Lately, it seems like every time I go out to eat, or head to a concert I’m out of my depth. Sure I know more about interest rates and federal tax codes and might even sound adult, but I still feel like I should sit at the kids’ table while my grandparents (or at least people who look like my grandparents) run the place.
That’s how I felt reading Albert Brooks’ 2030, the 2010 book from the Academy award nominated wit who chose to make his first ever novel into a light-hearted dystopia where the boomers are the single greatest problem facing America.
To be sure there’s a lot of potential for Brooks’ perceived dystopia. A world where the eradication of cancer leads to an overwhelming surfeit of baby boomers, clogging the social security system and burdening the younger generation for decades on end. While there’s a good chance that such an event would actually occur, it doesn’t exactly engender amusement. While I freely admit that not every dystopian novel needs to be funny (most great ones–including Fahrenheit 451 and 1984–aren’t), it’s a little disappointing that such a humorous author could not find a greater array of comedy to present in his debut novel.
Unfortunately, that’s not the biggest challenge with 2030. The bigger issue is that Brooks is clearly still finding his stride as a novelist. 2030 is littered with the kinds of heavy handed exposition orgies that anyone in a creative writing class knows to avoid (I can practically hear my professors in Ghana shouting show don’t tell!!) But there’s also a degree of awkwardness that surrounds Brooks’ moralizing on behalf of a younger generation. He abhors the entitlement and self-importance of the baby-boomers and writes passionately about how younger people (Gen Xers and Millenials in particular) respond to that. And yet, Brooks is a baby boomer, so why should his voice stand in for my own? Why should he create a clarion call to the newly mature generation of Americans who will foot the bill for his?
While the concept behind Brooks’ novel is compelling, the execution fails to convert the concept into an excellent novel. In the process, he sounds every bit as self-important as the generation he dismisses, leaving the Xers/Millenials reading to feel like they’re sitting at the kids table, yet again.