As of today, we have three weeks to go in the fellowship. Three weeks! I don’t know how I’m going to cope. Friday I swung through the Donald Hall Collection, the film/video/script library for students of the program, and exercised the faculty/Fellow perk of checking out items overnight. Five DVDs, specifically — “The Battleship Potemkin,” “Citizen Kane,” “Wag the Dog,” “Monsters Inc.” and the last volume of “My So-Called Life.” The student doing the checkout handled this last item reverently.
“This TV show,” she said, “is why I’m a film and video major.” And then we had a long discussion of whether “World Happiness Day” was the best single episode, or maybe “Weekend,” which I love for the look inside little Danielle’s head.
That show is 10 years old. So is, according to the anniversary journalism in my newspapers recently, the Rwandan genocide and the death of Kurt Cobain. NPR had a piece on the latter event this morning. People who were twentysomething then and are thirtysomething now expounded on why Kurt Cobain mattered, and I got it, sorta. I was thirtysomething then and fortysomething now, and while I appreciated Nirvana, the death of its creative center didn’t affect me much either way, except in that generalized state of regret we all feel for the prematurely dead. (“Wow, what a tragedy. Is lunch ready?”) Another 10-years-distant event: John and I standing as godparents for Deb’s son Patrick. Deb remarked afterward, “I heard some girl saying this was, to her generation, what the death of John Lennon was to mine, and all I could think was, oh, in your hat.” (Note: Others feel differently. Nauseatingly so.)
Was 10 years ago when we were all talking about Generation X? I don’t know. I do know that the other day I read, in a newspaper, a reference to today’s young adults as “Generation X,” and I thought, glad to see editing standards in the newspaper business haven’t gone anywhere but down lately. True, the more the years pile up, the easier it is to confuse “something I read yesterday” with “something I read 10 years ago,” but that’s why publications schedule multiple stops on the editing train. The people with the blue pencils are supposed to catch things like this.
Things get so mixed up. One year ago I had my interview for the fellowship. I drove to Ann Arbor Friday night in a driving rainstorm, which became, as the sun went down, a driving ice storm. I checked into my hotel and decided to drive the shortest possible distance for dinner, which was across the street to the Cooker. I had to wait for a table, and did so at the bar, where I struck up a conversation with a man with a pronounced African accent. “Where are you from in Africa?” I asked. He gave me three guesses. I got it on the third guess — Rwanda, after he gave me a hint. (“My country has suffered much heartache.”) He was wildly impressed, and predicted I’d get the fellowship.
(In my creative writing class, we’d wonder whether this entry uses Rwanda as a motif. Let me just say: Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.)
Oh, well. Three weeks. This week is positively clotted with activity, and I’m behind on my script pages, again. Best get cracking. Ninety percent perspiration, and all that.
Randy said on April 5, 2004 at 12:10 pm
I liked your perspective on Kurt Cobain.
It seems that each generation (or more precisely, each generation’s media) wants to stake ownership to something it wishes it had. If the Boomers had John Lennon’s death as their Dead Singer, the Gen Xers must have Cobain as theirs, and they must speak in hushed, revered tones. They too must remember *exactly* where they were, and exactly how they felt when the sad news was shared. It seems like it’s all part of an effort to make each generation seem more sophisticated or more grown-up or some such nonsense.
I pity this current group of teens and twenty-somethings. All they’ll have for a Dead Singer will be Jessica Simpson, but only because she got bored one day and stuck a fork into an electrical outlet, or something equally lame and stupid, accidentally electrocuting herself and earning a darwin Award in the process.
It will be hard to spin it as a Seminal Moment, but I’m sure they’ll try.
mtk said on April 5, 2004 at 3:36 pm
Put this apparently hard-hearted Gen-Xer down as not feeling a bit of reverence for Kurt Cobain. Christian sadness at anyone’s death, but certainly not profound respect for him or his music or muddled lyrics and utterly useless quasi-philosophy of life. Sheesh. He was a doped up loser who could write creative guitar licks. I was actually much more moved by the death of Michael Hutchence of INXS, who was equally screwed up but had a long string of albums that ranged from hard rock to dance pop to new wave and alternative rock. Even some pretty nice ballads. (Not trying to hold him up as A or The Gen X musician either, but trying to say he’s above Cobain, and neither worthy of generational deification.) Cobain was just pathetic, no role model or anybody whose wisdom should be venerated or even considered seriously. Pick your heroes carefully.