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Polaroids from the Dead

3.27  ·  Rating details ·  2,899 ratings  ·  90 reviews
Douglas Coupland takes his sparkling literary talent in a new direction with this crackling collection of takes on life and death in North America -- from his sweeping portrait of Grateful Dead culture to the deaths of Kurt Cobain, Marilyn Monroe and the middle class.For years, Coupland's razor-sharp insights into what it means to be human in an age of technology have garn ...more
Paperback, 198 pages
Published September 20th 1997 by Harper Perennial (first published 1996)
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Average rating 3.27  · 
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 ·  2,899 ratings  ·  90 reviews

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Hank Stuever
Jul 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Essays, some of them quite good, all of them with the same Gen X asceticism that is sometimes mistaken for pure irony.
Oct 18, 2011 rated it liked it
A collection of short stories and essays that analyses 90s culture in North America from the perspective of somebody living through it.

Douglas Coupland is right up there as one of my favourite authors and this was my first experience of his short writings; a selection of themed pieces told in such a way that even the fiction felt like reality.

Dissecting the evolution of the generation he had previously inadvertently christened Generation X and the way we choose to connect with others whilst rema
Steven Godin
The essays were good.
The short stories were rubbish.
One of Coupland's best, in my opinion.
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
Whatchoo Talkin' 'bout, Bruce Willis?

"What's with all these hippies kissing my girl, why don't they ever wash? What did we ever do to that cult that made them so violent? Whoo-hoo, I look just like Charlie Manson, oh-whoah, and you're Sharon Tate...I don't care what they grok about us anyway, I don't care about that!" - Weezer

Those MTV Buzz Bin friendly lyrics from the 90s are what I remember most about the 90s. That, and the couch potato friendly, Beavis and Butthead target-marketed, hit MTV v
Jul 24, 2017 rated it liked it
My least favorite Douglas Coupland book so far. This is for Coupland's die hard fans ONLY. Reading it in 2017 is a little redundant and weird as most of it is about subjects that were very much relevant in the 90's, and may seem ridiculous to read about these days, after all that has been happening since its first publication. Grateful Dead concerts, the first days of the internet and upheavals in celebrity culture - In hindsight, I think I should have read it much earlier. The Brentwood part wa ...more
Aug 06, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: fiction
It was a gift. It was terrible.
Nov 18, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not what I was expecting.
elizabeth roberts-zibbel
This was written when the 90s were only half over, but certainly the early 90s were very concerned with leaving the decadent 80s behind and also a bit obsessed with both the 60s and the future. These essays were pretty hit or miss for me and it was kind of painful to read them knowing how much of an incredible shift would be coming with Bush vs. Gore, 9/11, and Obama’s election. And then Trump. What an insane 20 years it’s been.
Susan Strickland
Jan 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
If you want to understand the tenuous transition with which western culture entered the 90s, read this book.
it is excellent.
Feb 05, 2020 rated it liked it
"Like most consultants profiting from the burgeoning world of political technology, Tim worships the database. He knows how to narrowcast information into persuadable sectors of what he calls the "simian population base;" he can merge TV-viewing databases with voting databases. He is proud not to be just another twenty-eight-year-old burnout case from the Hill."

At first glance, this has the feel of a collection quickly cobbled together on the heels of the author's wildly successful first outing
Nov 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
'' And here's something we've all noticed: during power failures we sing songs, but the moment the electricity returns, we atomize.
I am choosing to live my life in permanent power failure. I look at the screens and glossy pages and I don't let them become memories.
When I meet people, I imagine them in a world of darkness. The only lights that count are the sun, the candles, the fireplace and the light inside of you, and if I seem strange to you at times, it's only because I'm switching off the p
Aug 03, 2017 rated it liked it
The book is a series of short stories with its main characters post-collegiates encountering and reacting to events of the day (i.e., Kurt Cobain’s suicide, OJ Simpson’s murder case) and their lives in general. Contained therein are a sort of commentary by the author in a detached, sometimes snarky, and often witty manner. The book is a sort of Salinger for the 90s with the angst and ennui brought on by the early dotcom years where the aforementioned events become the characters’ defining moment ...more
Hollie Rose
Oct 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's a collection of essays - many centered around likely fictional Dead concert attendees. Amusing imagination at work here. really enjoyed this line of thinking - Pg 179 - about the importance of having a story, a narrative of your life and how, if you lose that, you are denarrated – or not having a life.' So-and-so doesn't have a life. How can you have a story when you have no religion, no family connections, no ideology, no sense of class or location, no politics and no sense of history? Ame ...more
Jun 10, 2020 rated it did not like it
I was so excited to have the book after years of searching, since I am a fan of his book, "JPod."

I was surprised that it is just a book of random ramblings that do not make sense, and it is a letdown. It's maybe because I do not come from the Generation X demographic that is his target audience, but there are so many Gen X books and films that I like. In fact, I like them more than the ones made for the millenial demographic, of which I am actually part of.

I decided to give away the book to some
Kelly Jones
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
a+ nostalgia and cultural critique
Jan 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Pretty good I liked the one with the journalist and the Brentwood story.
Larry Scarzfava
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Although some of the pieces in this book are mediocre, others are among Coupland's finest and most beautiful work, especially "The German Reporter."
Brett Grossmann
Nov 27, 2019 rated it liked it
At times amazing!!! At others I found myself drifting and bored like I was given the book as homework to read
Bennett Starnes
Dec 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I think it affected me more because of where I am in life & where I was when I first read it. ...more
Apr 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to visit 1994 Memory Ln
Shelves: short-stories
I believe this is a book that is made better with age. I didn't expect to enjoy it, and so I've put off reading it for 15 years since it originally came out. I'm actually glad that I did, because I think it's a much better book now than it was 15 years ago.

Polaroids from the Dead is a collection of essays that Coupland wrote in the early 90’s and that appeared in various magazines and publications. Published in 1996, he collected the pieces into a single volume and illustrated them with photogra
Jan 04, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This si a book about Coupland's ruminations on contemporary 1990s culture, such as the Grateful Dead, life in California and his native Vancouver, Canada. The peices on the Greateful Dead were fun to read, I can relate to that experience vicariously though my firends and the Greensoboro shows where I went to school.

The long-winded piece at the end on Bentwood, in Los Angeles was less to my liking, but interesting in Couplan's ruminations on fame, post-fame, and the need to continuously reinvent
Apr 03, 2008 rated it it was ok
Inspired by a collection of Polaroids he found in a drawer, the auther Douglas Coupland provides a variety of short stories that reveals his life and the changing culture seen during the early 90's. The book starts off with two fictional characters at a "Grateful Dead Concert". The two characters take on the stereotypical role of 1970's hippies, as they pop acid to entertwine themselves with the music and people surrounding them. Each picture shown in the book has a story behind it to reveal it' ...more
David Ward
Polaroids from the Dead by Douglas Coupland (Reagan Books 1996) (818) is an interesting little art book. The "Polaroids" referred to in the title are not photographs (though a few snapshots from the Grateful Dead parking lot are included)but are instead essays that capture moments in time or timeless moments of Deadheads on the road with the band. The book is divided into sections; the first section contains the aforementioned road tales. This section left me feeling all warm and fuzzy. However, ...more
May 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book is a musing on 1990s culture, from a variety of fictional and non-fictional viewpoints. It was a bit scattered, but I don't think this detracts meaningfully from the point of it all. The short stories at the beginning are fantastic, probably my favourite part of the book, though some of his thoughts on B.C. also hit the spot. The last section of the book, about fame, was mildly incoherent at times, but it was fitting, and read a bit like a half-cut older lady rambling about the city of ...more
May 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
To echo another reviewer, this is a much better book now than it was when it first came out. The content, of course, is the same, but I am a much different reader when this was published 15 years ago. At twenty I had to practice an ironic detachment from what Coupland was saying about the 1990s and who we were then; I thought he had no right to define "us". Now, I can see that his insight into the culture back then was crystal clear. He had it right all along.

Coupland is a gifted essayist, and y
Corey Dutson
Dec 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
Well... That was a book. I generally love Coupland, but this book felt off. While he generally tries to feel out poignant topics to expose, to pick away at, to muse upon, this book felt lost.

Maybe that was the point; to be a journey of denarration. This books feels like Coupland himself is trying to suss out the answers to questions he hasn't properly revealed to the user. He wanders almost aimlessly between stories that are barely connected.

Again, maybe that was the point, but it was frustrat
Antonis Moras
Nov 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
So that time came and this is a boring book by Douglas Coupland. A collection of shorter pieces and generally divided into two parts, the first half is the most conceptually structured and the theme is the lives of different people related to a grateful dead concert.The second part is forced to fill bookspace and its theme is Brentwood, LA. The first part was interesting, the hippie culture and its various permutations was something that u could expect from coupland, his remarks are clever and p ...more
Daniel Kukwa
Aug 26, 2011 rated it it was ok
A very strange work of...well, let's called it Coupland-on-auto-pilot-randomness. The first third is a fictional series of vignettes taking place at a Grateful Dead concert...and nails (in many ways) the lid on the coffin of the 1960s and 1970s by the "hard" realities of the 1990s. The second third of the book is a series of melancholy essays about cultural post-moderism...or should that be post-90s-isms. It's all well and good, but then the final third of the book lurches into the territory of ...more
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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 sever ...more

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