Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture

Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture

by Douglas Coupland


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Generation X is Douglas Coupland's classic novel about the generation born in the late 1950s and 1960s—a generation known until then simply as twenty somethings.

Andy, Claire, and Dag, each in their twenties, have quit pointless jobs in their respective hometowns to find better meaning in life. Adrift in the California desert, the trio develops an ascetic regime of story-telling, boozing, and working McJobs—"low-pay, low-prestige, low-benefit, no-future jobs in the service industry." They create their own modern fables of love and death among the cosmetic surgery parlors and cocktail bars of Palm Springs as well as disturbingly funny tales of nuclear waste, historical overdosing, and mall culture.

A dark snapshot of the trio's highly fortressed inner world quickly emerges—peeling back the layers on their fanatical individualism, pathological ambivalence about the future, and unsatisfied longing for permanence, love, and their own home.

Andy, Dag, and Claire are underemployed, overeducated, intensely private, and unpredictable. They have nowhere to assuage their fears, and no culture to replace their anomie.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312054366
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 03/15/1991
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 834,151
Product dimensions: 7.48(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.57(d)

About the Author

Douglas Coupland was born on a Canadian Armed Forces Base in Baden-Söllingen, Germany in 1961. He is the author of Miss Wyoming, Generation X, All Families are Psychotic, and Girlfriend in a Coma, among others. He attended the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, the Hokkaido College of Art and Design, Instituto Europeo di Design, and the Japan/America Institute of Management Science.

Table of Contents

The Sun is Your Enemy
Our Parents Had More
Quit Recycling the Past
I Am Not a Target Market
Quit Your Job
Dead at 30 Buried at 70
It Can't Last
Shopping is Not Creating
Re Con Struct
Enter Hyperspace
December 31, 1999
New Zealand Gets Nuked, Too
Monsters Exist
Don't Eat Yourself
Eat Your Parents
Purchased Experiences Don't Count
Remember Earth Clearly
Change Color
Why Am I Poor?
Celebrities Die
I Am Not Jealous
Leave Your Body
Grow Flowers
Define Normal
MTV Not Bullets
Trans Form
Welcome Home From Vietnam, Son
Adventure Without Risk is Disneyland
Plastics Never Disintegrate
Await Lightning
Jan. 01, 2000

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Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
AdonisGuilfoyle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Douglas Coupland is a comic genius. 'Eleanor Rigby' was eerily perceptive and very droll, but this book is perfection - short, snappy and sharply humorous, sort of Brett Easton Ellis without the drugs. Narrator Andy (although his 'voice' is almost unisex) and two best friends Claire and Dag are twenty-somethings living in Palm Springs. They tell each other stories to pass the time because nothing happens. It's hot, they go to work, sit by the pool, drive out into the middle of nowhere for picnics. But Coupland makes this work, because his characters are introspective, intelligent, abstract and also very real. I could feel the oppressive heat and boredom he describes, and empathise with their neurotic 'generation x' fears. Coupland's writing is sharp, vivid but not pretentious - he captures the 'voice' of disaffected youth perfectly, with a wicked turn of phrase. One woman, nicknamed Elvissa, has a 'large, anatomically disproportionate head, like that of a woman who points to merchandise on a TV game show. This head is capped by an Elvis-oidal Mattel toy doll jet black hair-do that frames her skull like a pair of inverted single quotes'. A counter surface looks like the 'narrow horseshoe of flooring surrounding the toilet of an alcoholic, a lunar surface of leprotic cigarette burn sores'. Andy's father 'flounders through the empty rooms of the house like a tanker that has punctured its hull with its own anchor'. These are images that capture your imagination, making the reader 'see' without obvious comparisons what he is trying to say. Coupland should write a manual on how to phrase original metaphors and similes, he's that good.There are also some very apt definitions of modern phrases and social conditions peppering the pages like footnotes - 'voter's block', 'diseases for kisses' or 'hyperkarma', 'paper rabies' - that fit perfectly, as well as Lichenstein cartoons and pithy 'bumper sticker' slogans. All in all a very 'visual' book, complete with dazzling neon pink cover!
marek2009 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This brilliant book explains all that Coupland has subsequently written. Before I read anything by him I thought he was a superficial ironist, but the tragedy of his characters is that they are left with little more than irony to face the world.
veronicadarling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I could read this over and over again. Not sure where my copy is now though! Might have to hunt it down!
Knicke on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I didn't like this as much as Microserfs, I think because it sort of didn't tell me much...the characters seemed real, but none of the insight was particularly new to me (hey, I LIVED Gen X, baby!). Something odd that I liked very much: the textbook-y design of the book. I wish more fiction books were made this way. My internet-induced ADD likes call-outs and sidebars (wayyyyy better than footnotes), and a large, thinner, paperback format is easier to read at dinner (stays open without a hand or other prop).
Cecilturtle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fun, new outlook at a generation previously 'undefined' - the ones who inherited of the Baby Boomer mess
lahochstetler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was supposed to be the defining statement of a generation. That said, I enjoyed it less than some of Coupland's other work. This is the story of disaffected twenty-somethingswho've found that life has little to offer them except escalating home prices, creeping commercialism, and what one can only describe as middle-class ennui. So, they escape to the desert, work minimum-wage jobs, and entertain one another telling stories. All of the stories highlight the emptiness that defines the characters' lives. I'm not entirely sure why I found this less fulfilling than other of Coupland's works. Perhaps it's because I was born at the tail end of Generation X, so these sentiments were hardly revolutionary to me. Perhaps the nearly twenty years that have passed since its first publication have seen the sentiments assimilated into mainstream culture (irony noted.) Whatever it is, I have enjoyed other of Coupland's works far more.
lexport on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fantastic non-story. Nothing much happens really, but it's interesting none the less. It seems like an accurate portrayal of the predicament of a generation.
LynnB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I didn't really get into this book when I read it in 1991. I couldn't identify with any of the characters, who are only a few years younger than me (less than 5). I did enjoy some of Coupland's definitions and a few of the "bedtime stories" the characters tell each other. So, I just read it again. I still can't identify with it at all, but some of the ideas of working in dead-end, service industry jobs seem to resonate more for me about my children's generation than it ever did about my own.
Oreillynsf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this engaging and spot-on depiction of the idiosyncracies of Gen X. As someone on the cusp of Boom and X (though very much a Boomer in values and lifestyle) I was tickled to death by this insightful novel that exposed what makes the Gen X outlook unique. It's quite funny. And you can read it just for that. But beneath the yucks there is deep insight into how and why Gen Xers are different. And the story is good as will, though I was constantly reminded of that Seinfeld rejoinder of a show about nothing. If you have any interest in sociology or generational differences, this book will give you a nice fix.
TheAmpersand on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's easy to point out the dated elements of Douglas Coupland's "Generation X." The typeface is distracting, most of the neologisms defined on the margins are cringe-inducing, and Coupland throws around the the demographic epithet "yuppie" like Reagan's still in office. Heck, he even ripped off the book's title from a sixties-era sociology textbook and Billy Idol. Still, underneath all this window-dressing, Coupland tangles, in a snarky, roundabout way, with some important questions. "Generation X" is a real novel. Whether is good enough to be a generation-defining novel, however, is still very much up for debate. The protagonists of Coupland's novel, ur-slackers Andy, Dag, and Claire, aren't exactly pop culture obsessives; for a book about the harmful effects of media oversaturation, "Generation X" contains very few cultural references. It might be more accurate to say that they're burdened by too much history: the atomic legacy of the Cold War, the failed promise of the sixties' cultural revolutions, their own troubled family histories. Their decision to create ordinary, relatively straight lives in Palm Springs isn't so much a campaign against the establishment as it is an attempt to wipe the slate clean. These characters, like many young adults, constantly struggle with the question of whether fresh, unmediated experience is still possible in a world increasingly dominated by multinational capitalism and awash in looming, formless anxiety and too much unorganized information. It isn't a coincidence that these characters try to regain some perspective by telling each other stories, either. Coupland wants to know if the narrative form can still help us make sense of an increasingly confusing world, and that's always a good question for novelists to ask. Coupland doesn't, of course, come up with any answers, and it's hard to see how working a service-sector job with a lousy attitude could serve as a effective means of social resistance. Still, Coupland, like his characters, is trying his best. This isn't to say that "Geneation X" is written particularly well. Coupland's got a gift for incisive, slightly grotesque descriptions and his prose sometimes manages to evoke the lovely, creepy emptiness of his book's desert setting. Still, all of his characters, young and old alike, speak with the same verbose, slightly affected voice, which I suspect is very much like Coupland's own. Also, while I won't ruin it for folks who haven't read it yet, the novel's final pages are something of a cop-out. Even a novel where nothing much happens needs a decent final chapter.
jddunn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Penetrating, cynically witty in parts, and pleasingly melancholic, but too clever by half and sorta hollow, slipshod and packaged, in the same way much of what he is offhandedly criticizing is. The whole decrying-knowing-irony-whilst-compulsively-indulging-in-it schtick gets a bit old, if very tragically illustrative of the Problem With Our Culture or whatever. Perhaps this is a conscious decision, but it doesn't really work for me. Seemed more quotable than readable in the end.
drewandlori on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I hated most of this book when I was in high school, but I think I should definitely give it a second chance now that I'm a little older.
Deesirings on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this several years ago and it stands out as a favourite. I love the sidebar definitions and the whole unorthodox format.
gazzy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book that spawned a generation of copy-cats mainly because it so accurately portrayed the lives of the title. The first and best of that 90's aesthetic of Irony, brought to a close by 9-11.
yorkjob on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First time I read a contemporary novel that was clever and hit close to home.
soylentgreen23 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This could have been the beginning of something wonderful, but I feel that Coupland's work of late has been something of a let-down.That said, the world will always have this perfectly formed slice of nineties anxiety. Life in the nuclear age - both in terms of technology, and the "nuclear family" - is expressed through the adventures of a delinquent group of friends living in the tragic rubble of California around Palm Springs: they don't belong there, and it tells.
pratchettfan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting view of a generation which tries to find itself by taking jobs their overqualified for and being constantly on the move.Even though the book is very funny and insightful, I couldn't find a bond to the characters as happened with Coupland's novel JPod, but that's probably because I'm too young to be part of this Generation X ;).
Stbalbach on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the book that popularized the term "Generation X" and first put a label on my generation. It focuses on the themes of information overload, declining standards of living, and many other traits such as non-family oriented, travel oriented, other-country oriented. Another trait is fragmentation, it is difficult to generalize about GenX so the characters and scenes in the book represent one subgroup of many possibilities. Reading it for the first time 15 years after it was published (almost a generation later) he got many things spot on where culture was headed.
yum More than 1 year ago
Generation X was not at all what I had expected. Looking for a novel that highlights people in their twenties searching for what to do and where to go in their life, this book had disappointed me. The novel did not flow very well. It actually was more a bunch of short stories than an actual novel. It was very easy to put down and forget about because you can easily pick it back up and read a chapter without remembering what happened in the beginning of the book. It seemed too choppy. Normally I enjoy books by Douglas Coupland. I own all of his books. But this one did not get me gripped like the others. The characters were well drawn out, and very easy to envision, and I liked certain chapters, but the overall book had me snoozing.
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Coupland's first book, it captures not a particular generation but a way of looking at life. Dag, Claire and Andy's life in the desert provides an alternative to the selfish consumerism rampant in our world today. Some may criticize its lack of cohesiveness, its aimless wanderings from one moment to another, but honestly, aren't most of our lives like that? Coupland's cleverness and creativity, his ability to distill moments makes him one of those rare authors whose books you want to start again right after you finish them. I have read this multiple times and have never failed to find something new. Highly recommended. Æ