“One thing about my generation is that we’re always late.” Dr. Barry McCrea.
On the night of Oct. 30, students and professors alike filled the Dogwood room in the Barone Campus Center with anticipation. Dr. Barry McCrea, an academic and professor at the University of Notre Dame, was invited to Fairfield to deliver a speech. The author of the novels, “Languages of the Night,” “In the Company of Strangers” and “The First Verse,” Dr. McCrea presented us with his ideas surrounding the European Generation X novel.
Born in 1974, McCrea is a part of Generation X, also known as the Forgotten Generation. Raised during a time of political turmoil and lower-class economic capital, Dr. McCrea points out how these aspects of the generation can be found throughout their idea of the novel. Commonalities found within this generation’s work further prove this point, such as the use of extended metaphors, digressions, delays in the narrative and overall themes of how “money is scarce, but time is plentiful.”
Novels written by those of Generation X are oftentimes stories of simple everyday life, that move forwards and then backward again, yet are elevated into epic adventures. These novel’s protagonists refuse originality, and disprove the idea that every individual has to be a brand, one of a kind, extraordinary. These characters find their voices in the mundane of everyday life.
“Brilliance in the Gen X view does not mean worldly success.” These authors write for the sake of telling their generation’s story.
“I will not entirely die.” This motto acts as their main purpose.
Dr. McCrea also points out how he found this connection within the novel and generation with the Baby Boomers and the Millenials. Both of which, oddly enough, share the same themes of rags to riches. These novels tend to tell the stories of grand proportions, how knowledge, beauty and drive can promise the mobility of class. These novels are often very political and frame all aspects of life as a competition. These are more of what we as readers see on the selves, stories that promise a grander aspect of life.
Dr. McCrea’s speech has influenced me to think back on novels I have read in the past and discover these patterns of generational influence within them. For example, “Normal People” by Sally Rooney reflects the rags-to-riches story of the millennial generation, something that I did not notice while I was reading the story. While listening to this speech, I also found myself questioning what our generation’s novel will look like. What influences—economic, political, religious—will have a play on how our stories are told? Who will be the ones to write them?
While Gen X may always be late, it is obvious that they still have a great impact on the world, and specifically, the idea of the novel. After listening to Dr. McCrea’s speech, I challenge you to think more deeply about the novels you are reading, and why that story is the one being told.