“Everything is amazing for five minutes,” said one of my colleagues, expressing worry about the possibility that future generations will have nothing to define them. Will anything matter longer than the length of time it takes to read an article on CNN or even Twitter?
As someone who is very concerned about the future not only of the publishing industry but also of the way we create and consume the written word, I tried to apply my colleague’s statement to writing. According to the National Council of Teachers of English, “Good writing may be the quintessential 21st century skill…Today people write as never before—texting, on blogs, with video cameras and cell phones, and, yes, even with traditional pen and paper. People write at home, at work, inside and out of school.” I have no doubt that being able to write well is a highly important skill, which, with time, will only become more and more essential.
However, I doubt that writers will continue to want to invest the time it takes to craft a well-written piece of writing when they know that readers can consume and forget that writing in a flash. Knowing how little the readers value the work, the writers will invest less effort, and the cycle will continue until we’ve evolved into a society filled with lazy writers and ungrateful readers.
My parents, who came of age in the 60s and early 70s, are members of the “baby boomer” generation, which was defined by beat, hippie, and feminist writing. Authors like Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukoski, J.D. Salinger, Betty Friedan, and Erica Jong come to mind. I believe that most educated Americans, even if they don’t necessarily appreciate literature, have heard of at least one of those names and could probably pinpoint the time period when those authors wrote.
If you were to ask any educated American to name authors or works of writing that define Generation Y or the Millennial Generation (born between the late 70s and the late 80s), what texts would most people choose? I can think of some contemporary authors who have defined me as a writer and who have also defined the Generation Y-ers of the literary community, but I’m not sure any one piece of writing speaks for and represents the generation as a whole. Would you agree or disagree?
Why doesn’t our generation have any defining texts? Are books published today only worth the length of time they can remain trendy?
(Photo by Inti)