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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Top Customer Reviews
There are too many terrific books to waste time on this overrated work.
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.Read more ›
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?Read more ›
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!
Most recent customer reviews
Oh man, this book hurts to write about let alone read.
I understand the whole generation X angst. Read more
Maybe because I am a Gen-Xer, I loved this book. It captures the drifting meaninglessness that was the hallmark of coming of age as in the 80s. Read morePublished on March 13 2010 by Susan
While the ideas presented in Coupland's portrait of the generation of bored and un-enthused 20-somethings are, of course, interesting, I found the first half of the book extremely... Read morePublished on May 10 2008 by The Rogue Ninja
Douglas Coupland created the name of an entire generation in "Generation X," with his look at the lives of disaffected twentysomethings, in lives that lack an indefinable... Read morePublished on March 29 2007 by E. A Solinas
I read this book after hearing of a few recommendations. I can honestly say it was the worst book I've ever read, and I tried really hard to finish it, but still had maybe 10 pages... Read morePublished on Feb. 20 2006
One of the worst books ever written. Self-promoting huckster Coupland, who was already in his 30's by the time this rococo abomination polluted bookstores, can only create... Read morePublished on May 17 2004 by Terry Enright
Douglas Coupland coined the term "Generation X" with this novel. Though the term itself became a horrible fad, Coupland captured the zeitgeist and the spiritual problems of the... Read morePublished on March 25 2004 by Amazon Customer
From: not one to be labeled
So where did the term "Generation X" come from? Before it became a buzzword fad? Read more