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Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture

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Andy, Dag and Claire have been handed a society priced beyond their means. Twentysomethings, brought up with divorce, Watergate and Three Mile Island, and scarred by the 80s fall-out 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 at no-future McJobs in the service industry.
Underemployed, overeducated, intensely private and unpredictable, 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-disposable Swedish furniture...

211 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1991

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About the author

Douglas Coupland

92 books4,443 followers
Douglas Coupland is Canadian, born on a Canadian Air Force base near Baden-Baden, Germany, on December 30, 1961. In 1965 his family moved to Vancouver, Canada, where he continues to live and work. Coupland has studied art and design in Vancouver, Canada, Milan, Italy and Sapporo, Japan. His first novel, Generation X, was published in March of 1991. Since then he has published nine novels and several non-fiction books in 35 languages and most countries on earth. He has written and performed for the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, England, and in 2001 resumed his practice as a visual artist, with exhibitions in spaces in North America, Europe and Asia. 2006 marks the premiere of the feature film Everything's Gone Green, his first story written specifically for the screen and not adapted from any previous work. A TV series (13 one-hour episodes) based on his novel, jPod premieres on the CBC in January, 2008.


Retrieved 07:55, May 15, 2008, from http://www.coupland.com/coupland_bio....

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,265 reviews
Profile Image for Fergus, Quondam Happy Face.
1,029 reviews17.7k followers
September 6, 2023
Last night, I had to ease myself down from an OCD treadmill, after a day spent fending off incessant reminders from the authorities that the world was no longer a safe or a healthy place, and we all had to do our best straight-‘n-narrow bit to stay ahead of the game.

Sound familiar?

Like you, I was trying to stay normal.

So, after the dishes were safely tucked away into their cradles in the dishwasher, and that cantankerously noisy household device had been duly started, drowning out the news, I rigidly sat back in a kitchen chair - to find out where exactly in this self-isolated day, I had gone wrong...

And I was once more catapulted back to the nineties, a tumultuous time of leaner, smarter and better Gen-Xers in an endless, blindingly fast lane.

That was where it started. The Me-Gen’ers were now calling the shots. And Enoch's Giants, in their latest manifestation as the Me-Geners, were morphing into powerful DROIDS.

I remembered how Douglas Coupland, when I bought the first hardcover edition of this book back in ‘94, had reminded me that we were all suddenly behaving as if the very life, and our very identity, had been sucked outta our arteries!

And that’s still us, or more so now, at the beginning of the 20´s - the start of the Age of the Quaranteens (AKA burnt out, viral Gen-Xers)!

Coupland is right. Our personalities have now been leeched away. But here on Goodreads - have you noticed? - there are quite a lotta reviewers and bloggers who are attempting to INJECT THAT LIFEBLOOD BACK INTO OUR SYSTEMS.

Books are where we start.

Books are where we begin our re-invention of our lives.

Coupland said our brains trust reconditioning resulted in a situation back in the 1990’s where we found we had lost our stories to tell.

Well, here - right here on GR - that’s all changing. We’re reading and ordering vast MOUNTAINS of books. ALL chock fulla great stories that are REMAKING OUR LIVES - into Real Things. And things of Beauty.

Coupland may have thought we were all becoming robots.

We’re not, now.

We’ve got our literacy.

AND we are RE-IMAGINING Helen Reddy’s power anthem of the eighties:


Watch out, you Forces of Impersonality!

Cause WE have our books.
Profile Image for Greg.
1,117 reviews1,876 followers
December 7, 2008
For years before reading this book I hated it. I hated it so much. I think at least half of my zines have somewhere the line "Fuck you Coupland" at least once in some rant. My hatred of him was immense, seriously. For example if I had been driving my car and I had seen him I would have run him over. Of course like any good hatred I only had superficial reasons for hating him, I had never read his work, I only saw the catchy looking books and saw them as a disgusting marketing device. And of course there is the name of this book, and the fact that I hated the whole Generation X thing that in the 90's seemed to be thrown about all the time.

But then I read the book, and I found I actually really really liked the book, and that I didn't hate Douglas Coupland and that I had been wrong in my irrational hatred. Oh well. I guess I'm sorry for all the times I told you to go fuck yourself in my zine.
Profile Image for Fabian.
957 reviews1,623 followers
March 12, 2020
Does the term "overload" make or break the novel? Lets just say that in its o-so 80's rampantly materialistic take on self-imposed post mid-twenty crisis survivors, the book may want to break itself! This is the equivalent of what "Reality Bites" was to film: zeitgeisty, important, conspicuous.

It is a fun lexicon like novel that reads like The Decameron or the Canterbury Tales in modern day. The protagonists (don't know it but actually) live in an age where nothing is happening and so the stories they tell themselves atop their middleclass hill both alienate them from the events of the country and transforms them into monolithic figures. Okay, they bitch (these X-ers) like any new generation that becomes conscious of its own incongruities... but lounging by the pool? Clearly they had it better than us, & we may have it better than our (yikes!) children... In my generation, well, let's just say I am super glad to pay a kings ransom for my Cap Hill Lladro-priced matchbox apt.! The stories all come from spiritual castaways (in their bourgeois splendor they try hard to break from), including, obviously, the too cool author. That they all bear the same register of tone, the same intelligent tone, gives the work a more realistic splendor that's richly inventive, playfully evocative.
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,634 followers
August 8, 2020
I think I read this right when it came out. I identified for the most part with the generation he describes but actually was probably about 5 years too young to completely fit. It is interesting to note that the preoccupations we had back then are not all that different then those of the current millennials - but that back then, we did not have social media or iPhones and so the dissemination of our discontent, our angst, and our disillusionment was not as accessible as it is today via Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. It would be interesting to see how Coupland would compare the current 20-somethings to this description of 20-somethings the same year that Pearl Jam's Ten, Nirvana's Nevermind, U2's Aching Baby, and Blood Sugar Sex Magic by the Red Hot Chili Peppers came out. Without sounding like too much of an old fart, I am not sure that 25 years later, we have had as epic a musical output as we did back in '91 when GenX was published. Please feel free to disagree in your comments :)
Profile Image for Damien.
251 reviews31 followers
June 28, 2007
Young white privilege all dressed up and no where to go
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,395 reviews4,904 followers
November 17, 2021

This is the story of a handful of Generation X-ers, defined as people born between 1960 and 1980.

In the book three late-twenty someones - Andy, Claire, and Dag - separately give up their upwardly mobile jobs and move to Palm Springs, California. There they take up residence in modest digs, take low-paying service jobs, and attempt to live more or less minimalist lives.

They entertain themselves by telling stories (made up or real), drinking, snacking, having picnics, and - for the most part - eschewing serious relationships.

Their purpose, apparently, is to reject traditional society, which they find oppressive. Though the characters reject the values of their nuclear families (which are not perfect, but whose family is?) they do maintain contact via phone calls, visits, and so on....so their isolation is not complete.

Though the hippie-ish lifestyle of Andy and his friends/acquaintances is amusing to read about, it strikes the reader (at least this reader) as unrealistic and unsustainable. Though a small segment of society can decide to 'do nothing' with their lives and suffer few consequences - if everyone took up this lifestyle the country's economy would soon collapse. And even for those who are determined to stick it out, this kind of freewheeling behavior becomes unattractive when people are no longer young (that is, approach their mid-thirties and older).

The main characters try to be committed to their 'no-strings' lifestyle, but life does impinge: Claire develops a huge crush on Tobias, an exceptionally handsome man - and follows him to New York - where their lives don't mesh.

Dag is attracted to Claire's friend Elvissa, and tries to develop a relationship with her - until Elvissa skips town for an even more minimal lifestyle.

Dag is also an obsessive vandal, damaging other people's cars and even destroying one by setting it on fire. I would have liked to see Dag punished for this, though he would undoubtedly bitterly resent the fines/jail imposed by outside society.

Regardless of my opinion of the characters (whom I didn't admire), the book is well-written and the characters are believable. It's interesting to get a peek into the thought processes of some Gen X-ers. I think the best part of the book is in the margins, where Douglas Coupland defines some of the original and entertaining Gen-X expressions/vocabulary. If you're curious about Gen X, this is a good book for you.

Examples of Generation X Vocabulary
go postal = get very angry
dip = leave
crib = home
phat = cool
grindage = food
grody = disgusting
cheddar = money
all that and a bag of chips = the best of the best

The book is "phat", but it's not "all that and a bag of chips." 😁

You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....
Profile Image for AnneMarie.
235 reviews4 followers
March 28, 2012
What a boring and pretentious book. It's the kind of writing that would have seriously impressed me when I was 14, full of consciously witty soundbites.

What I really don't like about it is the glorified loser culture of the early 90s and nearly 18 years later it hasn't aged well and just seems bloated. The decade that everyone thought was the pinnacle of evolution is now looking as bad as the 80s did ten years ago. To highlight this, Coupland's plot doesn't have much as a 'story' per se, instead it's a collection of short ironic stories and vague self-realisations by the characters.

The only thing that prevented it being tossed out is the fact that Coupland is genuinely briliant and there's no doubt that he's a fantastic writer. However, you wish that he would get take his head out of his arse for this one
Profile Image for Leftbanker.
835 reviews336 followers
July 28, 2020
I give this book five stars even though it really isn't much of a novel, it's mainly just three kids telling stories about how they view the creepy world of consumerism and status. I read this shortly after returning to the States after living a fairly idyllic and isolated life on the Mediterranean for three blissful years. I didn’t really get America when I got back, not at all. This was the first novel that I read that explained why I wasn’t entirely crazy for not being crazy for the American dream.

So I had just moved from Greece (probably the best place I have ever lived, and I’ve lived in some great places; I’ve lived in Spain for the last 12 years) and I moved to suburban Washington, D.C., the worst fucking place I have ever lived. I just hated the traffic and endless sprawl (I didn’t even have the word “sprawl” in my vocabulary at that time; I just knew that I hated it).

My brother turned me on to this book after he had also been recently reintroduced to American culture. A lot of things in this book just hit home with me. Granted, I thought the male characters were way too soft for me and one of them, I felt, should have been screwing Claire, but the sexless nature of the males wasn’t a big problem. What drew me to the book more than anything was simply the tone, and the tone was “Is this really what it’s all about? Filling an SUV with a wife and family and taking two weeks a year on the beach somewhere?”

I knew that wasn’t for me.

He had a lot of great insights in this book, which is more than you can say for a lot of novels by the leading writers in America. I defy anyone to quote a decent insight of our culture from John Irving, Joyce Carrol Oates, Saul Bellow, or most of the pantheon of modern American literature (and yes, I know this dude is Canadian).

This was the first novel that I read that questioned the American Dream or traditional values. It was the first time I heard anyone voice criticism towards what most considered the normal trajectory of adult life. All that I knew at the time was that the idea of going the route expected of people of my station had zero appeal to me. This book sort of let me know that I wasn’t alone.


You have to wonder if anyone from the Cell Phone-Facebook-Twitter-Video Game generation would even be capable of the sort of introspection found in this novel. I hate to stir up class warfare (What am I saying? I love it stirring up class warfare!) but I doubt children of any sort of privileged status would even feel compelled to bother deconstructing their baffling world...at least it’s baffling to me. What would they call their book? Generation Like. Generation LOL, Genreation Chat-Click-Swipe, or maybe Generation Whatever?
Profile Image for . . . _ _ _ . . ..
289 reviews153 followers
April 20, 2020
Αγορασμένο ενώ έμενα σε ένα μικρό χωριό πριν από 25 χρόνια ίσως και παραπάνω (δραχμές 3.120) από το βιβλιοπωλείο της διπλανής κωμόπολης, το οποίο υπάρχει ακόμη , ενώ πήγαινα (αργότερα) φροντιστήριο στην πρωτεύουσα του νομού (το φροντιστήριο δεν υπάρχει εδώ και πολλά χρόνια) με μόνη φιλοδοξία να περάσω οπουδήποτε για να πιω καπουτσίνο, ο οποίος στα μάτια μου φάνταζε πολύ εκλεπτυσμένος καφές (μιλάμε για φιλοδοξίες, όχι αστεία). Αγαπητοί μιλλένιαλς : ξεχάστε τις αλυσίδες των καφέ, ξεχάστε τις μηχανές εσπρέσσο σε κάθε σπίτι (θέλω να πάρω εσπρεσσιέρα εδώ και μια 10ετια, είπαμε φιλοδοξίες, όχι αστεία), έμενα σε χωριό λέμε, οι γειτόνισσες πήγαιναν η μία στην άλλη πίνοντας ελληνικούς καφέδες, ενώ στις καφετέριες (πήγα σε καφετέρια όταν μας έβγαλαν στο φροντιστήριο λίγο πριν τις πανελλήνιες) και στα φοιτητικά σπίτια πίνανε χτυπημένο με το κουτάλι "νες". Και στα φοιτητικά σπίτια ζέσταιναν νερό με το μπρίκι, δεν μιλάμε καν για βραστήρες. Μεγάλωσα σε χωριό που πήγαινες στον μπακάλη να ζητήσεις φέτα και έλεγε "δεν έχομε" (sic). Φέτα σου ζήτησα, όχι καμαμπέρ.
Ζώντας λοιπόν στο Κολοκωτρονίτσι δεν ξέρω τι με τράβηξε σε αυτό το βιβλίο (ίσως το τόσο meta ντιζάιν του με τις ποπ αρτ εικόνες του και τις βινιέτες του στα περιθώρια;) Τι σχέση είχα εγώ το παιδί από το χωριό με αυτές τις ποπ ιστορίες της Αμερικής; Τι σχέση εγώ με τους ήρωες τώρα που το ξαναματαδιαβάζω στα πλαίσια rereading σε μια μανιώδη προσπάθεια μαζικής εκκαθάρισης της βιβλιοθήκης μου (ήδη έδωσα 119 βιβλία, και θα δώσω άλλα 75 (;) βιβλία τουλάχιστον); Οι ήρωες είναι πιο pretentious από τον Βαρουφάκη, οι διάλογοι είναι νέος ελληνικός κινηματογράφος on steroids, δεν υπάρχει πλοκή, απλά οι χαρακτήρες διηγούνται ιστορίες από το τέλος του κόσμου (θραύσματα ιστοριών ακόμη θυμόμουν). Θα μπορούσα με την ίδια ευκολία να βάλω ένα αστεράκι όσο και ένα εκατομμύριο αστεράκια. Δεν θα ήθελα ούτε να περάσω δίπλα από τα γελοία white privileged ατομάκια που έχει για ήρωες ο συγγραφεύς που νομίζουν ότι είναι τόσο meta (ψευδοεπαναστάτες της πορδής, ζαίοι πριν τους ζαίους) και που φαντάζονται το τέλος του κόσμου στην ουρά των ταμείων ενός σουπερ μάρκετ. Wait...
Profile Image for Sophia.
296 reviews13 followers
February 20, 2017
I've been thinking about why I still love this book, when I hate movies like Lost in Translation and Reality Bites. I think it's because the characters are so active; Andy, Dag and Claire don't lie around hotel rooms in their underwear or have "planet[s] of regret" on their shoulders (shut up, Ethan Hawke). They have jobs, they do interesting things, they daydream, and most importantly, they tell each other stories. On the flip side, they haven't aggressively dropped out of the mainstream a la Kerouac &co. They're just trying to find their way along some other path than the one they were told to be on, and they try to find some quiet meaning in their lives as they go, without being too consciously hip, or too unconsciously *un*hip. The book never feels forced, and it's the author's gentle tone that makes it work for me.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,219 reviews9,915 followers
November 24, 2012
With some things you know exactly what they're going to be like before you experience them and you hope you're proved wrong. I saw "A Mighty Wind" recently and shouldn't have bothered - good film well made and all, but utterly predictable. As was Generation X. DC is a snappy writer, he's Tom Wolfe's kid brother, and this book should have been a collection of smart essays like Kandy Kolored Tangerine Streamlined Baby etc. It doesn't really leave the ground as a story with characters. And also, really, he is a bit too self-regardingly clever.
So if you don't come from Generation X itself & are therefore reading this out of sheer nostalgia, forget this and check out three funny movies about similar stuff - Clerks, Office Space and Empire Records.
Profile Image for OKSANA ATAMANIUK.
175 reviews62 followers
November 3, 2019
«Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture», 1991
Douglas Coupland

«Покоління Х. Друге видання»
Дуґлас Коупленд
Komubook , 2019

На сьогодні, книжка сприймається як класика, а не інновація.

Ніякого шоку.

Загальновідомі факти.

Актуальна ідеологія.

Поняття змінилися:
Япі або Покоління Х –> Міленіали або Покоління Y.

Книжка про трьох відступників, що пасивно протестують проти системи.

Технології і наука прогресували, але проблеми Людства залишилися незмінними.

Книжка охоплює майже всі сфери життя: стосунки в родині, залежність від гаджетів, проблеми забруднення довколишнього середовища, позиціонування людини в суспільстві відповідно до фінансового статусу, тощо.

Попри те, що книжка з'явилася майже 30 років тому, більшість проблем залишились невирішеними.

Але віршувати їх доведеться.

Тому, «Покоління Х» має і матиме надалі своїх прихильників.


«Біблія дауншифтерів, роман «Покоління Х» Дуґласа Коупленда — це історія про «офісний планктон», який розчарувався в ідеології успіху та щастя, що нав’язується сучасною корпоративною культурою.
Це зворушлива розповідь про пошуки молодими людьми власної дороги в житті, навскісно і часто всупереч тим шаблонам, які наполегливо насаджує нам «суспільство реклами». І розказана ця історія з палкістю, прозірливістю та дотепністю справжнього культурного маніфесту.»


«Залицяльники: Найпоширеніша, а також єдина спроможна до розмноження підгрупа покоління Х. Живуть майже виключно парами, і їх можна впізнати за відчайдушними спробами відтворити видимість достатку ери Айзенгауера у своєму повсякденному житті, тоді як їм доводиться давати собі раду з захмарними цінами на житло та стилем життя, що передбачає дві офіційні роботи. Залицяльникам властиве хронічне виснаження, викликане ненаситною гонитвою за меблями та різноманітними дрібничками з наміром їх придбати.»

«Розумієте, якщо ти – представник середнього класу, тобі доводиться жити, примирившись із фактом, що для історії ти – ніхто. Тобі доводиться змиритися з фактом, що історія не боротиметься за тебе і що за тобою не шкодуватимуть. Це ціна, яку потрібно заплатити за щоденний комфорт і тишу.»

Profile Image for Marc.
3,110 reviews1,176 followers
August 26, 2020
This started very promising, but soon became bogged down in hollow, absurd stories. Chronologically I belong to this Generation X, and it is true that at one time (mid '80s) my generation seemed "lost", due to the economic crisis, postmodernism and especially the post-1968 syndrome. But apparently eventually all (?) worked out. Moreover, we in the West are now facing very different problems: how to stay afloat in a globalized world, the growing social inequalities, the integration of minorities, global warming, the emptiness after the death of God .... With all that, this book by Coupland seems no more than a shortfallen luminous star, that later proved to be a false hit.
Profile Image for Lisa.
10 reviews
November 1, 2007
Credited with terming low-paying/low-status/unsatisfying/dead-end employment as a "McJob" and introducing/popularizing the phrase "Generation X" to the American lexicon, Coupland conveys the lives of three friends as they attempt to escape their collective quarter-life crisis. Using a raw ironic tone that is anything less than subtle, Generation X entwines the exhausted lives of twentysomethings with relevant pop culture references. Choice moments in the novel include Coupland's incorporation of cartoons, slogans and Couplandisms, all of which are specific to the sentiments portrayed by both the characters and the author himself. "Tele-parabolizing" is a personal favorite of Coupland's invented terms which is defined as describing everyday morals by using widely known plots found on television (think, "that's just like the episode where Jan lost her glasses!"). Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture may not cure your frustration with our culture's habit of excessive consumption and extreme commercialism, but it will at least provide you with the solace of knowing you're not alone.
Profile Image for sologdin.
1,717 reviews642 followers
August 21, 2019
Probably ironic insofar as it is a programmatic statement for lumpenized antisocial nihilists (not the sort who abide a programme, normally), which means that it is less LANish itself than metaLANish, a scholarly study that seeks to inhabit the ‘mind’ of the LAN and explore the contours thereof. Ultimately defines the group as
the shin jin rui--that’s what the Japanese newspapers call people like those kids in their twenties at the office--new human beings. It’s hard to explain. We have the same group over here and it’s just as large, but it doesn’t have a name—an X generation—purposefully hiding itself. (56)
We note that though the phenomenon is indigenous in this conception, the text very carefully must describe it with reference to an international phenomenon, an interpenetration by free movement of peoples in the post-war period. Despite the international bona fides, X generation is post-market, annoyed that “our parents’ generation seems neither able nor interested in understanding how marketers exploit them. They take shopping at face value” (68). Even if it’s hiding itself, it’s not really a secret among the cool kids, as they might taunt each other with such insults as “fin de siècle existentialist poseur” (85). They display the normal proto-fascist nietzschean ennui in leaving “their old lives behind them and set forth to make new lives for themselves in the name of adventure,” during the course of which they search for “personal truth” and “willingly put themselves on the margins of society” (88). Rather, “when you’re middle class, you have to live with the fact that history will ignore you. You have to live with the fact the history will never champion your causes and that history will never feel sorry for you. It is the price that is paid for day-to-day comfort and silence. And because of this price, all happinesses are sterile; all sadnesses go unpitied” (147). OH NOS!

X generation’s cynicism is complete, however: “You are such a victim, you pea-brained dimwit—no one believes the government” (77). Fairly illiberal to the extent it condemns “the people of my own generation who used all that was good in themselves just to make money; who use their votes for short term gain. Who ended up blissful in the bottom feeding jobs—marketing, land flipping, ambulance chasing, and money brokering” (81). Perfectly willing to mock others who want the same depth of lumpenization:
They’re nice kids. None of their folks can complain. They’re perky. They embrace and believe the pseudo-globalism and ersatz racial harmony of ad campaigns engineered by the makers of soft drinks and computer inventoried sweaters. […] But in some dark and undefinable way, these kids are also Dow, Union Carbide, General Dynamics, and the military. (106)
Those who “live in a permanent 1950s” “still believe in a greeting card future” (112); despite the “mild racist quirks and planet destroying peccadillos” of this type, “their existence acts as a tranquilizer in an otherwise slightly out-of-control world” (id.), which is the standard degeneracy language used by right-populists who seek regeneration of nation through spiritual renewal and manliness in war, incidentally.

Great enemies of this group are yuppies, normally, who “won in a genetic lottery […] having been born at the right moment in history” (21). Protagonists take a calvinist view of property acquisition, however, insofar as “I see all of us trying so hard to acquire so much stuff, but I can’t help but feeling that we didn’t merit it” (23), an odd conflation of self-loathing consumerism and anti-consumerist asceticism. Adopts an anti-Adorno position with “we’re not built for free time as a species” (id.), suggesting that most of us have “only two or three genuinely interesting moments in our lives, the rest is filler, and that at the end of our lives, most of us will be lucky if any of those moments connect together to form a story that anyone would find remotely interesting” (24), which is kinda gross proto-fascistic talk.

Friend of mine saw me reading this and asked ‘Are you learning some good cliché aphorisms about yourself?’ which is a decent approximation. And I must admit, this is probably the easiest book that I’ve read in terms of situating myself inside it; it was indeed written for persons like me. (I suppose that means that the irreducible foundation of my ideological composition is lumpen antisocial nihilist?)

Narrator concedes in the opening that he acquired a “mood of darkness and inevitability and fascination” (3) at age fifteen and retained thereafter the same “ambivalence” at fifteen years later (4). Given this premise, it not difficult to understand that narrator is otherwise a mix of potentially inconsistent ideas: postmodern rootlessness (“where you’re from feels sort of irrelevant these days” (4)), economic dissatisfaction (“after eight hours of working his McJob (‘Low pay, low prestige, low benefits, low future’)” (5)), and proto-fascistic degeneracy theory conflated with fugly localism (“whether I feel more that I want to punish some aging crock for frittering away my world, or whether I’m just upset that the world has gotten too big” (id.)).

Part of the LAN ideological mix here is what Sloterdijk designated as ‘enlightened false consciousness’:
[deuteragonists] smile a lot, as do many people I know. But I have always wonder if there is something either mechanical or malignant to their smiles, for the way they keep their outer lips propped up seems a bit, not false, but protective. A minor realization hits me as I sit with the two of them. It is the realization that the smiles that they wear in their daily lives are the same as the smiles worn by people who have been good-naturedly fleeced, but fleeced nonetheless, in public and on a New York sidewalk by card sharks, and who are unable because of social convention to show their anger, who don’t want to look like poor sports. (7)
Narrators will adopt (on the next page, even) a second pomo conceit: “‘Either our lives become stories, or there’s just no way to get through them.’ I agree. Dag agrees. We know that this is why the three of us left our lives behind us and came to the desert—to tell stories and to make our own lives worthwhile tales” (8) (NB this is erimo technis)—which is immediately recognizable as Baudrillard’s simulacrum argument, as delivered however by Zizek (& Laurence Fishburne): ‘Welcome to the desert of the real, motherfuckers.’ It becomes so ludicrous that deuteragonist must confirm “Wait […] this is a true story?” (54).

Text has a fine sense of humor, such as in comparing rich people shopping for luxuries to “hundreds of greedy little children who are so spoiled, and so impatient, that the can’t even wait for food to be prepared. They have to reach for live animals on the table and suck the food right out of them” (9). (Elsewise, however, narrator will note that “we had compulsions that made us confuse shopping with creativity” (11), so he’s not immune.) The objection remains cultural, ‘spiritual,’ idealist, right-populist—rather than ‘the international proletariat starves because of exploitation,’ which is how a leftwing objection might read, by contrast.

Novel is printed on weird 7.75 x 8.875 paper (not a standard paper size); text is within the bounds of a typical octavo, whereas large margin is filled with ancient-seeming glosses and little cutesy graphics—an illuminated manuscript, as though text were scripture and marginal glosses are the comments by learned scribes of the monastery. In some ways the supplied marginalia is one of the best features of the novel, and provides at times the apparatus for reading, such as when, say, the gloss on ‘historical slumming’ suggests that one might visit ‘locations where time appears to have been frozen many years back—so as to experience relief when one returns back ‘to the present’” (11). Similarly, ‘decade blending’ is “the indiscriminate combination of two or more items from various decades” (15). Novel in text proper lays out its basic principle of reading:
I’ve seen the process of onedownmanship in action—and been angry at not having sordid enough tales of debauchery of my own to share. ‘Never be afraid to cough up a bit of diseased lung for 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 take 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.’ I’m still looking for a description of storytelling as vital as this. (13)
Novel proceeds along this objective, as narrator and deuteragonists share sub-narratives with regularity. We as readers might take note of the consistent slumming and onedownmanship in the narration, as it heads toward ugly right-populist and proto-fascistic conclusions.

Lays down slackerist principles such as “occupational slumming” (working below one’s abilities) (26). Also—“Voter’s block”: the "attempt, however futile, to register dissent with the current political system by simply not voting” (80). But the slacker eventually comes to Hegelian confrontation:
”We all go through a crisis point, or, I suppose, or we’re not complete. I can’t tell you how many people I know who claim to have had a midlife crisis early in life. But there invariably comes a certain point where our youth fails us; […] But my crisis wasn’t just the failure of youth but also a failure of class and of sex and the future. (30)
Dude resolves this crisis by becoming Ballard’s protagonist from Crash: “I began to see this world as one where citizens stare, say, at the armless Venus de Milo and fantasize about amputee sex or self-righteously apply a fig leaf to the statue of David, but not before breaking off his dick as a souvenir” (31). Result: “All events become omens; I lost the ability to take anything literally” (id.), which is a distinctly nihilist position. Remedy: “I needed a clean slate with no one to read it. I needed to drop out even further. My life had become a series of scary incidents that simply weren’t stringing together to make for an interesting book” (id.). This last reveals that the nihilism is baudrillardian, born out of semiurgical overload, which requires the material historical world to mean more than its mere existence, and prescribes one’s life, making it adhere to the manifestly hyperreal narratives that precede the life in question. It’s all friggin’ gross, of course. (Dude will refer to his crew as “a blue jeans ad come to life” (54).)

This sort of semiurgical-excess nihilism (what Mieville might mean by ‘lumpen postmodern’) does not arise out of nothing (though the nihilist may believe as much), but is rather related plainly to the economic basis, “the year is permanently 1974, the year after the oil shock and the year starting from which real wages in the U.S. never grew ever again” (40). The X generation nihilist wants to tell his parents “that I envy their upbringings that were so clean, so free of futurelessness. And I want to throttle them for blithely handing over the world to us like so much skid-marked underwear” (86)—cf. Griffin’s Modernism & Fascism, maybe? Much of the fear of futurelessness arises from nuclear warfare (plenty of images and sub-narratives there), including the great gloss on ‘strangelove reproduction’ wherein one has “children to make up for the fact that no one believes in the future” (135).

Part of the dysfunctional relation to the future is a pathological relation to the past. The Vietnam war in the US was “ugly times,” but “they were also the only times I’ll ever get—genuine capital H history times, before history turned into a press release […] In the bizarre absence of all time cues, I need a connection to a past of some importance” (151), a necessity for connection even to the Ugly, apparently.

There may be a bizarre anti-corporeality running through, too, such as being “disembodied from the vulgarities of gravity” (146). Protagonist notes that his father “discovered his body late in life” and sought to “deprogram himself of dietary fictions invented by railroaders, cattlemen, and petrochemical and pharmaceutical firms over the centuries” (142). Weird.

Recommended for those who think it unhealthy to live life as a succession of isolated little cool moments, readers trying to erase all traces of history from their pasts, and the persons who unable to feel rooted, move continually in the hopes of finding an idealized sense of community.
Profile Image for W.B..
Author 4 books113 followers
July 2, 2013
I realize this is a polarizing book, even after decades have passed. I'm actually glad I read it well into its "afterlife" or wherever it's floating as a book now. As novels go (focusing on the word novel here) I think it's a triumph of beautiful and sometimes virtuosic prose over plot lines that seem a little arbitrary and sometimes mawkish. "Art lies in concealing art," Ovid wrote, and I hate to admit I found certain aspects of this book too contrived (maybe too many stereotypes of the anti-stereotypical?). But that said, I have to admit I found it very affecting in places. There is so much of the genuine in this book! I think the ending is particularly beautiful and devastating. I consider this a successful work and even with what I consider its flaws, I'm giving it five stars because I sometimes open this book just to enjoy certain sentences again. Douglas Coupland can tool a sentence about as well as Flaubert when he's on. Forgive him his past trendiness and you might actually realize he's a gifted writer, after all. It definitely made me want to read more by this author. Actually, it made me want to read everything by him. I saw Coupland has published a book of contemporary fairy tales, and as that's a particular fascination for me, I eagerly look forward to reading that. Some of the tales along those lines which he included in Generation X, and which could exist apart from the book in a freestanding form, were among the best writing in the book. So it doesn't really surprise me he later went that direction. I think some people bristle at this book because it can sometimes come across as self-congratulatory or smug prose. But I think when readers bristle at that, they're missing the funny bristling the author is actually doing right alongside them at the actions of his characters, whom I think he also considers preposterous, impossible poseurs--and I think that even includes the character who is almost certainly an autobiographical reflection of Coupland himself in this funhouse mirror of yesterday's cool.
Profile Image for Mister Cool.
10 reviews4 followers
December 20, 2019
I lived in Europe the entire second half of the 1980s and became completely detached from American culture. When I returned in the early 90s I felt like an alien, thoroughly incapable of understanding all the changes that had occurred while I was away those many years. Coupland's novel Generation X contained so many interesting observations and fundamental truisms about where American culture was going that it helped me grasp all the weirdness I too had observed since returning.

I remember being totally fixated with television the first month I returned; so many cable channels and so much mindless and useless quasi-entertainment, and yet I couldn't get enough! And it was TV commercials that fascinated me the most, the way they made you feel as if you're a fucking loser if you didn't own what they were selling, whether it was the product itself or the persona that went along with the purchase; to be cool was to have ownership of the item and the hope of what this brought to your banal, mundane, loser life. I'm sure marketing and advertising had always promoted this idea since it first began, but with 24/7 cable TV one could relentlessly perpetuate this idea with greater efficacy and volume.

Moreover, my first post-military job was a difficult transition as I was clueless about how civilians conducted themselves in the workplace, with much different attitudes about work ethic, goals, and social interaction than how it was in the Army. I was overwhelmed and angst-ridden those first six months. The military had simple rules, lines of authority, and ideas about teamwork and goals within that framework.

In the civilian world, the workplace was a complex minefield of confusing and baffling unwritten rules and attitudes that were wholly alien to me. People were more sensitive and less diligent, and leadership at every level was cowardly and passive-aggressive for the most part. In the military among my comrades, trust was one of the most absolute givens between us; we had each others backs because it was the only way to survive in a crisis situation. In the civilian workplace, trust was a laughable joke at best; no one had your back, and, in fact, getting stabbed in the back was a daily event even with those you thought you could trust. In the military, acts of selfless magnanimity were the norm; in the civilian workplace people were selfish and solipsistic. It was a confusing mess for me.

About that time I read Generation X, and its narrative helped calm me as the characters more or less echoed many of the sentiments I was experiencing as I re-entered American civilian life. There's really not much going on in the book except the characters expressing their thoughts, feelings, and anxieties about modern life as young adults trying to find their way in the last two decades of the 20th Century. I found their narratives to be fascinating, helpful, and best of all, their views were affirming many of my own.

It's a great book, revolutionary in some ways, as Coupland rightfully shows that people born after 1960 were not "Boomers" and part of that immense generation of Americans. People of Gen X were somewhere off on their own, less affected by the 1960s than the Boomers, and lost and confused during the rightward political shift of the Reagan years and the mass corporatization of work, art, and culture that happened in the 80s. Mass marketing was turning kids into mindless consumers, work was becoming impersonal with the rise of beehive-like "cubicle" work environments, and it was becoming difficult to find individual identity in an age of mass conformity and mass marketing.

Even the term Generation X, which was the name of a legendary but obscure English punk band from the 70s, was itself usurped by the marketing lords and turned into another capitalized, mass marketed, faux youth trend in the 90s. One second it was the theme of a great idea by a brilliant young novelist, the next it was used to sell clothes, music, soft drinks, and other affectations of a phony, pre-packaged lifestyle. Luckily Coupland's novel came out well before the ridiculous commercialization of his ideas.

It's difficult today to understand the immense impact this novel had when it was first published in 1991. As an ex-pat returning home after years of living abroad, I found the novel monumentally important as I tried to find my way back into the strange, new culture that was America in the 1990s. In many ways, some 25 years later, I have yet to fully return.
Profile Image for Davie Bennett.
119 reviews3 followers
February 10, 2009
Loved it. Short little vignettes from the lives of three twentysomethings trying to define and describe their rapidly changing world and suss out some meaning from their alarmingly empty culture. Containing strong undercurrents of anti-commercialism, fun dialogue, and imaginative storytelling, this book was written in 1991 but feels just as timely today. I was surprised to find myself in these pages, not just in the characters and story, but in some of the tongue-in-cheek marginal definitions as well (Terminal Wanderlust - A condition common to people of transient middle-class upbringings. Unable to feel rooted in any one environment, they move continually in the hopes of finding an idealized sense of community in the next location. Poverty Jet Set - A group of people given to chronic traveling at the expense of long-term job stability or a permanent residence. Tend to discuss frequent-flyer programs at parties.)
Profile Image for Nate D.
1,595 reviews1,027 followers
August 20, 2019
Douglas Coupland is largely sort of awful, but he didn't completely start out that way. There's a certain inspiration to his earliest works, which comes in most concentrated form here. Sure, it's a novel made up almost entirely of the cynical listlessness of all Generation X cliches that followed, but that's the entirely appropriate result of this being the book that defined the cliches. The book, in fact, which coined the term. And there's a little more going on here than just capturing an era: I recall interesting resonances in the strange fables the characters told eachother each evening, which punctuate the story, especially.
Profile Image for Alejandro Saint-Barthélemy.
Author 16 books81 followers
January 22, 2018
I like the yuppie vocabulary in the footnotes, Tobias' rant, the Japanese story when Rilke is quoted...
I like the insightfulness of it all.

I dislike the 'feeling of filling' (sorry): you can sense that this book was asked to be written by a third party, that maybe it had to have a particular amount of pages, that maybe it was written too fast and didn't have the proper editing (not to mention that it would work much better as a collection of essays than fiction). I think it would be a better book if it had ~50 pages less.

I dislike the try-hard, self-regarding, somewhat obnoxious insightfulness of it all.
Profile Image for Wiebke (1book1review).
922 reviews492 followers
January 18, 2020
This book was such a surprise. I had wanted to read it forever, but never really knew what it was about. And although it should feel dated it doesn't. The characters and their conversations and attitudes feel still relevant and accurate today. The writing is great as well, the way Coupland creates the characters and atmosphere of each situation is just wonderful. You just get sucked into these people and feel right at home.
Just one more thing - this is not a plot driven book. Nothing much happens in terms of story. So if you can't stand that you will not have the same experience I did.
Profile Image for Goran Gluščić.
Author 15 books51 followers
January 13, 2016
Generacija X je knjiga koja mi je toliko na rubu petice da mi je žao dati joj četvorku. Sigurno na svom profilu imam petica koje sam dao davnih dana a koje su su mi danas daleko slabije knjige od ove, ali ne želim zbog toga gledati stare popise i spuštati ocjene. Ono što mogu reći je da ću Generaciju X čitati ponovno i uvjeren sam da će mi jednoga dana ocjena skoknuti zvijezdicu gore.

Jedini "problem" koji sam imao s knjigom je taj što mi je možda bila malo teška za čitanje. Ne na način težine razumijevanja, već toga da se za vrijeme čitanja mora biti jako koncentriran na rečenice usprkos tome što se uglavnom gotovo ništa ne događa. Lako je nešto odbaciti kao 'ništa bitno', preletjeti preko paragrafa i ići naprijed, ali takvim čitanjem zapravo možete preskočiti i cijelu knjigu. Jer stvarno - jako malo toga se dogodi u njoj. Većinom se to svodi na nekoliko individua koji vode (po njima) dosadne živote kojima uopće nisu zadovoljni. Imaju određene strahove i brige, nemaju baš previše (ili uopće) ambicija ili želja i većinom dane provode pričajući priče i filozofirajući.

Ovaj roman zapravo i je zbirka priča koju pričaju ti likovi. Neke su njihove biografske priče, a neke druge su toliko bajkovito metaforičke da skoro spadaju u SF ili fantasy žanr. Svaka od njih zapravo samo ističe skoro pa stereotipna razmišljanja generacije X koja je za vrijeme radnje i pisanja same knjiga bila još uvijek mlada i nabrijana generacija.

Kroz ovaj se roman jasno vidi taj generacijski jaz između X-ovaca i prethodne generacije koji je, barem po romanu, daleko izraženiji od onoga što je danas između X-ovaca i takozvanih milenijala. X-ovci su ipak prva generacija koju je počela odgađati televizija pa su zbog toga razvili određene strahove i daleko pretjerana očekivanja. Bio je to početak prevelikih očekivanja u ljubav, roditelje, školovanje, cijeli život općenito i smisao koji jedna indvidua može ostvariti na Zemlji.

Velika porcija romana posvećena je i strahovima od bombi i nuklearnog uništenja. Nema sumnje da je taj strah isto bio najviše posljedica televizije, to se i potvrđuje jednom kratkom pričom u kojem jedan od likova odlazi posjećivati prostore na kojima su izvršena nuklearne eksplozije samo kako bi stvarno uvidio da te stvari nisu toliko strašne koliko je on zamišljao. Naravno, baš nakon što se napokon smiri i shvati da je u svojoj glavi uveličavao eksplozije, shvati da su te bombe toliko malene a da trgovine konstantno postaju sve veće i da će se uskoro nuklearne bombe moći kupovati u supermarketima. Zbog toga njegov strah prelazi iz jedne forme u drugu, ali usprkos tome što promijeni formu, strah ostane više-manje jednak.

Preko dvadeset godina nakon pisanja ovog romana, stvar je zastrašujuće slična. Nas milenijale ne odgaja televizija, već internet. Ne bojimo se nuklearnih bombi, ali bojimo se terorističkih napada. Mislimo da naši roditelji nisu proživjeli dovoljno i bojimo se da to nećemo napraviti i mi. Baš kao i kod priče s bombom, emocije su evoluirale, ali svejedno su ostale više manje iste.

Vjerojatno se ne može puno drugačija stvar očekivati ni od nadolazeće generacije Z, one koju već sada odgajaju mobilni uređaji a kojih tko zna što već čeka u budućnosti. No vjerojatno je riječ o istim strahovima zapakiranima u drugačiji omot. A mi, milenijali, sada na vrhu razočaravajućeg svijeta, tek trebamo postati razočaranje generaciji koja nas nikada neće stvarno razumijeti. Baš kao što mi nikada nećemo razumijeti njih.
Profile Image for Angela.
960 reviews52 followers
February 15, 2014
I first read this book when I was twenty and it's always stuck with me, it was one of those rare books that just really spoke to me. This is my second reading of the novel in its entirety, though I do read the last chapter every so often as I find the writing so beautiful. Reading it at the age of thirty I'm impressed, and utterly relieved, that it still holds all its initial charm for me, so much so that I've changed my rating from a four-star to a five-star.
Profile Image for Blair.
1,794 reviews4,437 followers
July 9, 2015
If I had read this book when it was published, I'd probably have liked it more. Clearly I don't mean that literally, since I was 7 years old when it was published. I just mean that it was obviously a very zeitegisty book at that time, and a lot of its details seem irrelevant and dated now, and if I'd been the age I am now in the early 1990s, I would have got it and appreciated it rather than getting it but thinking, so what. It was perhaps a stupid place to start with Coupland, but I haven't heard anything particularly great about his more recent books, and I wanted to begin with something that seemed to be loved by other readers. The characters should be insufferable: privileged twenty-somethings who have chosen to drop out of their careers to live in the desert and work in low-paid, easy jobs they can afford to be comfortable in because those 'McJobs' (which I'm sure was funny when it was a new term... just annoying now) aren't their only option. But it's actually pretty hard to dislike them, and their friendship is portrayed well, refreshingly free of a 'love triangle' angle given that it involves two men and a woman. Nothing much happens, the characters tell each other a few stories and there's the odd dramatic incident but it all melds into a largely numb whole. I read half the book in one sitting, went away from it and felt weirdly depressed at the thought of returning to it; but when I did, I read the second half in one go as well. It's about 200 pages, which I know isn't very long anyway, but it feels more like 100. Some nice lines, some nice moments, and the dialogue is quite good, but overall it was one of those books that made me think: now I've read this, I don't need to read anything else by this author.
Profile Image for Benoit Lelièvre.
Author 8 books136 followers
May 23, 2021
Reading Generation X for the first time in 2021 is extremely weird, because it was conceptualized, written and first appreciated in a world that doesn't exist anymore. A world without the chaos machine we call the internet.

In that sense, I thought it had a lot more in common with Jack Kerouac On the Road and other marginal youth novels than it does with anything we know now. Any, Dag and Claire live in history. Therefore, it's difficult to think about them in the way Douglas Coupland meant us to. The disenfranchised Generation X ended up espousing a radically new economy that spurted off the ground in the upcoming decade and at the end of the day, they were fine.

So, what makes Generation X such a powerful book in its time was the clear, scathing rejection of a certain way of life its characters had: nuclear family, home in the suburbs, kids, dog, 401k, etc. It was refused to them first and they eventually turned against it. Denounced its hypocrisy and inaccessibility in witty, juvenile, tongue-in-cheek ways while trying to find a situation for themselves. That said, it's a very pertinent read in 2021 with the ongoing atomization of ways of living. It might not help you sympathize with the grumpy, entitled Xer in your life who ended up being not so bad, but it'll help you understand how we're all rebelling against the same soul-rotting way of life.

A lot of the stuff millennials and Zoomers are rebelling against, Xs rebelled against too. But unlike us they didn't go to college for it.

23 reviews1 follower
August 14, 2007
A classic!

The story of 3 young people who give up their high tech jobs and move out to the desert in Palm Springs to work in marginal "McJobs" that allow them time for a quality of life that they would not have if chained inside of a cubicle at a large corporation.

Sometimes funny, sometimes painfully wistful--the characters reflect on popular culture, American Family, and love.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,620 reviews988 followers
June 9, 2020
Douglas Coupland's critically and commercially acclaimed dark comedy looking at three people dropping out of the rat race, who with nothing to do, tell each other stories, as they try to live on on the outskirts of the mainstream. 6 out of 12.
Profile Image for Amanda Ventrudo.
43 reviews3 followers
January 30, 2022
3.5 — wish i could go back to 1990 and tell douglas coupland that everything will get so much worse
Profile Image for Rebecca Alcazaze.
153 reviews12 followers
January 29, 2020
Found this mildly aggravating for a good few pages. I hope my reading tastes haven’t changed in my cynical old days as ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ was a top ten favourite in my twenties. I sense I’ll have to be brave and reread it now to make sure I still love it.

Perhaps years of reading Ballard have now tainted my taste in consumerist disillusionment?
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