- 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: 74 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #84,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture Paperback – Mar 15 1991
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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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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. Reuniting back at where they started, a fully picture of who and what they are is painted. To be cryptic, my favourite moments of character is the part with the candles and the section with the sand. No googling, read it and find out for yourself.
Cloaked in all this character work is gobs and gobs of thoughts and concepts and ideas that Coupland is postulating. But only maybe. Coupland can be a very obtuse interview, and quite often gives answers that feel made up on the spot, depending on his mood. He seems to not want to explain his thoughts and wants you to make your own conclusions. He comes across as a kinder, gentler Flannery O’Connor in that regard.
To complicate the matter of analyzation, Coupland has filled the margins with little cartoons and definitions of faked words. The toons are satirical one panel bits, usually expanding on whatever thought was going in the pages at the time. Same with the faked words, one of the most famous being “McJobs.” Again no googling, read and find out. Even more fun and merriment in the thinking department comes from the chapter titles, with a favourite for many being “Adventure Without Risk Is Disneyland.” Add to that the listing of real statistics in the back, and you have a real soup of thoughts at play here. A package of philosophies.
Much of the dissertations Coupland seems to be going on about is how people are too attached to the trivial of pop culture and the materialism of modern society, all to forsake real experiences and interactions. While that may not sound revolutionary, Coupland’s parody throughout of the fakeness and disassociation most of us indulge in is very sharp and to the bone. The bad sitcom moment of having to endure Claire’s father and the wine cork still makes me cringe, which is the desired job. Coupland is not preaching or telling us or lecturing us not to partake in what culture is, even bad culture, but to measure it out in little spoonfuls. Living your life authentically, much like Holden Caulfield would pontificate, is of utmost importance. That was my takeaway, but as Coupland would probably attest, I got it wrong.
Back in those bygone days before Generation X entered my head, much discussions about a potential movie was bandied about by so many of my College friends. These, of course, went over my head, but upon finishing it, everything, all of it, became oh so clear. This casting was based on the nineties, and should have been done at the time, since no one else can fill these roles.
Who plays each part? Glad you asked! Andy is Mathew Perry. Total complete fit here. Dag is Chris O’Donnell. Would have been amazing. Claire is Uma Thurman. From Pulp Fiction to here, what a journey. Ed Asner as the bar owner and Bill Pullman as the astronaut. Don’t ask, it all makes sense. Karma must have realized the righteousness of some of this, since the other Coupland book I have read, Microserfs, was performed on audiobook by Perry.
Perry being involved felt so natural, and the growing popularity of Generation X, in both thought and character, is in many ways reflected in the television show Friends, also starring him.
In many ways, Friends feels like a sideways universe where Andy, Dag and Claire are just somewhere around the corner. They would not be working away in the dessert anymore, but have “grown up” grabbed the brass ring, and tried to live real lives. No McJobs for them, more of a fulfilled existence, with plenty of love and hugs.
Sounds almost like a fairy tale. Maybe that is what Tales For An Accelerated Culture is. A wonderful fable of thoughts.
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? Would we sit around one day telling apocalyptic stories about the end of the world because maybe, just maybe, we wouldn't mind if the world did just that -- end?
Things did get better for the characters, if better is the right choice of wording, at the end for the characters. They all seemed to have a sort of epiphany (with Claire's ability to get over her obsession being my favorite). While this novel didn't just make gape in awe (and I think a lot of that had do with the fact of my age), I do think that Coupland is a talented writer, and I do look forward to reading some of his other works.
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