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13th Gen: Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail? Paperback – March 23, 1993
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From the Publisher
"Both Howe and Strauss are Boomers, but their work marks a sea-change in perception among intellectuals. The 13ers...may just prove an American salvation."--The Daily Telegraph (London)
"[A] valuable primer...a distressing portrait of a generation that has been systematically screwed by their elders...an honest, empathetic, and good-humoured effort to bridge the bitter gap between the twentysomethings and fortysomethings."--The Globe and Mail
From the Inside Flap
In commentary and quotations, computer dumps and cartoons, 13TH GEN is a multimedia anthem to the American post-boomer generation,our country's thirteenth generation since the founding fathers.
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I stumbled onto this book only a few years ago when I was already in my 40s. I wish I'd stumbled onto it twenty years earlier. 13th Generation makes a strong argument for Generational Theory as defined by Strauss and Howe. In short a generation of people is shaped by their collective experiences.
Lets take a stroll down memory lane and a look at some of those experiences. Our story begins in the early 60s when the baby-busters as we were known first came onto the scene. The 13ers collective experiences are as follows; Watergate. Viet Nam. The gas crisis, (who can forget people getting killed for a gallon of the precious juice!) The Iranian hostages,(who can forget the sight of Americans being degraded by 3rd world lunatics while President Carter twiddled his thumbs on television wearing a sweater. The election of Regan, (It's morning in America) Iran Contra, (nobody's perfect). The Space Shuttle explosion, (the first one, that is). The fall of the Berlin wall. The stock market crash(First one. Late 80s). Gulf War 1, (remember that?).
None of these events with the exception of the fall of the wall were positive. Add to this the number of anti-child movies, birth control pills, legalized abortion, declining birth rate (I wonder why?) Latch-key kids, throw away kids and the defunding of education. Lets not forget, Aids, Crack, killer Bees, (you read that right. They're coming. Lock your doors.) Over population, acid rain, the whole in the ozone, nuclear Armageddon with the Russians, 3-mile island and the coming Ice age. (This is twenty years before they decided the Earth was melting).
And they wonder why we're cynical.
There was some cool stuff. 13ers as they call us, are the first digital generation. We are the last generation to buy records or tapes, go to the bank to cash a check or fish in our pockets for change to use a pay phone.
We're the first generation raised on television. And what a golden age of television it was. The Munsters. I dream of Jeanie. Charlies Angels, Zoom, Columbo, Magnum, Miami-Vice, Sesame street, Star Trek.....
And then there was MTV. Ahhh, glorious MTV. A revolutionary channel devoted to youth where they played Music videos all-day-long. Not reality shows. Music videos. Every hour on the hour! With your host, Martha Quinn! my second love after Yvonne Craig (TV's Bat girl). I want my MTV! Seriously, I still want my MTV.
According to Strauss and Howe, 13ers are the most incarcerated generation in 100 years. We also have the highest suicide rates. This has held constant from child hood through adult hood. According to Strauss & Howe 13ers excel at entrepreneurship and risk taking. X-sports anyone? Bunji jumping? 13ers, they tell us, are a hard scrabble generation of nomads and survivors (how cool is that?).
Notable 13ers; (In no particular order)
1) Tony Hawk (did a 900 on a skateboard at age 43. That's two and a half revolutions in the air! How sick is that?)
2) Quentin Tarantino (nuff said)
3) Matthew Broderick (Bueller?..Bueller?)
4) The cast of the Breakfast club (Don't you....forget about me!)
5) The guys who invented Google and Amazon!
6) Kurt Cobain (destroyed Hair metal for almost twenty-years with one song!)
I could go on but you get the message.
Some call us Xers, some 13ers. I prefer to call us....
The coolest generation ever.
Great book to a cool generation. Get it and read it.
But don't forget to put on your ray-bans first.
Overall, as a Gen Xer, I found this to be a great book, and a worthwhile extension of my Strauss and Howe library. I was enthralled with the book when it first came out, and still find it to be a great read. I must admit that my favorite part is the myriad quotes that run down the sides of just about each page. If you are interested in Gen X, and want to read a bit of a history book on it (albeit a now somewhat out-of-date one), then you simply must get this book. I highly recommend it!
It's kind of a quirky book, with a curious layout of sidebars containing quotes from individuals, from books and movies, experts and other pop culture references and statistics, that seem to drive home the point the authors are striving toward. Unto that end it is a great package.
The book is important as it gives a voice to a generation living life under the shadow of the 'Baby Boomers'. These are voices that appear fresh with time and it is great to see them in print.
Revisiting this book almost ten years it seems, though, that the book was trying too hard. It got ahead of itseld in trying to sum up a generation (made up of individuals who didn't realize they were actually a generation!). It seems to me that it was (and still is) a marketing label, a way to define individuals in order to 'target' them. This, in my opinion, is the end result. Looking back at it and the 'hipness' of the narrative voice and the layout, they were trying to market the book without appearing to market the book, trying to be 'hip' without appearing to try to be hip.
While the book does a remarkable job of compiling statistics and nailing down the 'whys' of 13th Gen (more accurate than the term Generation X) behavior, in the end the book doensn't help to explain me (born within the years 1961-81) too much at all. It is good for some nostalgia but it feels a bit outdated. It ultimately fades into oblivion with an overabundance of pop culture defintions, cliches and general and generic observations. It seems that we (or is it just me?) have moved on.
I give it four stars for its readability, interesting statistics/quotes and its historical value.