Last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review ran a review of Lena Dunham’s new memoir, NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL, under the headline “A Voice of a Generation.” I’m not a millennial and I’ve only seen one episode of GIRLS, so I can’t judge the validity of this claim, though I’ll note that it’s nice that this VoaG is female. When I think about the novelists and writers variously hailed as the voices of my generation– Douglas Coupland, Brett Easton Ellis, David Foster Wallace, Rick Moody, Dave Eggers, Michael Chabon, Jonathan Franzen, Jonathan Lethem, Jonathan Safran Foer, they are overwhelmingly male. And white. And named Jonathan. (Clearly VIDA has a point). In any event, I arrived in New York a decade or so too late to indulge in the cocaine-fueled excess that Jay McInerney (another VoaG) chronicled in BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY and at the moment when grunge-rocking, flannel-sporting, ‘zine-publishing youth culture was in full flower on the opposite coast, so I’ve always maintained a bemused interest in the writers and artists who are designated speakers for their peers.
So who would you nominate? I’d say Lorrie Moore for Self-Help (though I see she’s not actually a GenX-er), Claire Messud for The Emperor’s Children, even Melissa Banks for her wildly successful Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing, a book that made the linked short story collection almost as commercially viable as the novel. Joanna Rakoff’s novels capture in retrospect the nineties I knew, but she didn’t write about the zeitgeist as it was happening.
What writers capture–for you–the preoccupations, anxieties and animating spirit of your generation?