Boomer Books deal with issues of concern. An interview with Claude Nougat. Part 2
March 5, 2013
Boomer lit is taking the country by storm, starting with an article written by Claude Nougat and published by Boomer Café, in which she predicted that this new genre would trend in 2013.
Since the rise of Boomer literature has become such a hot new genre, I wanted to talk further with author Claude Nougat since she is the one who made the prediction about the new genre. This is the second installment of our conversation.
Caleb: You said that by the end of he 1970s, a new genre called Young Adult, or YA, was in full swing with the publication of the Fab Five within YA novels. Remind me who the Fab Five are.
Claude: I’m not sure I agree with all this game of classification, but the said “fab fives” are supposed to be I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou; The Friends by Rosa Guy; The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath; Bless the Beasts and Children by Glendon Swarthout; and Deathwatch by Robb White. At least that’s what Wikipedia says but I guess you could add other titles easily.
Caleb: Harry Potter?
Claude: Sure, why not? But that’s getting us into the late 1990s. The Harry Potter series starts out as a children’s book, ends up as YA. Moreover, it is read by older adults as much as by kids – which by the way is rather typical of YA: some 55% of YA readers are not young adults at all. But to return to the “fab fives”: after them, as they say, the rest is history. YA lit has come fully into its own, as a genre technically aimed at the 14-18 year-old age group and covering different types of writing, from novels to poetry and non-fiction, and spanning many theme-related genres, from paranormal romance to science fiction. But this age classification is too restrictive and recently we’ve watched the rise of New Adult aimed at an older group, people in their twenties, who also go through coming of age…
Caleb: You’re off track, we were discussing Boomer lit!
Claude: Not really. I consider Boomer lit as a pendant to YA, but on the other side of our middle years. It shares with YA lit many common features, not least of them that it is read by people beyond its age group and that it is an audience-centric genre and not a theme-related genre…
Caleb: Audience-centric? Because boomers are the economic force behind both?
Claude: Most certainly. They got interested in YA lit because it dealt with issues of concern to them back in the 1960s and 70s when they were teenagers and facing adulthood for the first time. So they bought YA lit. Now they are facing their Third Act in life and they, quite naturally, want to read books that deal with issues of concern to them the way they are now! They want to read novels that feature characters with whom they can identify, that face challenges like the ones they are themselves facing now that they are older.
Caleb: You’ve said it yourself paraphrasing the central theme of YA lit: now, boomers are facing “coming of old age”. Not a very attractive way to put it, is it? Smacks of the stigma attached to old age!
Claude: I meant it tongue-in-cheek but I guess it wasn’t very astute. No stigma intended! My intention was to highlight the fact that once again, just like when you were a young adult, you find yourself wondering what will happen to you now that you are leaving behind your working years. Your job used to define who you were. You woke up in the morning and knew exactly what to do, day after day. Now, you wake up in the morning and there’s no job waiting for you. You have to ask yourself who you really are, you have to re-invent yourself. Because, with medical advances, the chances are that you still have many years ahead of you…And that’s just one of the challenges facing boomers. You can find that your long-standing marriage is suddenly falling apart. A young person may enter your life and wreak havoc with your routine and your family. The pension you were counting on for your old age might have suddenly evaporated or you’ve been dismissed from a job you had been counting on for another ten years. Or cancer may be stalking you. Or you find that you have to look after your elderly parents and yet you are still responsible for your grown-up children who, in these difficult times, may not have found a decent job. These are hard times, all fodder for boomer books!
Caleb: Stop, I get the idea! But it’s all rather depressing…
Claude: It need not be! It all depends how the book is written: it can be done with wit, compassion, irony – like Deborah Moggach’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a hilarious comedy about British retirees on a romp in India. Or like Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, an amazing debut novel long-listed for the prestigious Man-Booker Prize. What a pity it didn’t make it! I’m currently reading it and loving it, this is really a great read. Imagine, it got over 550 reviews and 12,500 “likes” on Amazon (when the “likes” still existed – now they have all been removed) and on Goodreads it got over 3,300 reviews and nearly 13,000 ratings! Rachel Joyce has written radio plays for the BBC and apparently this book was born when she wrote a play in 2006 for her father who had been diagnosed with cancer. The book is typically boomer lit, a quest for self and a meaning in life after all those years of working when there was no time to ask oneself any deep questions.
Caleb: Thanks, Claude, I urge our readers to check these books out! It’s been fun talking to you but we haven’t explored yet all the nooks and crannies of Boomer lit. We’ll continue next time/week, I still have some tough questions for you….This could be adapted any way you like Caleb…and then I would answer with:
Claude: And it’s been fun talking to you! Let me take this opportunity to thank you for the opportunity you’ve given me to explain Boomer lit and for all your …tough questions. I’m looking forward to them!