Friday, July 20, 2007

Generation X

Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, by Douglas Coupland
$11.66 at Amazon.com
ISBN: 031205436X
A terrific novel close to my heart. It was published the same year I graduated from high school (1991), and its title would become synonymous with Americans born from 1961-1981: Generation X.
The story involves three friends and neighbors: Claire, Dag, and our narrator, Andy. They've all grown tired of the materialistic modern culture that sucks them dry from over-work and offers little of real value in return. The three of them shed their old lives and moved to a run-down apartment complex in Florida where they share stories, swap drugs, and tend bar in a nearby blue-collar saloon.
The incredibly handsome author (see below) captures the alienation and dark humor of a group of young people who felt that American society had reached its apex under their predecessors: the Baby-Boomers. By the time their own generation was born, the decline had already begun: wasteful government spending, millions of people on Social Security, and inherited environmental and worldwide health problems presented a bleak outlook for their future. Schools weren't nearly as well funded as they'd been in previous decades, the cost of college had sky-rocketed, and the employment situation offered low-wage "McJobs" but little more.
In other words, no one wanted to buy the world a Coke.
Despite all the melancholy and nuclear paranoia, there's a lot of optimism in this book. Most of Coupland's work is fun for the MTV, Smurf-loving, Gen-Xers out there. This one gets mentioned first because of its notoriety as a book that defined a generation, a Catcher in the Rye for modern times.
The lead characters all sound really sexy: they're young and forever at the pool or shirtless picnic in the sun. How nice for them. The stories they share at one such picnic are especially entertaining. This is a must-read for the generation whose cultural innovations included: rap music, bungee jumping, video games, a significant gay rights movement, and the internet as a major medium.
First class work, Douglas!

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