Joyce Maynard David Tipmore - Essay

David Tipmore

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Prepare yourselves. [In "Looking Back",] Joyce Maynard introduces a whole new angle into the Gap Game. Remember the Generation Gap and the Credibility Gap and the Communication Gap and now the Great Watergate Gapola? Well, Maynard unloads one last Gap on us, the Generalization Gap, and let's hope it's the end of the load….

For 150 pages, Maynard scissor-kicks through media mania and yippie youth cults and over-solicitious Barbie dolls like Mark Spitz spotting the end of the pool. The '60s exhausted her and her generation, she tells us as her prose home movie rolls by, full of mood clues like hula hoops and Yardley slickers, Twiggy and Cheerios, sock-hops and SAT exams. The book is a cross of teen trauma and pop obituary, with Maynard playing Pancho to her generation's Cisco Kid. And for all the hype you've heard about her, Maynard is a fine writer who, when she's telling about her own experiences, sounds a lot like a lost diary…. It's deja vu with a down, but as Maynard says, "memory is, I think, a clue to why we are where we are now."

The question is: where are we and who is we? Yes, who is "we," Joyce? This "we" makes up the Generalization Gap and runs through the book like an old Burns and Allen routine. Whether it's a clever device or an unwitting habit, Maynard uses it with the deceptive ease of a film dissolve….

I think Maynard might actually be the new Shari Lewis: one minute she's just Joyce laying it on about being a collegiate virgin—and the next she's Lambchop, schmoozing about generalizational plights and problems like a whiz-kid Norman Vincent Peale. It's a real case of viewpoint ventriloquism….

If Joyce is really as tired as she sounds, if she's the fatigued little feeler who's endured the Kennedy years and Great White Dopes and trips to phony modeling agencies, then maybe she'd better slow down and ooze back into some of the lost childhood.

David Tipmore, "The Generalization Gap" (reprinted by permission of The Village Voice and the author; copyright © The Village Voice, Inc., 1973), in The Village Voice, Vol. 18, No. 35, August 30, 1973, p. 123.