Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (1991) by Douglas Coupland is a book that I’ve had for at least 15 years and one I’ve reread every few years or so. The book was Coupland’s breakthrough and was a popular book in the early 1990s. The book is stylistically clever, there are made up words on the sides of many pages and the layout is something that Coupland clearly thought about.
The book concerns Andrew, Dag and Claire who live together in the Mojave Desert. The three have dropped out of the rat race and all hold low paying, low status jobs in the desert. These ‘McJobs’, a phrase coined in the book, give them time to amuse themselves which they do in part by telling each other stories. The stories they tell are a big part of the book. The book is also something of a period piece, the recession of the early 1990s was affecting people and the lingering fear of nuclear war is brought up a number of times in the book.
The first time I read the book I was in my late teens and the protagonists, in their late twenties, seemed quite old, from an older perspective they seem quite young and are yet to face the consequences of their actions, people are still immortal in the twenties. The book exhibits much of the normal pantheon of worries, ecological catastrophe is present although Global Warming was yet to enter the popular consciousness and so is absent.
The book starts well, the characters and their partial dropping out is presented well. The problem is that the plot meanders and the protagonists, although they do move, don’t do so in a way that draws the reader in. The scene is what matters. The book has that in common with books that capture the Zeitgeist and certain ages. Catcher in the Rye, On the Road and other books are probably remembered more for the atmosphere they create than the story or the characters in them.
Still, it’s a good book and an interesting read.