I did not yet know that, contrary to youth’s sense of itself as tolerant, freethinking and egalitarian, it is more often stubbornly critical and judgmental, priggish and snobbish. I would find these faults much later (glaring) in my son and daughter and their friends. But at that age myself, I did not see how we truly were, nor did I put it together that these faults were often worst in those with the strongest political opinions. (113)
Amen to that. The “we” here are Georgette and her college friend Ann, coming of age in the revolutionary late 60s in America. Ann, from a wealthy background, is consumed by shame at being complicit in the injustices she sees all round her, and a furious warrior for change; Georgette, from a dirt-poor and emotionally deprived background, is a much more uncertain character, intimidated, fascinated and repelled by Ann’s steely moral certainty. They are, as a blurb comment from Salon says, “that peculiar generation of young Americans who believed their destiny was to shape history”. The book is full of the excitement of that belief, and the gradual realisation that few of us can maintain that fervor in the mess of ordinary life, love, and the demands of other people on us. Ann does, but at the expense of everything.
Nunez is of the same generation as Ann and Georgette, and the vivid insider account of a turbulent America vibrates with her own commitment and convictions. Nunez has been a find for the Gerts, with The Friend, The Last of Her Kind and A Memoir of Susan Sontag – more to come about that. A writer very much worth your time.