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Reading and thinking

February 13, 2010

In his recent book Cheerful Money, Tad Friend has written that his “generation was the last to receive silver christening cups and to be taken shopping for the chain mail of adulthood– camel hair coats and Brooks Bros. suits and Lloyd & Haig shoes.”1

In her 2000 novel The Fundamentals of Play Caitlin Macy wrote, in the guise of her narrator, of hers as “the last generation of the century to come of age, and the first one that wanted to be as much like our parents’ as possible.”2

Both authors are right, in their way, even as what they have written is inaccurate. This blogger, who follows roughly ten years after Ms. Macy (b.1971), who herself follows a decade behind Mr. Friend (b.1962), has both the silver spoon and the aspirations laid down in conformity with generations before. My own peers were the last to be raised through our minorities without the influence of widespread access to high-speed internet, but I find myself wary of making predictions that this, now, means the end. For as Dan Cryer wryly noted in his review of The Fundamentals of Play, “Old money never dies. It just lies low for a while, resurfacing when we’re not looking. And we thought the brave new world of instant, media-friendly celebrity had killed all that.”3 So we’ll see.

In the meantime, we try to address the fallout from this fact: that each generation is prepared for a world it does not inherit, something that has been especially true since World War II. So we muddle along, carrying ahead our folkways, trying to locate ourselves in a land that is not so clearly made for us, save for those of our people who have re-discovered and embraced the savvy and pluck that got us to the top of the heap in the first place. There were no aristocrats on the Mayflower, after all, which we should all be well to remember.

1. Tad Friend, Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, and the Last Days of Wasp Splendor (New York: Little, Brown, 2009), 53.
2. Caitlin Macy, The Fundamentals of Play: A Novel (New York: Random House, 2000), 185.
3. Dan Cryer, from a review of Macy’s book on Salon.com, accessed 3.13.2010

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