From Chapter 9 of The Citrus Girl:
The dead and Steve Delani. I like to explain them as this: a postmodern culture of Bohemians, the evolving counter-culture of the Eighties and Nineties, akin somehow to the Hippies, Beats and Lost Exiles who were so literary, creative, rebellious and mad. This dead generation of slackers that blossom so late, never having had a war to experience, to unify their generation, never having experienced what it is to see the world, what it is to see death, what it is to fall in love in strange lands with women overseas to conquer and lose; to drift the world; Unlike Hemingway, or E.E. Cummings, or Malcolm Cowley, or even Kerouac, we never learned the extravagance of life, or fatalism, virtues of life and war, and so we never learned to “fear boredom more than death.” Boredom and the resulting malaise became our sanctity. Like Cowley said for his fellow lost: “all the divergent forces that would direct the history of our generation were already in action . . . We were reading, dancing, preparing for college entrance exams, and, in our spare time, arguing about ourselves, ourselves and life, ourselves as artists, as lovers, the sublimation of sex and what we could possibly write about that was new.”
What are the historical forces directing our dead generation? Our MTV-sucked rebellious youth. We learned to not pay attention to anything. The lust for boredom was sanctimonious—us seeking holiness, our claim to malaise: Just know your town, your city, your street, your mall, your MTV, your video games, where you have your favorite bowl of rice, your favorite bed, and where you experience life by ‘doing’ life. It was not like being a spender—one of the plastic plunderers who storm inside a mall, never breaking ranks—just spend and move on to the next holiday. It was all a holiday to us.
But sometimes we are or become mobile. Like Tommy tearing up the countryside. Some of us glimpse a greater world around us and have become disgusted with things. James Jones: one of the previous generation of disgusted; he returned from war, a disgusted military man and writer—an exile from his hometown and returned as a writer seeking in the very same spot where his childhood vomited him into adulthood. We never returned from war. We returned from the world in ourselves and some of us came out with visions. Self-exiles. Kerouac—even he went crazy in the Merchant Marines, or pretended to, returned a self-exile, saw the world was beat, dead in the little towns really, or really alive with it. Are we more beat than him? Cummings, Cowley, Hemingway, Jones… they were seeking, and they had cash. Kerouac had the GI Bill. We aren’t motivated to work, to join anything, but eventually some of us have our visions. The dead can do that—even though boredom is sanctity, harmonious, lustrous. We have yet to rebel, yet we do rebel, by not paying attention to people, to government, to action—our generation skipped a rebellion, skipped war, skipped over being called the ‘uprooted’ angry youth. We were just a slacker subculture—angry about love and music—our techno-music gadgets and headphones that we used to escape the world—and life in general, and never exiled, just self-exiled, unmotivated—never lost, and—never alive to the world—just unmotivated. Weltanschauung. I found the virtues of life in Lipton’s “poverty as a virtue” and through firsthand experience of starvation. 'War': the looking-glass for other generations, the uprooting generation-tearing centrifuge of history that we missed. People want to capture something; writers want to capture something new, with a new lens, a new angle. And how so? Maybe through the simple love story that unwinds in the relative comfort of a hometown. Think of a modern day movie—see it??—a downtown, groups of slackers, all guys, or all girls talking about love, a few neon-lit blue-smoke hazy bars, an apartment, a loud talk at dinner, and drugs and drinking and tragedy, and someone dies, and stars in everyone’s eyes because they don’t care. They don’t dare care. And many don’t. It’s all a love story. It’s mad. It’s mad and terrifying but simple: Get money. Get lazy. Go to the convenience store. Meet girls. Meet boys. Get drugs. Go to fast food joints. Play Sega. And eventually, somehow, find love if you can.
2008 nick belardes