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Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture Paperback – Mar 15 1991

3.8 out of 5 stars 103 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st ed. Feb. 1991 edition (March 15 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031205436X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312054366
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 1.4 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars 103 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #30,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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Generation X should feel dated--its title is no longer a part of the zeitgeist, and the generation it defined has been irrevocably changed. Gen Xers--the post-boomers born in the 1960s and even the late '50s--are no longer the socially terrified twentysomethings that populate Douglas Coupland's first and finest novel. The economic boom of the late 1990s dragged them out of their McJobs and back into the corporate world, transforming them into younger versions of the yuppies that Coupland lampoons so well. Surprisingly, though, the culture that is described in Generation X has not changed all that much; it has simply been passed on, in an Internet-friendly form, to the latest crop of bright young things.

Those who missed Generation X when it first appeared may be surprised to find that most of the associations that have been tacked on to its catchphrase title are not present in the novel. Coupland's characters--Dag, Claire, and Andy, three young neurotics from "good" upper-middle-class homes--are not financially ambitious, but they are not slackers either. Rather than drearily complaining that there is nothing worth doing, they are trying very hard to make sense of their lives and their culture. They do this by telling stories to each other, desperately and sincerely. Andy likens his friends' need for storytelling to the proceedings of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting:

"Never be afraid to cough up a bit of diseased lung for the spectators," said a man who sat next to me at a meeting once, a man with skin like a half-cooked pie crust and who had five grown children who would no longer return his phone calls: "How are people ever going to help themselves if they can't grab onto a fragment of your own horror? People want that little fragment, they need it. That little piece of lung makes their own fragments less scary." I'm still looking for a description of storytelling as vital as this.
Storytelling is an ancient invention; Coupland simply restates its importance in a world of short attention spans and jump-cutting media. This side of Generation X hasn't aged at all and isn't likely to. And the other, better-known side of the novel--Coupland's razor-sharp cultural field guide--will remain relevant as long as university graduates still have to choose between economic uncertainty and corporate monoculture and still respond by refusing to grow up in conventional ways. Anyone who has avoided Generation X because of its unfortunate association with a few demographic buzzwords should consider giving Coupland a second look. --Jack Illingworth

From Publishers Weekly

Newcomer Coupland sheds light on an often overlooked segment of the population: "Generation X," the post-baby boomers who must endure "legislated nostalgia (to force a body of people to have memories they do not actually own)" and who indulge in "knee-jerk irony (the tendency to make flippant ironic comments as a reflexive matter of course . . . )." These are just two of the many terse, bitterly on-target observations and cartoons that season the margins of the text. The plot frames a loose Decameron -style collection of "bedtime stories" told by three friends, Dag, Andy and Claire, who have fled society for the relative tranquility of Palm Springs. They fantasize about nuclear Armageddon and the mythical but drab Texlahoma, located on an asteroid, where it is forever 1974. The true stories they relate are no less strange: Dag tells a particularly haunting tale about a Japanese businessman whose most prized possession, tragically, is a photo of Marilyn Monroe flashing. These stories, alternatively touching and hilarious, reveal the pain beneath the kitschy veneer of 1940s mementos and taxidermied chickens.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Douglas Coupland's cynicism is convulted and shallow and while I can see what some people can get out of his writing I see far more potential in reading "fin-de-siecle'' existentialist writers like musil, gombrowicz, broch, whom are terribly more interesting than Coupland with his cheap irony, and his gimmicky pseudo-post-modernism. Chuck Paliniuk also falls under this category. So while i was first disturbed by the amount of people calling this book boring, dismissing it as the problem of the reader, I now fully sympathize with their inability to appreciate coupland's writing.

There are too many terrific books to waste time on this overrated work.
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By Scoopriches TOP 1000 REVIEWER on Feb. 21 2013
Format: Paperback
Twenty plus years just breeze by in the blink of a McJob. I wonder what Andy, Dag, and Claire are doing today?

To back up to the past, I am looking at a book which writer, or would he prefer creator?, Douglas Coupland never seems happy with being analyzed. In 1991, he unleashed the fiction book disguised as a sociological breakdown, Generation X: Tales For An Accelerated Culture to the masses.

The book entered the cultural lexicon slowly, but soon the terms used and identified in it were co-opted by the media who scarcely understood it, and mostly grossly misquoted it. When I inhabited College shortly after Generation X came out, it became the go-to book for so many in my class. I finally imbibed right at the end of College, just so I could take part in the cool conversations with the cool kids.

And the funny thing is? I completely enjoyed it.

The characters. The philosophies. The entire package. And quite a package it is. But more on that later.

The narrative story here is the tale of three over-educated, under-employed twentysomethings who have ditched a normal life and gone to live and work in the dessert. Andy, our storyteller, is best friends with Dag and Claire. They live and wonder and reminisce about everything, from their futures to their families. Minutiae and grand thoughts are exposed here. Along the way, they share made up stories (are their any other kinds?) to entertain and enlighten each other.

The fears and foibles of the three are shown, and in some ways come to light, at the best part for me, when they head home for Christmas. They disembark from who they choose to be with and re-engage with whom they were born into.
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Format: Paperback
Coincidentally, the first novel I read by Coupland also happens to be the first novel he wrote. It follows the lives of Andy, Dag, and Claire. Late 20-ish adults who are living in the desert, doing basically nothing with their lives but telling each other stories. The story is told from Andy's point of view.
This novel sent me through a gamut of emotions. I called it everything from pretentious to decent. It had the ability to depress while entertaining. I found the beginning dreadfully dull to the point that I didn't know if I would continue or not, and I didn't truly get into the book until the introduction of Elvissa and Tobias. After that, the stories they told one another seemed to get better.
At first, I thought the characters were just pathetic. They didn't seem to have any ambition and all they did was tell each other stories. In fact, I will paste what I wrote in my personal journal about this book. I asked Nick (my friend) if he thought this is what our parents do? Do they sit around waxing nostalgic by making up stories about people, stories that correlate to their own miserable life?
The characters in the book are--or should be if they aged--around the age of my own parents. One character in the book said he was 15 in the late seventies. Hell, my mother wasn't 15 until the early 80's, making him technically older than her. Yes, I have very young parents, considering that I am 21. But I digress.
Then, an even scarier thought came to us. Would we act like them at that age? Would we get fed up with a no-end job and move to the west coast to live in bungalow-style houses and work a dead end job? Would the burden of being adults kill our spirit and make us run for the hills?
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Format: Paperback
The enormous amount of media hype that surrounded this novel when it first came out, and its rather gimmicky packaging (the book is hugely and pointlessly square and has a screed of weird aphorisms sprinkled around its super-wide margins) can make it easy to overlook the fact that Douglas Coupland really does have the goods as a writer. His characters here and in the more mature and carefully composed _Microserfs_ are full of life and instantly likeable. And in spite of his earnest and perhaps rather un-self-critical efforts to map the Zeitgeist, Coupland's enormous linguistic gifts and his virtuosity with the mechanisms of the frame-narrative actually made me think of Chaucer more than anybody else. _Generation X_ is a kind of contemporary _Canterbury Tales_, maybe?
I docked this novel one star for a simple reason - it doesn't have an ending. Instead it rather infelicitously trails off into the sort of trite sociology that was so faddish back in the early 90s when so many of us really had nothing better to do but sit around comparing our economic prospects with those of our parents. Is it really such a historical disaster that so many of us who were born into the middle classes in the late 60s and early 70s are going to have to swallow a few extra bags of Ramen noodles over the course of our adult lives? Get over it, people!
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