Dawn Marie's Reviews > Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture

Generation X by Douglas Coupland
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's review
Jul 13, 2012

it was amazing

If you haven’t read it, it’s never too late to soak in late-80s era ennui!

The basic premise of Generation X involves Andy, Claire and Dag, three friends who come to the desert to be… well, themselves. Not reinvented so much as stripped down, they make the deliberate decision to eschew the “get a career, climb the ladder, amass wealth” model that most of the people they know have chosen for their lives. It’s a sort of beatnik fairy-tale that they tell each other in allegorical vignettes, and themes focus on making friends your true family, fear of the bomb/bland and anonymous overlord authority, general malaise and a certain rebellion against materialism that really spoke to me when I was 20, and still appeals to me now.

Obviously, I read Generation X in college, and Coupland made a strong impression on me. Yes, yes the pop culture references no one will understand in 50 years, yes, but what I really loved about him was the melancholy at the heart of every beauty, whether trashy or sublime, and the invisible but palpable joy he’d hidden in the narrative here and there, like silver dollars buried in the sand.

The copy I originally owned has been lost to time and constant moves to new apartments, but it used to have a postcard featuring a black and white photo of a nuclear explosion marking the page where Dag gets a similar postcard from a friend and describes it to Andy over the phone during a caffeine-fueled roadtrip to Vegas: “Then Otis figured it out: the scale was wrong—the mushroom cloud was too small. Otis had always thought nuclear mushroom clouds occupied the whole sky, but this explosion, why, it was a teeny little road flare, lost out amid the valleys and mountain ranges in which it was detonated.”

The book is full of flippant charm and evocative descriptions of the everyday that still impress me, and may delight you. There’s also much to admire in the margins: “footnotes”, solemn quotes and blockprint cartoons. If I had a ninjillion dollars, I might ask Douglas Coupland to consider making an animated film about the book, as the stories would lend themselves well to various visual styles, and heck, we could throw in a soundtrack by REM and Ben Folds and The Bird and the Bee…

Generation X is more like a high school yearbook than a novel to me. It’s a time capsule: stagey yet perfect and forever skewed by fond memory.

I think Coupland would probably be pleased with that.


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