Boomer1, by Daniel Torday, St. Martin's Press, 352 pages, $27.99
Boomer1 by Daniel Torday, coming out Sept. 18, is a brilliant novel about a new lost generation.
Mark Brumfeld and Cassie Black are overeducated Brooklyn bluegrass musicians with no jobs and no real skills, navigating the ever-extending transition to adulthood.
Mark fails to parlay a Ph.D. into a professorship, ends up back in his parents’ basement, and blames the entire generation of baby boomers hording all the desired careers. Using the handle “boomer1,” Mark starts posting videos threatening retaliation against the boomers that won’t retire.
Boomer1’s missives go viral and the consequences follow just as virally. Boomer1 is Tyler Durden with a laptop instead of a soap factory.
Cassie starts just as lost but adapts. She takes a job in native content marketing she didn’t know she wanted. Like Mark, she derives her life’s worth from clicks and likes but to much less explosive ends.
Boomer1 doesn’t just focus on the manchild back in his childhood basement; it also remembers the requisite boomer parents upstairs. The story shifts to the perspective of Mark’s mother, Julia, to offer the view from the other side of the intergenerational conflict.
Torday’s writing is funny and insightful. Torday adeptly captures the current zeitgeist, where a tree that falls but is not captured on Instagram doesn’t make a sound: “Had any generation in the history of the world been so duped about the nature of time, been rendered so complacent by the appearance of control over perception? Facts so easily undermined: that an event could take place in the time it took for it to be viewed as a video. That the reproduction of an event could be recounted in the same span it took for the event to take place.”
“The medium is the message” is a phrase that predates the baby boomers, but remains ever prescient. Boomer1 is not just young vs. old. It is also prose vs. video, and contemplation vs. clickbait. Torday’s message is a good one; if only there was a cat video on the internet to explain this rather than a book review.
Andrew Willis is an attorney for Cline, Williams, Wright, Johnson & Oldfather, L.L.P, and a member of the Nebraska Literary Heritage Association.