Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Generation X - Douglas Coupland

I have now read this book four times and still is feels relevant and very much alive.

Coupland's main characters, Dag, Claire, and Andy, are three young people born between the late 1950s and the early 1970s (i.e., Generation X). They come from upper-middle-class homes; but they are neither financially ambitious nor lazy. Although they do their fair share of complaining, they also try to make sense of their lives and their culture by telling abstract stories to each other; attempting to put some order within the chaos of existence. They see modern ways and consumptive living anathema, and instead choose to live outside the system in a southern state desert.

One passage that you may find useful, although not without the reader having some knowledge of Generation X and Douglas Coupland, is the following:

"When someone tells you they’ve just bought a house, they might as well tell you they no longer have a personality. You can immediately assume so many things: that they’re locked into jobs they hate; that they’re broke; that they spend every night watching videos; that they’re fifteen pounds overweight; that they no longer listen to new ideas. It’s profoundly depressing. "

Perhaps the most "quotable" and comparatively short bits of text are Coupland's definitions of terms within Generation X. Some are funny; all are poignant; none is obvious without some context. I offer the following as examples:

"McJob: A low-pay, low-prestige, low-dignity, low-benefit, no-future job in the service sector. Frequently considered a satisfying career choice by people who have never held one."

"Clique Maintenance: The need of one generation to see the generation following it as deficient so as to bolster its own collective ego: 'Kids today do nothing. They're so apathetic. We used to go out and protest. All they do is shop and complain.' "

"Mental Ground Zero: The location where one visualises oneself during the dropping of the atomic bomb; frequently, a shopping mall."

"Consensus Terrorism: The process that decides in-office attitudes and behaviour."

"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."


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