Since 1997, you’ve been coming to BarnesandNoble.com to discuss everything from Stephen King to writing to Harry Potter. You’ve made our site more than a place to discover your next book: you’ve made it a community. But like all things internet, BN.com is growing and changing. We've said goodbye to our community message boards—but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be a place for adventurous readers to connect and discover.

Now, you can explore the most exciting new titles (and remember the classics) at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. Check out conversations with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and Gary Shteyngart at the B&N Review, and browse write-ups of the best in literary fiction. Come to our Facebook page to weigh in on what it means to be a book nerd. Browse digital deals on the NOOK blog, tweet about books with us,or self-publish your latest novella with NOOK Press. And for those of you looking for support for your NOOK, the NOOK Support Forums will still be here.

We will continue to provide you with books that make you turn pages well past midnight, discover new worlds, and reunite with old friends. And we hope that you’ll continue to tell us how you’re doing, what you’re reading, and what books mean to you.

Reply
Moderator
KxBurns
Posts: 1,006
Registered: ‎09-06-2007
0 Kudos

Perpetual Adolescence

Like generations before them, the young adults of A Fortunate Age seek to forge their own paths. Do they succeed in striking out in a truly original way?

 

Are the main characters living in state of perpetual adolescence, as Beth's mother thinks (page 150), or are they simply making different choices than earlier generations? How are these choices rebellious reactions to the lifestyles and values of their parents?

 

What circumstances encourage and maintain their deferred adulthood, and how do the characters mature over the course of the novel? How does the book ask us to consider what it means to be an adult?

JSS
Contributor
JSS
Posts: 19
Registered: ‎12-03-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Perpetual Adolescence

OK, I'll kick this off. I'm a first timer so excuse any faux pas that might occur.

 

I went through this stage of growing up about 25 years ago but Rakoff's characters sound just like many of the folks with whom I matured. There's a particular resonance for me in her female characters which makes sense since she experienced many of those feelings personally. Obviously the male reader does not have that benefit and it will be interesting to hear from others whether they feel she did as great a job at this as I think.

 

The brilliance of Rakoff's initial development of her "friends" is that she recognizes that everyone develops/matures at a different rate and in a myriad of ways. Simply stated, we're all like snowflakes...different. This book is ALL about people and Rakoff has a beautiful gift of being able to convey to her reader(s) how different people feel and react as they are presented with the hurdles life puts in fromt of us.

"I know not if this earth on which I stand is the core of the universe or if it is but a speck of dust lost in eternity. I know not and I care not. For I know what happiness is possible to me on earth." Ayn Rand
Inspired Correspondent
nfam
Posts: 231
Registered: ‎01-08-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Perpetual Adolescence

Definitely the characters are stuck in perpetual adolesence at the start of the book. They couldn't seem to get away from being in school and hence dependent on their parents. Lil's marriage is a shock of cold water. This is real life. People have to pay the bills, have children, hang on to jobs. This idea that life is serious business intrudes into the wedding like Banquo at the feast in MacBeth.

 

Interestingly this group of adolescents reminds me of what I've read of the twenties. The unwillingness to grow up was a factor then with the gilded youth. I guess nothing new ever happens. It just happens in slightly different ways.

 

Reader-Moderator
liisa22
Posts: 606
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Perpetual Adolescence

Stuck in perpetual adolescence? Absolutely!  Is that any different than generations before them?  Nope.  I think that is what growing up, going off to college for the first time leaving the safety of your parents and forging on with one's own life, which incidently seems to include rebelling against parents ideals.  I think that will never change.
Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
-Sir Richard Steele

http://bookreviewsbyliisa.blogspot.com/
Inspired Contributor
mapleann
Posts: 44
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Perpetual Adolescence

On page 2, in reference to his mother's former rebellion against marriage, I originally believed Dave's dialogue was a breach of character, "'Mom,' Dave moaned."  I thought why would this 22/23 year-old-young adult be groaning "mom" like my 11 year old daughter would if I kissed her at school in front of her friends? Whoa, it didn't sound like a college grad. I thought someone who believed themselves superior to their parents' ideals would have shook his head and kissed his mother tritely on the forehead. No, he is an insecure whiner, but I did not get this yet because it was prior to his character development.

 

I have not reached page 150 in the book yet, but I had to read what Beth's mother said. She thought Beth incapable of planning her own wedding, and thus she would help her. She complained about Beth's perpetual adolescence, and then she enabled its continuation. So, the perpetual adolescence is a product of their upbringing and struggle to find their own identity.

Inspired Contributor
mapleann
Posts: 44
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Perpetual Adolescence

Question for the reading group: How do you define becoming an adult? What differentiates and adolescent from an adult? What values do we attach to each?
Scribe
debbook
Posts: 1,823
Registered: ‎05-03-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Perpetual Adolescence


mapleann wrote:
Question for the reading group: How do you define becoming an adult? What differentiates and adolescent from an adult? What values do we attach to each?

Good question. i always thought there would be some sort of " click" , hey now I'm an adult. But it really is a growth process. We are usually legally adults before we feel like adults. Some define being an adult as getting married and having kids. Others might define it as making your own choices with no one else's input. Some people define it in terms of what they own and how much money they make.

A room without books is like a body without a soul.~ Cicero...
"bookmagic418.blogspot.com
Wordsmith
Tarri
Posts: 457
Registered: ‎02-26-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Perpetual Adolescence


KxBurns wrote:
Like generations before them, the young adults of A Fortunate Age seek to forge their own paths. Do they succeed in striking out in a truly original way?

 

Are the main characters living in state of perpetual adolescence, as Beth's mother thinks (page 150), or are they simply making different choices than earlier generations? How are these choices rebellious reactions to the lifestyles and values of their parents?

 

What circumstances encourage and maintain their deferred adulthood, and how do the characters mature over the course of the novel? How does the book ask us to consider what it means to be an adult?


I think the fact that the main (female) characters have spent most of their lives in an academic setting and have never wanted for anything material, makes them seem immature.  Even though they are working, their chosen career paths are not in lucrative fields, so they are still accepting money from their families for day-to-day survival.  

 

 

Contributor
bonereader
Posts: 14
Registered: ‎12-04-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Perpetual Adolescence

Regarding Mapleann's question, I think part of becoming an adult is beginning to think beyond yourself. Being in a relationship where you have to consider someone else's wants and needs is often a first step (maybe in some cases, a relationship that will progress to a stronger commitment/marriage). That's a big step, when your whole life has revolved around getting your school work accomplished and spending free time in the company of friends making your own self happy.

 

For some people, being an adult may culminate in having children. At that point, you have to step even further outside of yourself, and even outside your mutual relationship, so that this new life becomes the most important thing. I agree with the earlier comment that everyone's time frame and speed are different. Some people may in fact never reach that level of maturity.

 

The real challenge in all of this is to maintain some sense of yourself along the way. To be less selfish, but to have a strong sens of self. The characters in this book really seem to be at the beginning of their journeys -- some reaching these points on very shaky legs. Some, like Beth and Lil have already ost that sense of self before that can contribute in adult tye relationships

Distinguished Correspondent
biljounc63
Posts: 189
Registered: ‎11-02-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Perpetual Adolescence

The group in general seems to have followed non-traditional career paths such as academia, acting, writing, and music whichI feel allows them to delay entry into adulthood. In general they are career paths that do not involve a strict "fixed" 9-5 workday 50 weeks out of the year. Or in my case 7-3:30. They seem to thrive on the starving artist lifsyle.
Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
~ Joseph Addison ~

"Reading lets you visit the world of another"
Frequent Contributor
GSB65
Posts: 40
Registered: ‎12-06-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Perpetual Adolescence


biljounc63 wrote:
The group in general seems to have followed non-traditional career paths such as academia, acting, writing, and music whichI feel allows them to delay entry into adulthood. In general they are career paths that do not involve a strict "fixed" 9-5 workday 50 weeks out of the year. Or in my case 7-3:30. They seem to thrive on the starving artist lifsyle.

 

I totally agree.  You also get a sense of selfishness from them which to me shows a lack of maturity that you so often see in youth.
New User
cagraham
Posts: 4
Registered: ‎11-30-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Perpetual Adolescence

Excellent question mapleann...

 

I was thinking what made me feel like I had actually become an adult and leave my adolescence behind..... I keep coming back to consequences.  Anyone can make decisions. I think adults are able to recognize and deal with the consequences of those decisions. It also seems that the transition between adolescence and adulthood happens as a result of countless "big" decisions to make at  one time.  E.g. getting married, continuing grad school, having a baby, etc, etc. 

 

I also can't stop thinking about weddings, babies, etc.  I keep getting the feeling that Lil, Beth, Emily, and Sadie were all portrayed as living in this state of adolescence until marriage and babies came along.  It seemed to in some way justify each of them.  We read very detailed descriptions of Emily's meager apartment, while Lil suddenly has such an "adult" home once she marries Tuck. 

Distinguished Correspondent
chris227
Posts: 111
Registered: ‎12-02-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Perpetual Adolescence


biljounc63 wrote:
The group in general seems to have followed non-traditional career paths such as academia, acting, writing, and music whichI feel allows them to delay entry into adulthood. In general they are career paths that do not involve a strict "fixed" 9-5 workday 50 weeks out of the year. Or in my case 7-3:30. They seem to thrive on the starving artist lifsyle.

This group has definitely delayed adulthood by extending their education and entering more "artistic" fields.  They were allowed this opportunity though because they all come from affluent families.  They don't have to worry about how they will pay rent, buy food, pay bills, etc.  After Lil is married, and takes on more of an adult life than her friends, then money becomes an issue. 

 

I myself am only a couple years older than the characters in the book and as I am reading I am reminded more of people I knew when I was a teenager than anyone I know now.  The characters are irresponsible and whiny.  It seems as if they just drift in and out of situations with no thought of what the consequences may be.  There is all this talk about pushy mothers, but, perhaps the multiple references to the mothers just further depicts the adolscent nature of the characters.

Frequent Contributor
booksJT
Posts: 108
Registered: ‎11-24-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Perpetual Adolescence

In Fortunate Age they didn't succeed in striking out in an original way. Even though they all made an attempt to do so they fell short. They were definitely stuck in perpetual adolescene because of their  financial dependance. Their parents money paid for the responsiblities they had. They seemed unaware that they had to pay bills and put food on the table. Always having someone to lean on made it harder for them to develop into adults. When you have a family financially stable it is hard not to ask for help. But in order to become an adult you have to be more responsible for what you do. In the novel the  characters eventually  have to fend for themselves. They had to stop depending on  their parents money all the time. When you become an adult you know what your responsiblities  are without any one telling you.

Distinguished Correspondent
Thayer
Posts: 195
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Perpetual Adolescence

I think that at times academia brings a certain arrogance toward life that experience belies.
~~Dawn
Live the life you love ~ Love the life you live.
New User
mathilda
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎11-23-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Perpetual Adolescence

I think the group of friends got stuck in their minds at the college years, and Oberlin defined them to a greater extent than I remember being defined by my university years or peers. Some of the friends definitely seem to have never left adolescence behind.
Distinguished Correspondent
Shadowwolf36
Posts: 76
Registered: ‎09-16-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Perpetual Adolescence

I have to wonder if we all have a small piece of adolescence in us. I know there are times that as a 43 year old I still find myself acting childish. Not that I plan it but I have been responsible for myself since I left for college when I was 18. No help financially or otherwise from either of my parents. I had to grow up and fend for myself quickly but I still have moments of childishness. I also know 70 year olds who still don't think of the consequences of their actions before they do something and everyone pays. We want our teens to act like adults and we still have adults acting like teens.....I think has become more of a problem in the last 10 years or so.....kids today have so much more than we had in the 60's and 70's and feel completely entitled.....they want to be treated more maturely but certainly have not acted in that manner
Moderator
KxBurns
Posts: 1,006
Registered: ‎09-06-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Perpetual Adolescence


biljounc63 wrote:
The group in general seems to have followed non-traditional career paths such as academia, acting, writing, and music whichI feel allows them to delay entry into adulthood. In general they are career paths that do not involve a strict "fixed" 9-5 workday 50 weeks out of the year. Or in my case 7-3:30. They seem to thrive on the starving artist lifsyle.

biljounc63, Tarri, absolutely -- the fact the characters choose careers that do not promise financial security reflects a refusal to acknowledge the economic responsibilities of adulthood and also reflects the safety net of their upper-middle class upbringings. But rather than allowing them to carry on blissfully unaware of the financial realities of life, it has the effect of making their lives less carefree and more difficult.

 

Do you think the characters undertake the more difficult path out of rebelliousness, or a true committment to their artistic ideals, or simple naivete? Do the financial struggles that characters like Emily and Lil face make them more or less adult than Sadie, or Dave's bandmate Curtis, or the Green-Golds? Are the latter characters simply play-acting by adopting the starving artist lifestyle?

Moderator
KxBurns
Posts: 1,006
Registered: ‎09-06-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Perpetual Adolescence


cagraham wrote:

Excellent question mapleann...

 

I was thinking what made me feel like I had actually become an adult and leave my adolescence behind..... I keep coming back to consequences.  Anyone can make decisions. I think adults are able to recognize and deal with the consequences of those decisions. It also seems that the transition between adolescence and adulthood happens as a result of countless "big" decisions to make at  one time.  E.g. getting married, continuing grad school, having a baby, etc, etc. 

 

I also can't stop thinking about weddings, babies, etc.  I keep getting the feeling that Lil, Beth, Emily, and Sadie were all portrayed as living in this state of adolescence until marriage and babies came along.  It seemed to in some way justify each of them.  We read very detailed descriptions of Emily's meager apartment, while Lil suddenly has such an "adult" home once she marries Tuck. 


This is a thought-provoking post because it raises the question of the appearance of adulthood versus actual adult responsibilities and mindsets. Indeed, Lil's life takes on an aura of adulthood with her marriage and her more grown-up home, and it is true that with marriage she acquires some adult problems; but isn't Emily grappling with her own adult issues, such as providing not just for herself but also for her sister throughout much of his time? And aren't both Lil and Emily still struggling with what they want out of life and who they want to be? Sadie and Beth on the other hand do seem to become more grounded as they move into the roles of wife and mother.

 

I think what it comes down to is your point that adulthood is perhaps less about appearances or responsibilities or even the roles we play but more about the willingness to make choices and stand by them. Looking at it this way, can we pinpoint choices made by each character that signal the entry into adulthood?

Moderator
dhaupt
Posts: 11,865
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Perpetual Adolescence

Well first off I think we all reside in a state of perpetual adolescence as we all learn something new every day, and our parents no matter how old we become have trouble with some of our choices. 

The characters in this book strike out in an original way, being that it's their own. Not unlike any of us do or did at that time in our lives. 

Top Kudoed Authors
User Kudos Count
1
1
Users Online
Currently online: 36 members 633 guests
Please welcome our newest community members: