In Europe and in America, the 1960s generation was pretty much the same. It was composed of student hustlers who became national political hustlers. Some were rock prodigies who continued as rock prodigies, rather pathetically into middle age and rather absurdly beyond. They did not amount to a majority of their generation, but they claimed to typify it, and their cheerleaders went along with the sham. They were called the most idealistic generation ever, and the call was close. Other idealistic generations -- for instance, the generation that founded this country -- fared better. Unfortunately, the 1960s generation was flawed from the start and never overcame its flaws.
Let us hope that we have seen the last of them. The other morning in The New York Times, David Hajdu, an associate professor of journalism at Columbia University, marked Bob Dylan's 70th birthday by noting how many voices from the 1960s had recently turned 70. John Lennon (R.I.P.), Joan Baez, Paul Simon and George Clinton were mentioned. Next year, Hajdu reverently enthused, Paul McCartney, Aretha Franklin, Carole King, Brian Wilson and Lou Reed will achieve their 70th. How long can this go on? Will no one from a younger generation note the obvious -- to wit, in the arts and in politics, the 1960s generation was a bust?
There are no Faulkners, no Hemingways, no Fitzgeralds. There are no Aaron Coplands or Virgil Thompsons. In drama, there is David Mamet, but that is about it. In Europe, there may be a little more life in the 1960s has-beens, but not much.
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