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The Garrulous Generation

by Florence King

The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way and It Wasn’t My Fault and I’ll Never Do It Again, by P. J. O’Rourke (Atlantic Monthly, 263 pp., $25)

If you are suffering death by a thousand tweets from the garrulous ubiquity of the “social media,” you can blame it on the Baby Boomers, or, as charter member P. J. O’Rourke calls them, “exploding children.” Born between 1946 and 1964, they are the largest generational cohort America has ever had, products of the longest period of prosperity we have ever seen. Celebrated as the hope of the future for whom nothing was too good, they believed it and developed a dark side. “Children want to be adults,” says O’Rourke, “but we wanted to be older, greater children.” They got their wish when they were encouraged to be what earlier generations of children were not supposed to be: heard.

O’Rourke, one of the earliest Boomers, separates the cohort into four academic classes. He and his fellow Seniors experienced some aspects of pre–World War II life. Home was “a shining suburb on a hill” with one telephone and dead-end streets that had not yet been upmarketed as cul-de-sacs, but education standards were beginning their downward spiral as a post-war crop of progressive teachers eliminated copying exercises and taught reading with flashcards. “It is no accident that SpellCheck is a product of the Baby Boom,” he notes, “and it is no accident that we misspelled ‘spell check.’”

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