Baby BoomRecently ol’ Robbo got his hands on Peej O’Rourke’s latest book, The Baby Boom:  How It Got That Way, and It Wasn’t My Fault and I’ll Never Do It Again.  As the title suggests, this is O’Rourke’s take on his own generation, its origins, rise and impact on history, which he achieves through a mixture of personal recollection and larger picture analysis.

I’ve been kinda down on Peej’s writing ever since he hit his peak in the 90’s with All The Trouble In The World and Eat the Rich.  To me, his style has gradually gotten somewhat, well, staler and a bit crusty.  With that said, this is a very well-written book.  Even though Peej is an essayist by trade and I believe this is his first attempt at a genuine book-length narrative,  nonetheless it holds up very well throughout.  (One tool he uses that particularly impressed me is a series of descriptive snippets of his own personal history – starting from boyhood – that he gradually weaves together into metaphoric themes as he progresses.)  Also, his observations are as sharp and funny as any others he has made.



Here’s the thing.  Peej spends the majority of the book laying down the character traits of the Boomers – spoiled, selfish, perpetually adolescent, hedonistic.  He also describes what a wild ride it’s been unleashing such traits on the society built up by its stick-in-the-mud predecessors.   All this I expected.  After all, so long as somebody is working hard to keep the pantry and cellar stocked, sure, you can have one hell of a party.   But, going by the book’s title, I also expected a climactic denunciation and something akin to an apology.   After all, Peej has been a Professional Conservative for 40-odd years, specializing in sniping at the foibles of his generation, and I thought the rest of the book was going to be a set up for pulling Peter Pan over his knee and whaling on him with a belt-buckle.  

But in the last chapter, entitled “Big Damn Messy Bundle of Joy”?  Where he should have looked around and noticed just how badly his generation has trashed the place and how hard – if not impossible – it’s going to be for those of us following to clean it up?  He celebrates!  While he rightly lauds the creative energies unleashed by the Boomer revolution,  he conveniently forgets that for every Bill Gates and Steve Jobs that it might have made there are legions of my hippy Uncle Dave, who last I heard of him 20-odd years ago was tending bar part-time and crashing on a buddy’s sofa.   He actually praises the “liberation” of the sexual revolution, which, so far as I can see, has only brought about the destruction of the family unit, plummeting birth-rates, the commodification and dehumanization of sexuality and wide-spread misery.   He completely ignores the fact that the Boomers’ looting of the coffers will leave those succeeding them no other use for all those worthless I.O.U.’s  than to wipe their bottoms (which won’t even matter because they’ll have nothing to eat).   And while he is correct that envy of Western prosperity was a major cause of the Soviet Union’s cracking and faltering, his prediction that the spread of Boomer “values” throughout the Third World will lead to the collapse of all those myriad tin-pot dictators and medieval theocracies strikes me as, well, naive.

Maybe I’m reading his conclusion wrong.  Maybe he’s trying to be snarky and sarcastic and it’s simply sailing past me.  Maybe he’s only aping his generation’s zeitgeist while not actually sharing it himself.  Feel free to share your own takes here.  But his conclusion seems to me to come awful close to, “Screw you, Jack! I got mine!”  And that leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.

Damned hippies.