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Book News

A Baby Boomer manifesto

'Dave Barry Turns 50'
Dave Barry

Crown, $22

Review by L.D. Meagher

Web posted on: Tuesday, November 10, 1998 12:05:14 PM EST

(CNN) -- Who speaks for the Baby Boom? There was a time when the voice of the largest generation in American history was Elvis. At another time, it was Bob Dylan or John Lennon. We embraced them because they had the audacity to say out loud what we were all thinking. Elvis and Lennon are gone now, and when Dylan speaks these days, no one is quite sure what he's saying. So who can take up the mantle? Who will step forward and express for us all the hopes and dreams, desires and disillusionment, angst and alienation that we Boomers see as our birthright?

Dave Barry, of course.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist takes up the gauntlet as spokesman for the "My Generation" generation in "Dave Barry Turns 50". He boldly addresses the questions that plague us Boomers at mid-life, such as: "Where did I leave my reading glasses?"

Yes, fellow Mouseketeers, we're getting older. We are reaching middle age (assuming we all live to be 100) and it's time for a moment of reflection. Barry begins by time tripping through the formative years of the Baby Boom, 1947 to 1974. He reviews the major events of each year (example: "1965 was the year of the first TV commercial featuring Mister Whipple, the grocer who could not resist fondling Charmin-brand toilet paper. I'm not saying that this is the only reason why the nation went to hell for the next decade or so; I'm just saying it was a factor.") and identifies the trends that defined a generation.

"1949…was also the year that the Russians, by cheating, got the atomic bomb, which was very bad because we knew that if they had the opportunity the would fly over here and drop it on our cherished way of life. And thus one of the defining experiences of Boomer childhood would become the nuclear-attack drill at school, wherein the teachers had us kids practice protecting ourselves by crouching under our desks, which were apparently made out of some kind of atomic-bomb-proof wood."

Barry's reminiscences are often hilarious, sometimes brilliantly evocative (a phrase Dave himself suggested). He recalls the cultural touchstones that unite the Boomer generation: Annette, The Beaver, Davy Crockett, Batman, The Troggs, and that colossus, who bestrides the era above all others, Buffalo Bob. He relives seminal moments: The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, the Watergate hearings, the Summer of Love, the introduction of the Frisbee.

"Dave Barry Turns 50" is no mere exercise in nostalgia. It also offers practical advice for the Boomers of today. There are "Tips on Looking Young (Fact: Dick Clark Actually Died in 1972)" and "Sending Your Child to College (Remember: You Don't Need Both of Your Kidneys.)" And there are cogent observations on living the life of an aging Boomer. One of Barry's "10 Signs That You Might Be Losing It" is: "When you drive your car, you notice that people yell at you a lot. Often, these people are lying on your hood." In "25 Things I Have Learned in 50 Years" he observes: "There is a fine line between 'hobby' and 'mental illness'."

If the Baby Boom is a generation composed almost exclusively of whiners, as our parents and-increasingly-our children assert, let us proclaim Dave Barry our Whiner-in-Chief. Let us embrace "Dave Barry Turns 50" as our Boomer manifesto. Just as soon as we find our reading glasses.

L.D. Meagher, a proud member of the Baby Boom, was born 10 days before Dwight D. Eisenhower was first elected President. He is a senior writer at CNN Headline News and has been a broadcaster since the first Nixon Administration.

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