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Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture - Part 2, Chapters 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23 Summary & Analysis

This Study Guide consists of approximately 40 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Generation X.
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Part 2, Chapters 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23 Summary

"Why Am I Poor?"

Andy reveals that the phone call (from answered at the end of Chapter 17) was from his materialistic brother Tyler, who announces his plans to come for a visit after Christmas. Andy narrates how, while he's checking whether there's room at the bungalows, he saw Elvissa leaves and gets into Tobias' car. Andy then tells Tyler the timing of the visit will be fine, and Tyler warns him that Christmas at home will be "mondo weirdo," hinting that he would like expensive presents and closing the conversation by listing his clothing sizes.

"Celebrities Die"

In this flashback chapter, as Andy recalls a dull evening at work (livened only by the bad jokes of Mr. MacArthur, his affable middle aged boss), he also recalls a narrated comment from Dag on how he sometimes forgets whether celebrities are alive or dead, and on how he (Dag) sometimes has the same problem with Mr. MacArthur. After leaving work, Andy and Dag stroll through downtown Palm Springs. On a side street, Dag sits on an expensive car, lights a cigarette, and burns marks into the car's roof as he tells the increasingly nervous Andy about his kitschy dream hotel (where, Dag says, "people who told good stories could stay for free"). Andy finally convinces Dag to leave before someone catches them vandalizing the car, but just as Dag is getting off the car, he accidentally drops his cigarette through its open sun roof and onto a pile of papers into its back seat. He and Andy watch in horror as the papers catch fire and eventually engulf the car, and then run desperately away, convincing themselves they will never be caught.

"I Am Not Jealous"

Andy reveals that according to Claire, Elvissa has left town to work as a gardener in a spiritual retreat. Dag speaks mockingly of Elvissa's apparent desire to de-materialize her life, but Claire speaks angrily to him, essentially calling him ineffective and a poser, demanding that he look at what he's done to his life and move on into the future. Andy then narrates how he and his friends once again started telling stories.

"Leave your Body"

Claire speaks of a very wealthy young woman named Linda, who was so desperate to find some kind of meaning in her life after being abandoned by her adoring but dead father and selfish mother that she entered into a strict, lengthy meditation program based on a far Eastern spiritual discipline. She describes how, as Linda went through the program, her garden grew into something wild and beautiful - and how, near the end of the program, a priest of the original Eastern discipline heard of her situation and came to tell her that she had misinterpreted the rules and meditated for far too long. Claire then describes how he realized Linda had gone spiritually further than he ever did or could, how when he touched her her bones crumbled into dust, and how her soul "flitted heavenward", singing like the beautiful birds that used to sing to her and her father.

"Grow Flowers"

In this very brief chapter, Andy narrates how he used to randomly sow daffodil bulbs in his family's back garden, and how they grew into random beauty. He then describes his joy at waking up and seeing his friends crashed and sleeping nearby (see "Quotes," p. 130). "These creatures here in this room with me - these are the creatures I love and who love me. Together I feel like we are a strange and forbidden garden - I feel so happy I could die. If I could have it thus, I would like this moment to continue forever."

Part 2, Chapters 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23 Analysis

There are a lot of important events in this section, all of which function on different levels. Tyler's conversation with Andy foreshadows the important visit Andy pays to his parents over Christmas, while the incident with the burning car foreshadows Dag's eventual confrontation with the possibility that he too can live a more authentic life. This confrontation (which takes place in Chapter 29) is also foreshadowed in his confrontation with Claire, who seems to be moving forward on her own journey towards authenticity.

Meanwhile, the detailed exploration of the life of Mr. MacArthur, which seems on first glance to be an unnecessary diversion from the main action, can actually be seen as a manifestation of the comfortable, unconsidered but placidly happy life that Andy and his friends are so desperate to avoid. What Andy realizes (but Dag doesn't) is that continuing to live life as stories is, in its own way, as unconsidered a life as that which he seems to condemn, or at least to ridicule, in MacArthur and his wife. There is, by the way, a certain degree of irony in the name MacArthur, in that this quietly aimless but content man happens to have the same last name as one of the most determined and ambitious but still self-deluded military figures in the history of the United States military, Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

Also important is Claire's detailed story about Linda, yet another example of how the central characters disguise truths about themselves in their stories - it seems quite clear that Linda's desire for a more spiritual life is an (echo? manifestation?) of the same desire in Claire. While it's fairly certain that Claire is too self-interested to go to the lengths of self-deprivation that Linda goes to, it's also fairly certain that the narrative attention Claire pays to Linda's garden (see "Objects/Places") is evocative of a certain desire within Claire for a similar wild beauty.

Finally, the section closes with the most outright, the most passionate exhibition of human feeling in Andy in the book so far, a foreshadowing of the equally passionate feeling he experiences at the end of the book (see Chapters 30 and 31). On its own, however, this expression of passion can be seen as a vivid manifestation of one of the book's central thematic concerns, the celebration of friendship (see "Themes - The Power of Friendship").

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