cover image The Boomer

The Boomer

Marty Asher. Alfred A. Knopf, $15 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-375-41009-3

Tracing the life of his protagonist, identified as ""the boomer,"" from birth to death in childlike, ""see Spot run"" prose, Vintage Books editor-in-chief Asher delivers a spare outline of one man's life, which nevertheless manages to capture many boomer-generation milestones and anxieties with winning pathos. Divided into 100 paragraph-long chapters, the book is illustrated with clever clip art and '50s-style graphics that counterpoint the events experienced by the unnamed boomer. The facile childhood chapters describe school, vacation, homelife and even the boy's favorite lunch. But soon, with adolescence, the boomer's world becomes more complicated, and the rudimentary prose takes on a more satiric note. Leaving his unhappy family for college, the boomer enjoys sex, drugs and independence. Then simple pleasures soon give way to the responsibilities of adult life: ""The boomer graduated with honors. He got a good job in a large company. He rented a small walk-up apartment. A woman gave him a cat."" The boomer eventually marries this woman, and when she has a son, he decides to love his wife. The family accumulates material goods, and acquires a soon to be beloved dog, as the boomer gets steadily promoted at his job. The boomer's son goes to college and tells his father that he's gay, the dog dies, the boomer enters a serious depression and gets into a car accident. Life is not quite the same after that, and the confused boomer moves in with another woman during his midlife crisis. The narrative maintains its deadpan tone throughout, summarily stylizing the character's life into flat, expository pantomime, but the implications are unmistakable. The boomer emerges as a sympathetic character who lived through '50s conformism, late-'60s rebellion, '70s aimlessness, '80s consumerism and beyond, and his death has full emotional impact. Asher's protagonist is sure to remind America's largest demographic of someone they know very well. Illus. from the CSA Archives, augmented by Chip Kidd. QPB alternate. (May)