February 6th, 2010

Books!

I'm not that kind of Boomer, I guess ...

I have something of an annual ritual now, thanks to being on Barnes & Noble's mailing list. The past several years, they have had a significant clearance sale after the holiday clearance, the post-holiday clearance, and the post-post-holiday clearance, where in the stores a couple of big tables of books are just $2, and on the web site there are sections for $1.99, $3.99 and $5.99 clearance books. On the web site there were nearly 800 clearance books for $1.99 … and I set about finding enough (13 – mostly hardcovers) to get over $25.00 and score free shipping (which was a good thing as the shipping on the order would have been about seventeen bucks!). Obviously, in this shopping mode, there were things selected because they “sounded interesting” rather than being things I had a burning desire to read … this is one of those.

I only knew the broad strokes about Harry H. Harrison Jr.'s 1001 Things It Means to Be a Boomer Now: (Well, It Is Time to Grow Up) when I added it to the cart, but after reading a few things rather “Gen Y”-oriented, I felt like delving into something “my generation”, the ancient, aging Boomers. Frankly I had expected something more of a “joke book” … and being in the desperate career impasse that I have been for the past year or so, I was looking forward to something that was heavier on the humor. Unfortunately, this is more a collection of wry, bordering on cynical, jabs at the Baby Boom generation, focused more on the cliches than on what has been my generational experience, making this a bit more of a stressful read than I had anticipated.

The book is, as one would expect from the title, a collection of 1001 observations on Boomers, generally directed to boomers with the tone that might typically accompany “you have some spinach stuck in your teeth” or ”you've got something all over the back of your coat”. These are divided into thematic sections: Generation Gap, Getting Physical, Forever Young, Working For The Man, Financial Security, Surviving The Sexual Revolution, Husbands And Wives, Home Is Where The McMansion Is, Growing Up, Single Boomers, Technical Details, Our Children Ourselves, Your Parents Sill Don't Understand You, Rock And Roll Never Died, Boom Times, Everything Is Spiritual, Boomer Men, Boomer Women, Boomers In Midlife Crisis, Boomer Grandparents, You And Your Pets Are One, and How Boomers Think. Generally speaking, the author seems to have a mental image of the Boomer being an ex-hippie, Rolex-wearing, technologically-challenged, over-paid professional who lives in the suburbs in a house substantially beyond his/her means, is on their third marriage, and has only a very tenuous grasp on reality. While the last point may be applicable, I found it hard to relate to any of the rest, despite being a boomer.

Attempting to summarize this beyond the descriptions above seems somewhat pointless, so instead, I guess I'll just pick out a few things that seem illustrative:

22. Being a Boomer means you think wrinkles are optional.
55. Being a Boomer means having a boss young enough to date your son.
131. Being a Boomer means refusing to give up your weight training even though you have to take Viocdin for your back.
207. Being a Boomer means deciding that if a doctor isn't going to give you a pill for your pain, you'll change doctors.
241. Being a Boomer means having some people mistake you for your child's grandfather.
287. Being a Boomer means wondering not about a second career, but a third or a fourth.
394. Being a Boomer means considering a part-time job at Starbucks because of the benefits. And the deals on espresso shots.
427. Being a Boomer means you find your wife sexier than you did thirty years ago.
548. Being a Boomer means thinking a flash drive has something to do with Star Trek.
634. Being a Boomer means learning the ins and outs of Medicare.
671. Being a Boomer means you have a wine collection that's worth the cost of a car.
736. Being a Boomer means understanding that maybe, just maybe, it isn't all about you.
907. Being a Boomer means giving your dog only Evian to drink.
986. Being a Boomer means you're still searching for meaning.
Needless to say, “your mileage may vary” on how this stuff reads … I found the book, while wry, generally depressing, but that's likely due to my own personal situation. Also, it turns out this is from a "preachy publisher" so there's a lot of more of "the G word" (and I don't mean gangsta) in here than one would anticipate from a mundane press. 1001 Things appears to still be “in print”, as it is only a couple of years old (despite going out via clearance at B&N), and Amazon has it for 42% off of cover, and their new/used guys have "like new" copies for as little as a penny, so if this sounds like a laugh-fest to you, you're likely to be able to find a copy.


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