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Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated…

Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (1991)

by Douglas Coupland

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Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
A book written in 1990 describing what baby boomers/yuppies did to the country. Could easily be about today, the way things that were annoying then are now extreme. It was also like a trip down memory lane. ( )
  zmagic69 | Jul 11, 2014 |
Wow, talk about reading a book at the right time in your life. If you’re in your twenties, fresh out of college, and in that phase where you’re trying to get your life sorted out, this is the book for you.

We live in a time where our options are limited and we’re forced to conform to “the system” – AKA you can’t get a good job without a college degree and most of us can’t get a college degree without putting ourselves into overwhelming debt, and then we can’t get jobs without experience but we can’t get experience without jobs. It’s a vicious cycle, but one we’re forced into. My father didn’t go to college but was still able to get a job that paid well enough to put him into the upper middle class. That’s not an option my generation has, and there’s this whole sense of “wtf is the point then?” among us.

Everything is bigger than us. Giant corporations control what we buy and what we can afford, the bank more or less controls everything else, including whether or not we’re qualified for a home, a car, or other things life has taught us are necessities but we learn are often outside our reach. Our protests don’t mean much, and the person with more money always seems to win. It’s frustrating to feel so small, and I think Generation X can be summed up by the following:

“We know that this is why the three of us left our lives behind us and came to the desert – to tell stories and to make our own lives worthwhile tales in the process.”

I love it. I love the idea of living my life through a story, because we all want our lives to have meaning. And the jealousy Andy feels at realizing the Baby Boomers hit the “genetic lottery” (able to attain good jobs and various luxuries without having to throw oneself into a lifetime of debt) is something I personally feel every time another student loan bill shows up in my mailbox or I get a call from a collection agent. The desire for a simpler time, to just run away to the desert and escape everything, resonates within me, and in that regard I really feel like I connected with this book.

I wouldn’t consider this a traditional book by any means. I didn’t really care for the characters so much as the ideas of the book. There wasn’t really a story (there were lots of tales within the book, but not really a cohesive storyline) – it was more the existence of the characters. I have no problem with this, but some might, so I thought it worth mentioning. However, the ending was really weird, I’m not going to lie. I’m still not sure what happened exactly, except perhaps Andy had some sort of spiritual experience he felt gave his life meaning. It’s my best guess. And the ending did throw me a bit, because it didn’t feel like it was part of the main book. But honestly, I loved this book too much to really care, because I felt like it was the truth of today written in a book. ( )
  BookishMatters | Nov 27, 2013 |
The first time I read Catcher in the Rye, it was just a right place right time kind of thing. I loved it because it was a revelation that someone out there just got what it was like to feel how I felt. That was high school. Looking back, a lot of other kids probably felt the same way, but at the time, it truly felt like it was written just for me.
It's over a decade later now, and Generation X is the Catcher in the Rye of my nearly-30s. Even though it was written for and about people a decade or two older than me, it found its way to me at just the right time. It's funny the way we tend to think we're oh so different than people from other generations. But when you read a book like this one, you see a lot more of the similarities. ( )
  amyolivia | Oct 25, 2013 |
I first read this book when it was most relevant to me. A friend, one of those friends who is not particularly hipster but always seems to know what's sharp on the bleeding edge, loaned it to me. It had that early 20s ring of authenticity. I thought it was marvellous.

I was disappointed by every single subsequent Coupland book and eventually stopped reading him. It was hard to reconcile the author of Generation X with the author of Girlfriend in a Coma. Were they really the same guy?

Re-reading it now, 21 years later, I can see all the stylistic quirks and tedious fixations that so depressed me in all his other work and the joy and relief and recognition I once felt reading Generation X is hardly even a memory.

This is a book about storytelling and fear and the pomposity of youth. It's pretty good.

( )
  veracite | Apr 7, 2013 |
My reactions to reading this book in 1992. Spoilers follow.

I read this shortly after reading Generations by William Strauss and Neill Howe. Their nonfiction work of sociology and history claimed that the reactive generational types (particularly, the Lost Generation which produced Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and F. Scott Fitzgerald) often produce America’s best writers. I wanted to see what Coupland would have to say about our mutual generation, the reactive 13ers, and our plight and attitudes, so my reaction is twofold to this book: one on its literary merits, one on how truthful it is portraying our generation.

On the literary level, it’s a quick, fun read. I won’t say you really come to care for Claire Baxter, Dagmar Bellinghaus, and narrator Andrew Palmer, but they are interesting to be around -- at least on the edited, organized printed page. Coupland does try to reach for a new image or metaphor (most of which seem to be drawn from pop culture or achitecture) too hard sometimes, but some of them are genuinely arresting like comparing the future to a “horrible diseased drifter”. It strikes me that this book, filled with little tales Dag, Clair, and Andy (and a couple of ther minor characters) tell each is a sort of anti-Canterbury Tales. The novel starts out in the desert of Palm Springs and ends in the desert of Calexico, Mexico. There is no movement to a City of God, a spiritual enlightenment, a new understanding of self, or even a future (Dag at one point laments of “futurelessness”), only a physical movement (appropriate since reactive generations are often referred to as peripatetic). The tales the characters tell ring with frustrated quests, apocalypse, longing, frustrated ambition, and loneliness. Dag’s tale of apocalypse met in a supermarket, a boy chasing lightening storms across the prairie hoping to be struck, Claire’s tales of fatal -- yet longed for -- love on the strange asteroid Texlahoma where it’s always a strange twisted version of a dark 1974, Claire’s tale of the woman that implodes upon spiritual enlightenment, Eluissa’s tale of a long hoped reunion with an ex-lover that comes to nothing. As Dag says, life in this book is “kind of scary, kind of sexy, and tainted by regret”. In the end, when Claire, Dag, and Andy go to Mexico to live on “the lurider side of the fence”, to enact their “difficult destinies”, I sensed little psychological, little psychic change in the main character,s merely an external manifestation of their lifestyle attitudes by moving to Mexico and getting a hotel. I don’t think this is bad. I don’t believe in the “requirement” that characters must change in a story. The best part of the novel is the marginalia: the cartoons, stamps, and coined phrases. The latter are especially truthful in detailing 13er plights and attitudes. Several are humorous and deserve wider use.

To me, the book seemed to have a lot of truth in it about Coupland’s and mine generation. Dag shows the 13er resentment of old people (the retirement leeches of the civic generation of G.I.s whose mooching is detailed in an appendix of statistics) and Boomers who have won “a genetic lottery” and lucked into the jobs reactives want. There are the relatively uneducated, but ambitious “Global Teens”, the ones who want to work for a big corporation and earn lots of money. And there is the love of fashion. Its interesting to contrast the novel with the slovenly portrayal of 13ers in the movie Slackers. Both, though, feature characters aimless, befuddled, voraciously consuming pop culture, and who are devotees of conspiracy theories and paranoia.) and feelings of desperation, futility, and anger at being robbed of a future which most 13ers (me included) have to one extent or another. I feel somewhat removed from these characters though. They seem, by my standards, to be rather wealthy in their clothes and travel. I feel this may explain the book’s running attacks on consumerism (and Republicans and nuclear power -- all of which give the book a liberal feel) and marketing. Coupland even explains this with a sidebar word: “Conspicous Minimalism: A life-style tactic similar to Status Substitution. The nonownership of material goods flaunted as a token of moral and intellectual superiority.” and "Lessness: A philosophy whereby one reconciles oneself with diminishing expectations and material wealth”. Coupland is ironically suggesting his three main characters have only convinced themselves they don’t want things and the good life, softened their frustration by denying their original desire. In short, I don’t feel there’s any great statement in this book, no revelation of 13er psyche it moves to, but it is a truthful book in describing some of my generation’s anger, aimlessness, frustrations, and concerns. ( )
  RandyStafford | Dec 16, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Douglas Couplandprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fastenau, JanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kuitenbrouwer, JanContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Her hair was totally 1950s Indina Woolworth perfume

clerk. You know-sweet and dumb-she'll marry her way

out of the trailer park some day soon. But the dress was

early '60s Aeroflot stewardess-you know-that really sad

blue the Russians used before they all started wanting to

buy Sonys and having Guy Laroche design their Politburo

caps. And such make-up! Perfect '70s Mary Quant, with

these little PVC floral appliqué earrings that looked like

antiskid bathtub stickers from a gay Hollywood tub circe

1956. She really caught the sadness-she was the hippest

person there. Totally."

"They're my children. Adults or not, I just can't kick them

out of the house. It would be cruel. And besides-they're

great cooks."

First words
Back in the late 1970s, when I was fifteen years old, I spent every penny I then had in the bank to fly across the continent in a 747 jet to Brandon, Manitoba, deep in the Canadian prairies, to witness a total eclipse of the sun.
"You see, when you're middle class, you have to live with the fact that history will ignore you. You have to live with the fact that history will never champion your causes and that history will never feel sorry for you. It is the price paid for day-to-day comfort and silence. And because of this price, all happinesses are sterile; all sadnesses go unoticed. And any small moments of intense, flaring beauty such as this morning's will be utterly forgotten, dissolved by time like a super-8 film left out in the rain, without sound, and quickly replaced by thousands of silently growing trees."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 031205436X, Paperback)

Generation X is Douglas Coupland's acclaimed salute to the generation born in the late 1950s and 1960s--a generation known vaguely up to then as "twentysomething."

Andy, Claire, and Dag, each in their twenties, have quit "pointless jobs done grudgingly to little applause" in their respective hometowns and cut themselves adrift on the California desert. In search of the drastic changes that will lend meaning to their lives, they've mired themselves in the detritus of American cultural memory. Refugees from history, the three develop an ascetic regime of story-telling, boozing, and working McJobs--"low-pay, low-prestige, low-benefit, no-future jobs in the service industry." They create modern fables of love and death among the cosmetic surgery parlors and cocktail bars of Palm Springs, disturbingly funny tales of nuclear waste, historical overdosing, and mall culture.

A dark snapshot of the trio's highly fortressed inner world quickly emerges--landscapes peopled with dead TV shows, "Elvis moments," and semi-disposable Swedish furniture. And from these landscapes, deeper portraits emerge, those of fanatically independent individuals, pathologically ambivalent about the future and brimming with unsatisfied longings for permanence, for love, and for their own home. Andy, Dag, and Claire are underemployed, overeducated, intensely private, and unpredictable. Like the group they mirror, they have nowhere to assuage their fears, and no culture to replace their anomie.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:27:44 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Three twenty-something young adults, working at low-paying, no-future jobs, tell one another modern tales of love and death.

» see all 2 descriptions

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