Jonathan Lethem on Being Outre

This seriocomic quote from Jonathan Lethem, author of Men and Cartoons and The Fortress of Solitude, succinctly sums up the pervasive sense of outsider-ness many creative types of my generation (x) experience to this day:

“Listen, you can’t imagine what a freak I was. I worked in used bookstores as a teenager. I grew up with hippie parents. I lived in a ten-year cultural lag. At all times. I had not the faintest idea what was contemporary. When I got to Bennington, and I found that Richard Brautigan and Thomas Berger and Kurt Vonnegut and Donald Barthelme were not ‘the contemporary,’ but were in fact awkward and embarrassing and had been overthrown by something else, I was as disconcerted as a time traveler. The world I’d dwelled in was now apocryphal. No one read Henry Miller and Lawrence Durrell, the Beats were regarded with embarrassment. When all that was swept away, I stopped knowing what contemporary literature was. I didn’t replace it; I just stopped knowing.”

— Jonathan Lethem in The Paris Review, 2003

Via The Atlantic.