As I opened the first page of The Sun Also Rises, it had the following quote from Ecclesiastes in old King James English:
"One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth forever....The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to the place where he arose....The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits....All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again."
There is something of a cosmic connection between my life as a Gen Xer and Hemingway, because my great grandmother (who was one of my main connections from the last Lost Generation) and Hemingway were born only a couple of hours and months apart. What is fascinating to me as a generational writer is that as a child, I was held in the embrace of both maternal and paternal great-grandparents - people born in the 1890s or very soon after, and when I hold my daughter who was born after the millennium, I sometimes pause and feel amazed at the fact that my skin has felt the embrace of people who came from three separate centuries.
Within Hemingway's stories are those deeply affected by WWI; those trying to not remember it. After the war, there is this partying and bar-hopping lifestyle that many younger people took on as they attempted to blot out the bad memories of the war. With that lifestyle came this futility, this lack of joy, a realization that excess leads to nowhere. That may be one of the biggest similarities between the current Lost Generation and the last one: a need to blot out the bad memories.
In The Sun Also Rises, a character says, "Don't you ever get the feeling that all your life is going by and you're not taking advantage of it? Do you realize you've lived nearly half the time you have to live already?"
This is the last time I'll read Hemingway. While our youth is full of firsts, once we reach middle age, we begin to experience all of our lasts. His words often make me feel like I am standing, completely alone at an empty beach and the person who was supposed to meet there to watch the sunset with me never showed up.
"You are all a lost generation." -Gertrude Stein