we got into our 30s – you’d think some of us would have something to say.
Perhaps we forget how close most artists are to infinite stagnation. Give any person on the verge of a great novel the keys to the liquor cabinet, and nothing ever gets written. Put a Playstation in front of Eliot, and “The Waste Land” never materializes, wire Sylvia Plath’s apartment with broadband and although she doesn’t kill herself, she doesn’t write “The Bell Jar” either.
Anyone looking to the next generation to fix the problem is going to be shit out of luck; they’re just as infested with irony, post-mod and “rediscovering old bullshit and selling it as new” as we are. Perhaps the Blog, as imprecise, fleeting and ultimately unsatisfying an art form as there ever was, will be the one thing that we added to the discussion.
Which would be a real pity. My blog’s pretty fucking good and all, but all three years cannot hold a candle to Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda.