01-06-2009 10:47 PM
01-06-2009 10:48 PM
I'm wondering if this "fortunate age" is portraying the infamous Gen-Xers. Someone please clue me in. I'm a baby boomer myself, and I find that this novel's stereotype of the group's boomer parents as pot-smoking, liberal-thinking hippies is a far cry from the average 60s person I went to college with. This makes me wonder if the members of the group are being stereotyped as well: as shallow status-seekers who can't seem to make up their minds about anything important.
I'm assuming this is the case, though this being my generation, I didn't relate to any of the characters. "Academia" seems to be such a big part to this story. Maybe it is just me reading into things, but I really got the feel of them all looking down on others if they didn't go to the right college or didn't strive to get that degree. Maybe it is not only the when, but the where. New York life seems to be so much different than Midwest life. I don't think I could relate.
I'm a midwesterner, too, and I found myself wondering if that was why I couldn't get a grasp on these people. Are we flatland, midwestern folk too practical for all of the silliness that these characters portray? Hmmm...
You may have a point...
01-06-2009 10:48 PM
I think that the relationship between Sadie and her mother seem to be affected by the shift. Her mother seems very prim and proper and tradional. Sadie shows some of her mother's characteristics but rebels against them.
01-06-2009 10:51 PM
01-06-2009 11:00 PM
01-07-2009 02:06 AM - edited 01-07-2009 02:34 AM
I was reading chapter six and I had the weirdest experience of deja vu. It is the chapter in which Sadie goes to Caitlin's apartment which is located in an area called Metropolitan. Truthfully, when I read Metropolitan, I almost fell on the floor. I haven't heard that term for more than 40 years and most people I knew never heard of it even when I worked there. It was a very depressed neighborhood in Williamsburg where I had my first teaching job! I student taught there when I was 19 and when I graduated at 20 years old, I requested a position there. On my first day of work I drove my brand new car, which I had hocked my soul to the devil to buy, because otherwise I had to take three roach infested buses for 1 /12 hours in order to get there. During the day I looked out the window of my classroom and saw that some jerk welcomed me by using a wire brush on my car to embed deep scratches into the finish. I was very idealistic and I was going to save the world. Instead I was assaulted at the end of the year and I was transferred out to a school in a less dangerous neighborhood (Canarsie) where I was safer but the job was far less rewarding.
The school was on a triangle of streets called Throop, Delmonico and Ellery Streets. I remember Marcy Avenue was near there and the Pfizer plant was nearby. I had gotten my friend a job there and when her husband drove her there the first day, he drove her right by and took her home. He refused to allow her to teach in such a "bad" neighborhood.
What a shock it was for me to read that the neighborhood was now being gentrified or has been already, since the book begins about 10 years ago! Does anyone know the area well? Is the school still there? The last I heard it had gone from grade school to intermediate school with metal detectors. I can't believe it is a setting for this book!
01-07-2009 10:03 AM
thaI have to agree with the idea that the parents of this generation are pretty much stereotypes. Perhaps the author just doesn't understand the parents generation. However, I found the other characters pretty much cliched also.
I had one child living the same life style in NY at the time this book was written. The experience was quite different. Perhaps this is an ethnic stereotype book.
01-07-2009 10:34 AM
As a baby boomer-late batch-I find the author feels our generation and the Gen Xers are the same. We start out filled with energy,goals, dreams and seemingly the strength to
carry out our goals. But responsibilities,loneliness,reality all interfere and they turn out just like their parents.
01-07-2009 05:29 PM - edited 01-07-2009 05:31 PM
I was extremely disappointed with this novel. I graduated from an "elite" East Coast college in the 1990s and went on to grad school, and I didn't feel the narrative spoke to me at all. These characters seemed to revel in immaturity, and the endless posing was exhausting to read. I felt like every character was a negative stereotype of one age or another, and they therefore never rang true to me.
01-07-2009 10:01 PM
01-08-2009 08:05 AM
And even though it's now several years later than when the book ends, a lot of the descriptions of New York are still funnily accurate. When I came upon this passage I read it aloud to my girlfriend because I thought it was hilarious but all too true:
Sadie felt conscious of being a type - all these girls, these women, dressed just like she, wandering the streets carrying yoga mats and clear plastic cups of iced coffee and thick books of recent vintage, hair pulled back from thin faces with small, sparkly barrettes. And the men, in their low-slung corduroys and wide-collared shirts, carrying messenger bags, or sitting in the garden at the L reading copies of McSweeney's or Philip K. Dick novels, stroking their sideburns.
I completely agree with you Jon B. Even though I am in between "Generations X and Y" also, I could picture the women and men. You see "these types" all around. I can understand Sadie not wanting to be a type. I feel that everyone has the possibility of this type in them though. She felt conscious of it, but maybe at the same time wanted to feel "safe" in that group of people.
"A house without books is like a room without windows."--Horace Mann
01-08-2009 10:58 AM
01-08-2009 12:11 PM
A Fortunate Age takes place at the turn of the millennium and portrays a time of cultural shift in conceptualizations of work, marriage, art, social class, and more. How does the tension between old and new play out in the novel? Which relationships among the book's characters are particularly representative of this shift? What role does technology play?
I found it interesting that Sadie and Caitlin were stay at home moms, especially Sadie. Not that I disagree, and she did try a return to work, but contrary to cultural changes over the past couple of generations, she doesn't even seem to be thinking about resuming a career. Obviously social class plays a role and she can afford to stay home, however the labor force participation rates of college educated women with children have tended to be higher over the past couple of decades than the less educated (and often the less economically well-off). Perhaps this conveys a return to the traditional that often occurs in times of social upheaval, or a reordering of priorities based on realistic assessments of what it is possible to do successfully (full time work and full time motherhood is no walk in the park, as many of us quickly learned).
01-08-2009 12:49 PM
Great analysis, mapleann =)
The “Fortunate Age” culture: To gain membership one must pledge as a social inferior according to the values of the baby boomers, be rebellious while remaining invisible, promote irresponsibility as responsible when it promotes social change and challenges the status quo; and members may only reach professional success, the breaking of intangible barriers, through entrepreneurial modes, and all while fighting corporate mentality.
The "fortunate age" is a self imposed Hobson's choice. It remind me of a writer's, or artist's or philosophizer's, dilemma of wanting publishing success and recognition for ones work, but that would ultimately mean altering ones work to please a mass market audience; the writer becomes nothing more than a mountebank. Endorsing any of the ideals that their parents' generation upholds would invalidate their own ideals, marriage for example.
"A book is like a garden carried in the pocket." Chinese Proverb
My blog: http://bookworm56.blogspot.com
01-08-2009 03:00 PM
01-08-2009 03:38 PM
01-08-2009 04:51 PM
I agree with what thewanderingjew says about the young women first trying to carve out independent lifestyles with high-powered and/or high-stress careers and then going mainstream (getting married/having kids) when they find out that life is not so easy on their own.
I myself graduated from college in the 90s. I have watched as many of my friends started out independent but then gave up their career ambitions to be full-time homemakers. While there's nothing wrong with this, I just wonder how many men vs. women end up doing this, and for what reasons.
I enjoyed this book because it really captured the mood of a college-educated 20-something in the 1990s.
01-09-2009 12:49 AM - edited 01-09-2009 12:50 AM
I am having so many deja vu experiences from this book. I can't wait to present it to my daughter when I finish. Now they mentioned Larchmont Ave. My daughter lives a few blocks from there. The only problem with this book for me so far is that the characters seem like stereotypes of stereotypes. They seem exaggerated. Does anyone else feel that way?
I feel almost embarrassed sometimes because my life and my kids lives parallel the lives of so many of the book's characters in locale, education and age but that is where the comparison ends. Regarding experiences, we lived different lives and were much more grounded.
They seem to be like carricatures of stereotypes.
01-09-2009 10:47 AM
I found the tension between old and new very interesting. If I think back 20 years, it is probably how I felt about an older generation. Coming out of college you think you know everything you need to know, your parents are stuck in the past and falling behind fast and you want everything the opposite. REALITY happens fast and you find you have to let go of some of the "optomistic idealism" you were so confident about and the secure lifestyle your parents showed you doesn't look so boring/old anymore. The shift is reading how everyone is struggling in their careers, rent and relationships. Lil and Beth getting married when they swore that was never going to be an option for them. It makes it a realistic read.
I agree with what many of you are saying -- this group is coming of age in a tumultuous time. In the face of so many uncertainties they seem to retreat into the security of conventional choices. Are there any characters who manage to defy convention?
01-09-2009 02:45 PM