Wednesday, June 02, 2010

By the time I got to wood stock...

Winter wood by Pants

there were only three logs left! Happily the local suppliers were able to bring a load around straight away. I knew that, which is why I left it so late to order in. It is one of the good things about living ex metropolis. You get to know the people who bring your wood and you know where it comes from. And you know it hasn't come far. I don't want to get too hung up on the whole resource-miles debate, a lot of which is fatuous, but it is obviously better that these logs come from Mount Larrikin as opposed to Borneo.

I believed I was from the Woodstock generation but I always felt as if I was running behind all those Baby Boomers. I was certain I would never catch up. I had 45s of Me and Bobby McGee, All Along the Watchtower and Light my Fire but I wouldn't buy albums by Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix or Jim Morrison until after they had died. A few months before the Woodstock Festival took place in upstate New York, Sis Pants and I went to a Monkees concert at Sydney Stadium. It was a matinee.

As I've mentioned before, I was delighted to find that someone had kindly thought to create a generation just for me. Although I was never all that keen on the name Generation Jones, I immediately identified with its distinguishing qualities of distrust and general cynicism. It seemed to me that being sandwiched between the two diametrically different but just as bullish generations of Boomers and GenXers, our slim cohort (1954-65) was destined to create a cultural bridge between them. We are the paisley that connects flower power to the new wave.

I've been thinking about this a lot as I've been reviewing my novel, The Full English - yet again. I have wonderful kind people from all three 'generations' reading and advising on the latest draft. Some suggestions I've had back in the last couple of days have given rise to a lot of reflection on my part about just how unique we Jonesers are.

I think of other GJ novelists that I particularly like - Nick Hornby, Tim Winton, Hanif Kureishi, Jeanette Winterson, Magnus Mills. There is always a sense of not quite being able to seize a day that seems to be crying out to be seized. There is a reticence. The people who populate their books are not facing dragons, just looking for a mirror that actually works. We are Sienfeld. We are Holden. And we just can't get ourselves back to the garden.

Hornby, Winton and Kureishi frequently use music to establish a timeline. Hornby, notably in High Fidelity creates lists of songs linked to life events. In our tight little generation we were the beneficiaries of swift and dramatic changes in music. Our memories are frozen in the songs that were playing when those memories were made. We use them in the same way that GenYers use text messages - to supplement our poverty of emotional eloquence.

In The Full English, I have used karaoke as the medium for communication between my boy and girl in the early stages of their romance. We're talking the Costa del Sol in the mid 90s. We're post-cassette now, and between the technologies that made those homemade compilations so easy to dash off. We're in a less stable place and in a faster time.

Japanese domestic technology in the late eighties and early nineties was way ahead of anything I'd seen before. I was in Japan in 1989-90 and got hooked on the local karaoke bar in the small town where I was staying. There was nothing else to do at night. This tiny bar serving beer and saki with side dishes of nuts and pickled octopus had a stack of speakers that would not have looked out of place at The Astoria. The karaoke rig occupied most of the room. No matter what you sang, you sounded brilliant.

One of my readers is an early Boomer. The Joneser terror in engaging positively with someone you fancy for the first time is not something my reader finds particularly credible. We Jonesers straddle two influential phases. I think we, probably more than any other fabricated 'generation', are endowed with such a huge wealth of cultural links that we can't help taking delight in turning them into shorthand. Getting it to translate is the difficult bit, as I keep discovering again and again...