Generation Dementia is at once a cautionary tale of our times and a hilarious, in-depth look at the current collection of kids who make up Generation Dementia.
The story starts innocently enough as we join high school senior Hash O’Connell on his rounds through his tiny village of Frick, rat-holing cast-off items of trash as he lurches along on the back of the town’s sole garbage truck.
Hash is good for a zinger-a-minute:
“The three times I spoke to him he called me Master Hash, which made me sound either like a rapper, or an expensive brand of canned meat.”
“To see the future, I clearly had to see past a forest of apes.”
And my favorite: “Artie’s mouth twisted north, like he’d caught me eating dog food.”
Don’t get me wrong. This is a serious work of fiction, mining the deep veins of rich characters and outre situations in the tradition of Michael Chabon and John Irving. But that doesn’t take anything away from its ability to endlessly entertain.
Hash is part of a sudden movement to introduce today’s youth to hard work by starting up a program to have them become trash collectors, rolling noisily through Frick’s suburbs early each morning, and attracting enough national attention to turn their endeavors into a prime-time reality show.
The long-buried diary of a Pulitzer Prize-winning local journalist turns up, and Hash relates portions of the 1960s meanderings in his own narrative, imparting off-handedly that he has to look up the actors John Wayne and Sidney Poitier in Wikipedia in order to understand a story an entry in the writer’s ancient accounts.
For such is the fate of Generation Dementia and every new generation in future years — to wonder amusedly at icons of their parents’ past while “sitting in a circle silently texting each other.”
Five-plus stars to Generation Dementia. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen writing this good.