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From The CriticsWhat's the best way to tell the tale of the baby boomers, the 75 million people born between the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963? Not through the lives of average people, says author Michael Gross, but rather through "the affluent, the well-educated, the accomplished and the lucky."
Perhaps. Or perhaps Gross thought his time would be better spent with the irrepressibly narcissistic Donald Trump and bisexual porn star Nina Hartley than with random interview subjects at McDonald's.
My Generationfollows the lives of 19 consummate boomers - as they pass through what he calls "Childhood," "Adolescence," "Extended Adolescence" and later eras. We watch them live through the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King Jr., the sexual revolution, drugs, the Vietnam War and rock 'n' roll before capitulating, or refusing to capitulate, to "Middle Age."
Tim Scully, a scientific prodigy, perfected the manufacture of LSD. People swore by his Blue Cheer and Purple Haze, though - typical of our label-conscious age - they were identical to batches he dyed other colors. While in jail for his commerce, he designed biofeedback instruments for drug rehabilitation, and later went on to write software for children.
Mark Rudd led the destructive student revolt against Columbia University. When it was time to face legal charges, however, he disappeared. He now teaches remedial math at a junior college.
Donald Trump did not use drugs, and had no problems with the law - until he reached bankruptcy court. The ultimate yuppie accumulated garish buildings and great wealth - and then it came crashing down.
Marianne Williamson, a beautiful cheerleader, then a profligate hippie, later sought to heal the spiritual degeneration of her generation as a populist preacher. Among her flock: Barbra Streisand, Oprah, Cher and Bill Clinton.
Nina Hartley learned from the feminist movement that she could do whatever she wanted with her life. When she chose to become a porn star, most feminists roundly condemned her.
And the list goes on. This generation may have had the pretensions and recklessness of revolutionaries, but for the most part they've ended up far more diverse - and more like their parents - than they would have ever dreamed.
Some have gone on to do important work; others have drifted into irrelevance. Two of those profiled stamped the boomer name on technology's history: Steve Capps, one of the authors of the graphical user interface at Apple Computer and now a software architect for Microsoft; and John Gage, the chief science officer for Sun Microsystems.
If the upheavals of the 1960s were a response to a perceived repression and secrecy of American society, the drug chemists and student revolutionaries profiled here didn't change much for the better. The true heroes have been the dogged, diligent nerds. Their silver bullet is the Internet. Its universal information has threatened illegitimate governments as no self-appointed subversives ever could.
At the end of the millennium, John Gage offers the long view on the boomer generation, and its crowning triumph: "We've put windows in walls. And we should be proud of it."
Daniel Evan Weiss is the New York-based author ofThe Roaches Have No King and other novels.