Helen Andrews calls the Boomers to account, [presenting] profiles of luminaries who promised much, ... including Camille Paglia, Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs, and Sonia Sotomayor. In covering the mighty works of these titans, Andrews [posits that] their lives and their generational idiosyncrasies have secretly deformed — in plain sight — our society and our successive generations.
It is a useful exercise to consider the attitudes and presuppositions that impelled members of a generational cohort to act as they did ... Ms. Andrews, an editor at the American Conservative magazine, is a gifted essayist with a delightful penchant for subversive and tersely worded insights ... The chapters in Boomers aren’t portraits in the way Strachey’s were. They are essays, and often they stray pretty far from the subject ... 'The theme that connects all these seeming digressions,' Ms. Andrews writes, 'is . . . the essence of boomerness, which sometimes manifests itself as hypocrisy and other times just as irony: they tried to liberate us, and instead of freedom they left behind chaos.' I’m not convinced that this theme, if that’s what it is, sufficiently connects all the discursive wanderings in these essays; you sometimes get the sense that Ms. Andrews wants to bring up a few points of irritation before she takes leave of the subject. But I don’t complain—she’s worth following.
Crazy times in our politics are often the best times to seek some perspective and clarity and to look for a framework for understanding how we got here. And there’s a new book out this week that offers just that, and in a wonderfully engaging form ... There are lots of reasons to worry about generational analyses, and especially the danger of painting with too broad a brush, but Andrews is keenly aware of the dangers and the approach she takes is suitably humble ... By talking about particular individuals, their lives and characters, rather than just telling a sweeping story, she helps us get to the bottom of some patterns without pretending to be comprehensive. Each portrait is wonderfully done in itself, and by the end it’s clear she really is drawing a portrait of a set of attitudes that have just utterly dominated American culture and politics for as long as most of us are old enough to remember ... It is exceptionally fair to its subjects, sometimes surely too fair and appreciative, yet it also doesn’t hesitate to reach right to the core of their weaknesses and insecurities and put those starkly before the reader ... Each chapter, each profile, is full of brilliant nuggets of both biography and analysis.
A scathing critique of the baby boomer generation’s 'dismal legacy.' ... Andrews makes some incisive points about baby boomer hubris, but undermines her argument with glaring omissions (the antiwar movement, for instance) and one-sided data points. Conservatives will rally to Andrews’s caustic appraisal of the culture wars; liberals need not apply.