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The 'Singular' Ethos

November 30, 1986

Joanna Lennon's amateurish, occasionally incoherent review of my first book, "The Singular Generation" (View, Nov. 13) completely missed the point of my book.

"The Singular Generation" is the first serious attempt to write a corrective portrait of a generation too often dismissed by the media and society as yuppies or self-serving careerists.

In fact, her comments give one pause as to whether she really read the book or merely skimmed the jacket copy.

She writes: "Urbanska . . . thinks singulars are swell just as they are. They hold the answers to salvation in the future. Somehow, cultivating the self will save us from nuclear destruction."

Had Lennon read the book, she couldn't have missed the chapter on nuclear war, which carries a warning against apathy as its chief argument. On p. 234, I wrote: "Singulars must fight for the survival of our species and for this fragile vessel that Buckminster Fuller named 'Spaceship Earth.' We can make a start by shucking the protective coating of psychic numbness and learning the facts. . . . By doing our own digging, we can gain influence over decision makers in Congress, the Pentagon and the White House who are shaping or denying us a future. . . . While passionate singularity is in many respects the strength of our generation, with regard to lifting the shadow of nuclear darkness, it has so far proved paralyzing."

Further eroding her critical credibility, Lennon mistakenly equates my book with a "new discovery of shameless narcissism and materialism" and writes, "perhaps selfishness is the new way to achieve momentous change, as Urbanska claims."

But my book spells out the economic climate under which the singular generation lives, which is not one of unbounded materialism--quite the contrary--but one in which the middle class is shrinking, and job opportunities are diminishing, especially for the young. Clearly downward economic mobility has given shape to the work-driven character of the generation. Although this is such a basic point that I mention it repeatedly and in every chapter, in the entire review, never once does Lennon invoke it.

I would be the first to admit that the singular generation has its share of problems. But if the Los Angeles Times' book reviewer is not capable of reading a book before indicting it, we are all in deeper trouble than I realized.


Orchard Gap, Va.

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