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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

With all due respect, Mr. McGrath 

Your definition of "younger authors" leaves something to be desired. Tom Perotta was born in the early 1960s, Chang-Rae Lee in 1965. And as for the ones who allegedly moved on to other topics, Alan Furst is in his 60s, while Jonathan Safran Foer is a mere 27 years old. That's a mighty large generation, if you ask me. Never mind that folks like Perotta and Lee have several novels under their belt, a greater amount of life experience and are married with families. Not so those who actually fall into the category of "younger authors"--Foer, Zadie Smith, Nell Freudenberger, Andrea Seigel. Perhaps when they get older, move out to the suburbs, marry and have children (if that's what they intend to do) then they'll tackle the suburban novel--and be the "younger generation" that McGrath is talking about, though by that point, there'll be a new breed of Bright Young Things to make that future article moot as well. Round and round the cycle goes....

But while we're on the topic of surburbia, allow me to bring up an unjustly neglected and thoroughly scathing satire of the Ikea Lifestyle: Stella Duffy's EATING CAKE, written back in 1999. Only available in the UK, it's dead-on about the dissipation and alienation that befalls many a young suburban couple, as told from the viewpoint of a thirtyish woman who manages to screw up what seems to be a happy marriage by messing around with various neighbors and other folk, thinking she can have her cake and eat it too. If only that were the case, of course, but the fallout is told plainly without making any judgment about the protagonist. I still think about the book occasionally and it's been years since I first read it.

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