By Sigrid Nunez. Published in 2005.
The idealistic radicalism of the 1960s and ’70s has always bewildered me. I remember watching The Weather Underground, a documentary about the Weathermen, a violent organization of that era that sought to provoke revolution against the United States government, and feeling overwhelmed by the surge of conflicting emotions it inspired. As much as I abhor the violence of 1960s extremists and sneer at their misguided strategies and pity their naïveté and disdain many of their goals (I don’t support revolution, so back off, Gonzalez), I envy their conviction that real change is possible and that they had the power to effect it. I can’t comprehend that kind of idealism because I myself have never known it.
But I’m not the only one who was born disillusioned; one could say the same of many if not most of my generation. That’s certainly the implication of the title of Sigrid Nunez’s book, The Last of Her Kind, about a young woman who comes of age during the ’60s and ’70s. The novel’s protagonist and narrator is not, however, the heirless paragon, Ann Drayton, but her erstwhile friend, Georgette George. We see Ann through Georgette’s eyes, and we, too, chafe at Ann’s self-righteousness yet respond nonetheless to her principled certainty and charisma. She might be sanctimonious, but she holds herself to the same standards she does everyone else, and that relentlessness makes her far more intriguing than your average holier-than-thou hippie.