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Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (1991)

by Douglas Coupland

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5,007581,628 (3.68)110
Andy, Dag and Claire have been handed a society beyond their means. Twentysomethings, brought up with divorce, Watergate and Three Mile Island, and scarred by the 80s fallout 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 in no future McJobs in the service industry. Underemployed, overeducated and intensely private and unpredicatable, 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. A world populated with dead TV shows, 'Elvis moments' and semi-disposible Swedish furniture.… (more)
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» See also 110 mentions

English (54)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (58)
Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
I first read this book shortly after it came out and it started my love affair with Douglas Coupland. It wasn't until very recently that I reread it. I'd been afraid that it wouldn't have passed the test of time--that it would seem as dated as the movie Singles. Fortunately, I still found it to be quite enjoyable. However, what I've found over Douglas Coupland's career, is that I most enjoy his novels set in the Pacific Northwest. He writes of the environment with a greater sense of authority--no doubt from living his life in and around Vancouver. One of his greatest strengths, in my opinion, is capturing the "feel" of life in the PNW.
The three main characters in Generation X have turned away from the expected path of their peers, namely the acquisition of careers and material goods. They're looking for happiness and meaning in simpler ways and their jobs are simply a mean to an ends--their jobs aren't their lives, their jobs are simply something to keep food in their bellies and a roof over their heads while they look for real meaning elsewhere. Even now, almost 20 years after the novel was published, there's something beautiful about that idea. ( )
  ltrahms | Jul 13, 2021 |
I had the same problem with this book that I have with any book, piece of artwork, song, or movie that attempts to speak to and/or about my generation.

Part of the problem is the sheer weight of representation: in their attempts to wax philosophical on life and its accompanying angst, what most prominently stands out in the words of Claire, Dag and Andy is either the pretension that comes with making any grand gesture meant to stand for a collective consciousness or the disingenuous gravity that accompanies "Proclamations of the 'Truth'" (that's 'truthiness' to you Colbert fans).

Whenever I catch Juno or Empire Records or the like on television I get that same feeling - a sense of naughty delight at the winsome words coming off of the screen dampened by the realization that NO ONE REALLY TALKS LIKE THIS, and if they do, they are probably too caught up with their own words to really care to listen to anyone else's. Which is not to say that I'm a stickler for realism either, but in this book there is a clear line between the sad suck of reality and the semi-magical realism of the tales these three windbags tend to dream up, and the realism part just doesn't work.

But I'm being harsh. I have no problem with environmental and social responsibility, or a lessening of hyperconsumption in all its forms. And I admit, if I'd read this maybe 9 or 10 years ago I might've absolutely gobbled it up whole, but I find it all tiresome now. There is a lot that does ring true here, but the execution is sometimes taxing.

Maybe it is the author's intention that the characters just sound like a group of ungrateful, vacuous people taking up space, and if so then the job is done. Some parts of this genuinely made me laugh and some of the characterizations are done very well, but I have a hard time swallowing books that are filled with whining, particularly the kind of whining where there is a wink at how clever it all is to whine in such a way.

I also have a hard time with this notion that the answer is "out there," in some fading desert - a la Coehlo's The Alchemist (or, worse yet, in an underprivileged foreign country) just waiting for some 20-something lost American middle-class soul to pluck it from the ether. The act is seen here as courageous when it is really some imperialist orientalist romanticism that has more to do with avoiding answers than really finding them.

Not that I have any answers either, but still. ( )
  irrelephant | Feb 21, 2021 |
It's rare for me to reread a book. Excluding different translations of the Odyssey and reading several Camus books in both English and French, I've probably only reread about 4 or 5 books in my entire life. Even if I love a book, and it's so a part of me, I won't reread it. I might glance at it or flip through to a beloved section, but that's it.

Not so with Generation X. I read this when it came out and at some time in the late 90s, probably preparing for a move, I donated the book to our local library. Now, starting off as a writer, I remember how much I loved the book and how I thought it was something written in my voice. I wanted to reread it. I bought a used copy from an independent bookstore and just finished the book last night. It was as fun and insightful this time as it was the first.

I loved the flow, the unique way of telling stories within stories, the pop culture and larger cultural changes going on around the three main characters.

Now, I am GenX myself and I could feel the emotions of all the characters, especially Andrew and even to some extent, Tobias. If you're a Gen X yourself or you're intrigued by this time and space in America, please (re)read this book. ( )
  drew_asson | Dec 3, 2020 |
Nothing really happens in this novel, but maybe that's a metaphor for GenXers lives or at least the way they see their lives? I'm firmly in the middle of Gen X, being born in 1970, maybe this book would have resonated more for me when I picked it up 20+ years ago. I don't think so. These seemed like "normal" white kids from suburban households. I was raised in white suburbia, but I was a punk rocker and a metalhead, I never aspired to corporate dominance and never (to this day) worried about climbing the corporate ladder. I didn't worry about being "successful" in the traditional sense and I wasn't worried about my parents being disappointed in me, they never were.

Anyway, this was witty at times, included a bunch of short stories told by the characters, which is kind of a cool mechanic. I liked the little border notes. Really though it was kind of boring. ( )
  ragwaine | Mar 11, 2020 |
  obtusata | Jan 9, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (22 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Douglas Couplandprimary authorall editionscalculated
Fastenau, JanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kuitenbrouwer, JanContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
"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."

TRACEY, 27
"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."

HELEN, 52
Dedication
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.
Quotations
"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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Wikipedia in English (2)

Andy, Dag and Claire have been handed a society beyond their means. Twentysomethings, brought up with divorce, Watergate and Three Mile Island, and scarred by the 80s fallout 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 in no future McJobs in the service industry. Underemployed, overeducated and intensely private and unpredicatable, 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. A world populated with dead TV shows, 'Elvis moments' and semi-disposible Swedish furniture.

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