I blame the minivan, says journalist Christopher Noxon, referring insouciantly to the brainstorm behind Rejuvenile: Kickball, Cartoons, Cupcakes, and the Reinvention of the American Grown-up. Faced with a growing family, he morosely swaps his single-guy ride for a family-man van, a vehicle with the power to prompt a rejuvenile reckoning. Rejuvenile is Noxon's playful reckoning with a curious sociological phenomenon, a new breed of American adult who cultivate(s) tastes and mind-sets traditionally associated with those younger than themselves. Many rejuveniles wait longer to move from their childhood homes, marry and start families and give up skateboarding. As Noxon's breezy, contrarian reportage shows, they are obsessed with playtime, Popsicles, Legos and Disneyland anything that can revive the wondrous, fun and carefree qualities of childhood. Noxon, admittedly driven by his own inner child, wants to know if this trend is a refreshing new take on adulthood, or rank irresponsibility. With the focus of a toddler entranced by a bright, shiny object, Noxon examines rejuvenalia's roots (blame it on Peter Pan), how rejuveniles work and play and the toys they choose to play with (mouse ears, anyone?), and their social and parenting skills (or lack thereof). Especially intriguing chapters are devoted to the toyification of American culture and the influence of Uncle Walt Disney.
Rejuvenile is an amusing read but lacks heft as an important sociological study; the author seems more fascinated with the quirkiness of his topic than in plunging into the depths and illusions that motivate this current mode of human behavior in America. The book's final chapter is a conflicted, inconclusive wheeze on the future of the rejuvenile grown-up (oxymoron, anyone?), which Noxon tries to shore up with erudite references to Rousseau, Einstein, Montagu, and existential query: On balance, are we born good or bad? The jury hopefully peopled with mature, clear-thinking grown-ups is still out on that one. Alison Hood is a writer in San Rafael, California.