"The days of travel writing being produced by someone wearing a pith helmet and clutching a pink gin are thankfully over. The new generation of travel writers are increasingly venturing into uncharted territories,” opens up a review of Melanie McGrath's book Hard, Soft And Wet.
I read the book in three days, in betwixt my translations, stupidities from across-the-road, dodging attacks by unaccompanied dogs and other pleasures of this year’s Purim. I read it fast, not because it was so interesting but because it was a no-brainer.
The book alleges a discussion of the new, technologically savvy generation. Why it was filed under 303.483 4 is really beyond me, because it happens to be a composite biography of a very sad, very lonely and very, oh, so very British single. It didn’t tell me anything new about California, about the Internet history of Middle-Earth, or about the “new” generation (??) that I did not really know already. The Internet as a new fad – been there, done that. The backlash – still writing about it. The Internet might have changed the world a bit, but it didn’t transform it. Garbage is everywhere, Internet included, and that is not necessarily caused by the Internet but by the fact that majority of humanity has garbolla in their crania. Basta! “New” technological generation? Oh, what a cliché? I was 30 when I learned programming in Basic and toyed with Pascal, 32 when I computerized the school I ran and 36 when I was a full-blown Internet geek. I am the same generation as the “sad, pink-eyed, lonely, Ecstasy swallowing and alcohol imbibing” McGrath’s heroine, and I don’t think one needs to travel from California to Singapore via shady Moscow and drab Prague to get drunk and stoned.
Having finished the book, I still don’t know what it was set to be about. In an interview by Spike she says that even though she was under 35 [in 1997 when the rag was published], she keenly felt the generational gap which is made obvious by technology. “The thing is that for people of my generation cyberspace is a novelty, whereas for the generation below me it's invisible; it's invisible as the television is to us or the radio is to our parents. So I thought it would be a great idea to write a portrait of the Digital Generation because they were being largely ignored in this great mushroom cloud of hyperbole." Give us a break! Had you been around teenagers for ever, like I did on account of being a teacher; had you had a REAL interest in people, not one motivated by profiteering; had you been less Anglo-insular and more open to embracing change and moving along with it, all this stuff in your book would have been irrelevant. As for hyperbole, it abounds in the book. London is drab, drab, drab (not my reminiscence of the place), all teenagers have skate-boards, Moscovites are mostly drunk, everyone in Prague is using drugs, etc. etc. Hyperbole and stereotypes and nothing at all original in the 270+ pages of the book. Pity the trees that went down to produce a rag.
If the book gave me an insight into anything at all, it was the state of mind of British women, middle-class, white and over 30. Lonely, unsure of themselves, colourless, addiction-prone, continually trying to be someone or something else, seeking remedial sex – sex that would validate them, instead of remedial intellect. Stuffing their faces with junk food, alcohol or drugs to stave off depression that continually threatens to engulf them. Aimless. Directionless. Sad, sad, sad.
Remind me to avoid any future productions by this writer. A few other interesting books have arrived in the mail and shucks, I think I need to get to Ikea to grab a few more shelves J
Yes, ok, addiction prone, too. Must be generational!