Generation X by Douglas Coupland, 1991, 211 pages
First of all, the full title is Generation X: Tales for an Accellerated Culture but WE DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THAT. It was nominated for Canada Reads in 2010, but otherwise hasn’t been nominated for any major awards. Not that we’re judging, we haven’t either.
Andy, Dag and Claire have been handed a society priced beyond their means. Twentysomethings, brought up with divorce, Watergate and Three Mile Island, and scarred by the 80s fall-out of yuppies, recession, crack and Ronald Reagan, they represent the new generation – Generation X.
Fiercely suspicious of being lumped together as an advertiser’s target market, they have quit dreary careers and cut themselves adrift in the California desert. Unsure of their futures, they immerse themselves in a regime of heavy drinking and working at no-future McJobs in the service industry.
Underemployed, overeducated, intensely private and unpredictable, they have nowhere to direct their anger, no one to assuage their fears, and no culture to replace their anomie. So they tell stories; disturbingly funny tales that reveal their barricaded inner world.
Kathleen: It took me awhile to get into this book, but once I did I LIKED IT. I should note that it took a while for me to realize there was actually a plot, and when I did, it still didn’t seem to be that important. What I enjoyed the most are the stories that they tell each other to pass the time – it’s like a novel and a book of short stories all in one! Like eating cake and mini quiches AT THE SAME TIME. Having said that, we seem to stumble upon the the climax, which comes out of an event that didn’t ever seem all that important.
My favourite part of the book was when they all describe what their best memory of Earth will be once they’ve died, and the only rule was that it couldn’t be an experience they had paid for. Everyone’s answers were so sweet and varied and interesting! There is also a really great scene on a Christmas morning, when Andy is having a shitty time at his parents house at Christmas (we’ve all been there, right?). He decides to light dozens of candles on disposable aluminium plates, and won’t let anyone come downstairs until he’s finished. When they do come, they all come together for just a little bit to appreciate the wonder of it. And then everything goes back to being terrible. CLASSIC.
Róisín: Okay okay okay so I read Generation X in high school about 10 years after it came out and rereading it now I was like ugh, this is TOO 90s. This is my mom’s Gen X (full disclosure my mom is younger than Douglas Coupland). She’s the one who got me into Coupland and this one is not a favourite. (Since you asked, my faves are (in this order): All Families Are Psychotic; Microserfs (ultimate 90s); and Girlfriend in a Coma).
I didn’t really love this book when I read it in high school but on this reread I was warmed and also alarmed by how much of it is now true to my experience from my 20s. This one is definitely due for a renaissance right? People love romanticising the early nineties right now. The format of this book seems very meme worthy with the urban dictionary like definitions in the margins and the playful format.
Kathleen: Oh girl I agree, v Urban Dictionary!
Róisín: This is not related to this book but I feel like I need to tell you all that when Douglas Coupland did the Massey Lectures I went to the one at U of T and Paul Gross fell asleep and everyone saw it.
Kathleen: This is also not related but all of you need to know that I hate Paul Gross.
VERDICT: Should it be on the 30 before 30?
Róisín: Aw yeah.
NEXT WEEK’S BOOK: The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis (spoiler: it’s not pronounced ‘phallus’)