Thursday, March 14, 2013

The 1960s as a Shifting Point

Here's an Article I did recently for Tina's Book Reviews (Link)

Your book is set in the 60's. What about this decade stands out to you as a shifting point in American culture?

Being set in the 1960s, Coinage of Commitment does highlight cultural change aspects of the one decade that still stands out from every other. The campus drug culture gets only grazing treatment, but the Wayne/Nancy love story, as portrayed in the book’s first half, can seem an embodiment of the decade’s sexual revolution. True, Wayne’s family object to the relationship on the basis of traditional morality. But the Sexual Revolution became infamous because it loudly promoted—with the help of the media—promiscuity, something, by the way, it never delivered on any large scale. Indeed, a study on sexual attitudes by the Playboy Foundation, published in 1973-74, found that Baby Boomers still overwhelming viewed marriage as their romantic destination. I remember the study because it shocked into silence many counterculture pundits who had been loudly predicting for years (and I am not making this up) the imminent demise of marriage as a legal institution.

But let’s come back to the Wayne/Nancy romance. Although it’s hardly a spoiler to reveal that it develops into a pre-marital affair, it’s a relationship based on a lifetime commitment. That’s hardly ammunition for a sexual revolution. But it is the kind of shift from the previous generation that was more typical of what many experienced in the 1960s.

What made the decade so exciting to Baby Boomers was the combination of unprecedented media blitz and our youthful denial of any risk factors. It came from a cultural frenzy that fed on itself during the decade’s last few years. Our media and rock star idols taught us to disbelieve the previous generation, and that created the illusion that we had reinvented human nature and that traditional moral hazards didn’t apply to us. But we were wrong. The risks in our behavior may not have been as high as preached by our parents, but they were real, and Baby Boomers went on to learn this lesson the hard way.

In Coinage of Commitment, Wayne and Nancy embark upon a bold romantic adventure. They definitely are pathfinders in that they seek a love in each other that’s higher, richer, longer lasting than any that’s come before. They commit their lives to each other and live together in a bonding that’s entirely traditional except that marriage is deferred instead of coming first. They have tremendous obstacles to overcome before achieving the intimacy each has craved and dreamed of. So perhaps it’s understandable that they don’t give an ounce of thought to the risks they are taking as they approach their first night of bliss. Soon Wayne will sense, if vaguely, the small risks inherent to their relationship. What he does about this and how the risks play out over time is a theme explored by the book right down to its final paragraphs.

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