[sixties-l] Re: 'A Generation Divided': book review

From: Sandra Hollin Flowers (flowers_s@mercer.edu)
Date: Wed May 31 2000 - 06:34:53 CUT

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    I read with great interest Jesse Walker's review, posted by radman, of
    Klatch's A Generation Divided. As one of those (many?) people who has
    struggled through the writing of a '60s novel, I find myself wondering just
    how our generation feels about itself now vis-a-vis in "the good old days."
    Walker's review makes me think I'm probably not the only person with this

    Oh, don't get me wrong: My love for the '60s is undying, obsessive, you
    might even say. But my feeling are not without ambivalence. In fact, my
    novel, though hardly autobiographical, is subtitled "The autobiography of a
    woman who comes of age in the sixties and falls apart in the nineties." It's
    not sixties-bashing that I'm trying to express through this subtitle; rather
    the subtitle and my protagonist are vehicles for exploring my thesis that
    many of us (among whom I include myself) are part of not only a _generation_
    divided but also of _individuals_ divided as a consequence of what we
    experienced as young adults.

    I want to make clear that this next comment isn't directed at anyone in
    particular, because I can't even put names to all the posts that came across
    the list in its original days, let alone remember them verbatim. The point,
    though, is that sometimes when I've read sixties-l posts, I've gotten the
    impression that we should feel -- what? -- unfaithful? -- if we, like Le
    Carre's spy, "came in from the cold" as we grew older (with allowances for
    the limitations of the analogy). In other words, by having entered and
    maintained positions in "the establishment" (by, in effect, _becoming_ the
    establishment), have we also become traitors to our youthful vision? In the
    case of the review of Klatch's book, for example, I don't know how to
    understand Walker's assessment of the book's biographical capsules in the
    context of the following quotation:

    > Klatch's book was inspired by Karl Mannheim's essay "The Problem of
    > Generations," which, she writes, "argues that people in the same age group
    > share a historical location in the same way that people of the same class
    > share a social location." Within these generations, she continues, "there
    > exist separate and even antagonistic generation-units," which "form a
    > dynamic relationship of tension. At the same time that they are in
    > conflict, they are also oriented toward one another; their antagonisms are
    > part of an ongoing conversation."

    That quotation resonates deeply with me because juxtaposed with the life
    stories of Klatch's subjects, it echoes what I meant about my feelings for
    the '60s not being without ambivalence. I often feel in conflict with who I
    am vis-a-vis who I once thought I would become. Do Klatch's subjects--do you
    all?--feel the conflict and tension that Mannheim speaks of? If so, does
    that conflict ever lead to a sense of alienation and internal divisiveness?

    I also felt a sense of alienation as I read Walker's review. As an African
    American, I I kept wondering, "Well, where are all the black people? Aren't
    we part of this generation? Didn't we have a 'sixties experience'?" As all
    of you are probably tired of being reminded, it's not just the
    stratification of social classes and generations that we exist within, but
    also that of ethnicity. I share and yet I don't share a historical location
    with most of you who are reading this, with most of those who have written
    about the sixties. So often do I find myself "outside the boundaries" of
    somebody's study of the sixties that I do appreciate Walker's
    acknowledgement that the organizations around which Klatch's book revolve
    "do not represent a whole generation." That's why I had to write my own
    accounts (the novel and other works).

    I respect the parameters Klatch set for herself and I realize that in
    calling attention to them, I'm probably dragging a red herring across the
    path that led me to write this post in the first place. What I really hope
    to accomplish by this message is to generate a list discussion among peers
    about how we're viewing ourselves in our middle age. Anyone want to comment?

    Sandra Flowers

                        Sandra Hollin Flowers, Ph.D.
                        Associate Professor of English
                                Mercer University
                          Macon, GA 31207
                   (912) 301-2813 Fax: (912) 301-2457

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