One Man, two kids, ten devices and an internet-sized generation gap
by William Knight
Genre: Humorous Fiction
From a former Guardian and BBC writer, and author of The Donated, comes a hilarious story of mid-life crisis, family, technology, and coping with the modern workplace.
Jack Cooper is a depressed, analogue throwback; a cynical, alcoholic Gen-Xer whose glory days are behind him. He’s unemployed, his marriage has broken down, he’s addicted to internet hook-ups, and is deeply ashamed of his son Geronimo, who lives life dressed as a bear.
When Jack’s daughter engineers a job for him at totally-lit tech firm Sweet, he’s confronted by a Millennial and Zoomer culture he can’t relate to. He loathes every detail – every IM, gif and emoji – apart from Freya, twenty years his junior and addicted to broadcasting her life on social media.
Can Jack evolve to fit in at Sweet, or will he remain a dinosaur stuck in the 1980s? And will he halt his slide into loneliness and repair his family relationships?
XYZ is for every Gen-Xer who ever struggled with a device, and for everyone else who loves emojis … said no one ever.
‘Essential reading for anyone in the workplace over 40, and a handbook for those cocky bastards who are not.’
Paula (Boomer, wannabe GenX)
“Look. I’ve got a couple of suggestions of books for you to read. But what we know is that full autonomy and full trust leads to full performance. It’s not enough to just say the behaviours like we’ve learnt them on a training course. We have to believe them and act on them.”
I don’t know where she gets these soundbites from. Some sort of online bullshit generator, probably. But I can see she’s deadly serious. Her eyes are narrowed like a dog watching a ball, and her lips are stretched so thin they’ve disappeared. I’ve been here a week, I’ve just resolved to do my best (like a cub scout, but let’s not go there), and most importantly I’ve promised myself I wouldn’t fuck up — for Em’s sake.
So I say, “Well of course. I’d be really happy to read anything you suggest, Amber. Thanks.”
I may have laid it on a bit thick, because she tips her head ever so slightly to one side — it’s like that dog again, the one that doesn’t quite understand what you’ve told it, but is happy you’re talking in its direction — she’s weighing me up. I bet she’s thinking I’m brontosaurus Jack Cooper.
She says, “I’m watching you, and if you so much as trample the wrong fern, or take a bath in the wrong lake, I’m going to set the T-Rex free and he’s gonna tear the flesh from your bones and make you into a leather easy-chair for the young ’uns to have a breakout catchup in.”
But she doesn’t, of course, actually say any of that. Instead she tells me she’s going to send me the links and says, “I think some of these are in the Sweet Library. I’m sure you’ll enjoy them.”
William Knight’s writing credits include The Guardian, The Financial Times and the BBC, among many others publications, where he has written about the successes and failings of technology.
He currently lives in Wellington, NZ, where he works as an IT consultant and writes blistering content for technology firms.
The Donated, (first published as Generation), is a thriller based on the dangers of experimenting with viral DNA and ignoring science. It features a techno-phobic journo.
XYZ is a mid-life car crash. Jack Cooper works for a super-cool tech firm and can’t operate his own mobile phone. Besides, his life is falling apart because his family is addicted to the internet.
Other novels, The Fractured and Foretold, may be available “one day” he says.