Thursday, February 26, 2009

Book Review - Generation X by Douglas Coupland

Phew, I'm glad that's over!

Upon finishing what appears to be the last chapter of Generation X, if not including the statistics section entitled Numbers, I am only slightly surprised by my loud and spontaneous outpouring of the chorus to All You Need Is Love.

I’m not sure how I feel about this writer, Douglas Coupland, and his first novel, as I have never read anything else that he has written, and thereby have nothing to compare it to, nor do I have any knowledge of any personal growth that he might have had as a writer since. I know that it took me a full week to get through it, and being that it is less than 200 pages, this cannot be a good sign, and probably speaks for itself.

I can appreciate the messages relating to social responsibility for our environment, consumption and consumerism, as I’m often one to amplify the same thoughts. I can get down with the existential reflections of those on a mission to find themselves and their place in this gargantuan world. And I can even say that for many years I subscribed to the ‘terminal wanderlust’ as experienced by the main characters in this novel. What I can’t get onboard with is the bitter and resentful attitude characters like Dag emit towards their parents and their ‘easy’ lives, “...with no worries of futurelessness.” Those same parents were able to provide a life for Dag, through hard work and stability, whereby he had the choice to either be a stuffed shirt in a cubicle or to traipse around Palm Springs finding his purpose, and they did this all, never knowing what the future held. Coming from an upbringing where the aforementioned parenting was not a given, I suppose I just find this kind of spoiled-brat whining annoying and offensive to my sensibilities. Be mad at the corporate monster, give up all your worldly possessions if it helps you to sleep at night, but always be thankful for what you have, because others who don’t-have are struggling because of it.

Ultimately, I believe that the angst shown by the generation X’ers of this novel differs none from any generation that looks to the one before them. Everyone thinks their generation has it the worst, life has gotten harder, and that nobody understands their plight; just one of the many writes of passage to maturity.

A couple of Neo-logisms from the novel, that I favoured:
Emotional Ketchup Burst: The bottling up of opinions and emotions inside oneself so that they explosively burst forth all at once, shocking and confusing employers and friends, most of whom thought things were fine.

Option Paralysis: The tendency, when given unlimited choices, to make none.

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.

2/5 Snakes


  1. Oh, don't judge Coupland by this one!

    I loved Hey Nostradamus! and Eleanor Rigby, and then read Gen X and was sorely disappointed. I really didn't get it. There were lots of neat phrases, and while it doesn't speak to me and my experience, these generational angsty books don't appeal to me that much either. I tried On the Road too and hated it even more.

    I also liked Coupland's The Gum Thief and All Families are Psychotic. Try another one!

  2. I will definitely give him another shot raidergirl, especially after your emphatic defence! If you could pick one for me to read next out of all those you've listed, what would it be?

    I look forward to giving him another shot, because he appears to be a very eclectic individual, and you should never judge somebody by one work.

    Thanks for the info.

  3. Here are a few more thoughts on Coupland for you. I just finished The Gum Thief.

  4. I think you'll like microserfs, even if all the 1995 technology references are sorely out of date now - the characters are strong and it is one of his funnier books. Let me know if what you think.

  5. Popped over from your comment on my blog. My response to Generation X is quite similar to yours. I read the book when it first came out and then dragged my feet for almost three months during Canada Reads cause I just could not get interested in reading it again.

  6. I certainly wouldn't be able to handle it again, that's for sure. I was really surprised when I saw that it was a selection. It is so dated, and there never seem to be many complimentary reviews when I find it on review sites. Strange...

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