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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If at first...
I have read all of Douglas Coupland's fiction and think he is an immensely thought-provoking and inspiring author. "Generation X" was the first of his novels I read and I have to admit at that time I didn't really get into the book or enjoy it much. However, I then read "Life After God" and loved it. It was only after reading several of his other novels that I decided...
Published on 24 April 2005 by lisa-zc

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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Smug and overly pleased with itself
Okay, let's be clear. I'm the exact demographic for this novel. And I recognised pretty much all the references it makes. And I like witty cynicism. Hell, I've even been to Palm Springs. So it isn't as if I "didn't get it" or that it somehow "went over my head".

I can live with the fact that there's no plot, no character develops or changes, or that there is no...
Published on 2 Mar. 2009 by bloodsimple


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If at first..., 24 April 2005
This review is from: Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (Paperback)
I have read all of Douglas Coupland's fiction and think he is an immensely thought-provoking and inspiring author. "Generation X" was the first of his novels I read and I have to admit at that time I didn't really get into the book or enjoy it much. However, I then read "Life After God" and loved it. It was only after reading several of his other novels that I decided to have another go at "Genereation X". What a revelation! I have to say that I don't understand why I didn't enjoy it the first time. It is an amazing book. The narrative is full of inciteful observations about friendship and finding meaning within modern Western society. It is a book I have now read several times and it never ceases to amaze and amuse me.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 90s postmodernism, 1 Jun. 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (Paperback)
I enjoyed this book, it is a light read, and all the more compelling because essentially nothing happens. Despite their eccentric personalities and life-choices, the characters are believable for this reason in so far as they are the mouthpiece of alienation and the lack of a coherent world-view.
Despite the other review, this book *is* an attempt at characterising post-modenity, and explicitly so. More specifically it is a very 90s trendy post modernism and its characters belong to the nineties world. This is a good thing in itself, but already makes the book somewhat nostalgic for me only nine years later, and will date its relevance considerably in the long term.
Especial pleasure came for me when nearing the end, I realised (without giving anything away) that the three central characters with their McJobs (a nod to Ritzer I think), complaining to one another and terminal lack of ambition are despite everything....happy. At least so long as they have the company of other like minded people to tell their bedtime stories to.
Incidentally the footnote definition of 'bambification' kept me laughing all day.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Smug and overly pleased with itself, 2 Mar. 2009
By 
bloodsimple (nottingham, uk) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (Paperback)
Okay, let's be clear. I'm the exact demographic for this novel. And I recognised pretty much all the references it makes. And I like witty cynicism. Hell, I've even been to Palm Springs. So it isn't as if I "didn't get it" or that it somehow "went over my head".

I can live with the fact that there's no plot, no character develops or changes, or that there is no pace or drive to the narrative. The problem with this book is that, like Coupland's other efforts, it is less than the sum of its parts.

The cynical, I-always-see-through-marketing-hype style grates very early on. All three of the characters basically sound the same, act the same, and think the same. There is no spark or conflict between them - they all agree on pretty much everything. The smug "I'm cool because I'm deliberately a slacker" attitude is morally and ethically empty - it's a dismal anti-choice that teaches the reader nothing about anything.

Bits I enjoyed? The small definitions at the bottom weren't bad, in the same way they would (and really should) have been if they'd appeared as minor asides in a daily newspaper. Some of them seemed forced and shoehorned into an arch definition. And occasionally, when Coupland trusted himself not to play a smarmy, wisecracking slacker, the description can work well.

Overall, I wonder if there's simply something about books that claim to `define the zeitgeist', or `capture the mood of a generation'. This didn't. It didn't get close - just ramming product names into the narrative and then saying how stupid they are, doesn't say anything of any consequence at all. But then, I hated Catcher in the Rye as well, and everyone tells me I'm a philistine to hold such a view. This book didn't speak to me of my place, time, life, attitudes or habits. It was just three annoying people in the desert, feeling inordinately pleased with themselves for no particular reason.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the first major work of a important and thought provoking voice., 29 Sept. 2012
This review is from: Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (Paperback)
Back in 1989 a little known Canadian writer called Douglas Coupland (pronounced Copeland), took off for the Californian desert city of Palm Springs to write a handbook for the post boomer generation, or at least that's what his publisher thought. It turned out Coupland had other ideas and "Generation X" was his first attempt at fiction. The story goes that when he turned in the manuscript his publisher was aghast and it was only at the prompting of younger staff whom identified with it that it was finally published. In time the book became a huge success, and in what is probably the biggest irony in a book seemingly defined by it, the title became the term used by marketing and the media to identify a generation whose motto could easily have been the title of one of its chapters: "I Am Not a Target Market".

Whilst Coupland denied he was ever the spokesperson for a generation or that Gen X was ever more than a collection of attitudes and behaviors, I think he captured something important. His words resonated with young people of a certain age who didn't identify with the boomer mentality and looked for cultural markers that more closely matched their own experience.

I first came across Gen X a decade ago in a London bookstore, and it certainly provided welcome relief from the rain and rigors of day to day living. Sometimes it's scary to see how tenuous the thread of meaning is in ones existence, in those days held together by little more than a few good books and the odd day spent goofing off work. I'm put in mind of a day many years ago; I was at Heathrow Airport, a regular haunt for me then, and I realized I would not remember the endless, crappy days spent doing meaningless jobs, so unimportant were they in the overall scheme of things. It was the occasional days off, promoting a process, fostering a feeling and nurturing a nascent belief in a better way of being that I would remember, and so I have. Having said all that I've never understood why the best things in life seem to exist on the periphery, but maybe that's just the way it goes....

So here I am now having made my escape; I'm at the "chokingly hot hill" of West Palm Springs Village, 3 hours from where I now live in California and 15 miles from downtown Palm Springs, hanging out at the corner of Cottonwood and Sapphire, site of the "picnic from hell" enjoyed by Andy, Claire and Dag early in the book, where they told bedtime stories of the accelerated culture in which they lived in an attempt to make sense of it. I always wondered if I'd make it here and now that I have, I'm given pause to wonder who else has been here for the same reason; to pay homage but also to see what came up for them. Who would have guessed I'd be here a decade later? Life can surprise you.

Actually, hanging out is too generous a word to describe my brief visit; it's absolutely one of the most depressing places I've ever seen and I leave almost as soon as I arrive. Strangely enough, in the 20 years since Coupland was here it's probably changed for the better; there are new homes, some of them even quite nice, but they are plunked down randomly in a kind of uniquely awful semi urban desolation. With its lack of sidewalks, busted up and broken down gravel roads intersected by rutted dirt tracks hacked out of the arid wasteland, it makes the average trailer park look like the height of desirability. What kind of affliction would drive anyone to live here, save for cheap land?

Standing here in this failed 1950's housing development I look eastward towards more promising vistas, a land of almost perfect desertification forgotten by rain and civilization. It's a different world out there in the desert and one that draws as much as repels, a seemingly promised land of escape and freedom far from the cool green dampness of my youth, yet the contrast is so shocking everyday living there might become a form of self imposed regret.

So, what does Generation X and its characters have to say about life both then and now? Times have certainly changed as have the available choices; doing jobs beneath your ability as in "occupational slumming" just to be ironic seems dated in a world where widespread unemployment means if you can even get a "McJob" you'll probably take it. Whilst the characters seek escape from their dysfunctional families and boring careers, they live in a kind of half world, not quite brave enough to cut the ties completely and lacking the ability to move on and define life on their own terms. One always gets the feeling they have simply opted out for a while but could opt back in at any moment, something that would be harder to do these days.

I have to say though that I admired their spirit and understood their desire for time out; to think about life, dream of a different future and question the values around them even as they recognized the unlikelihood they could change them. Perhaps this kind of thing is a rite of passage, a duty of each generation to question the one above it, but I sometimes wonder if my generation was different.

Defining generations is difficult but the post boomer generation, of which I am a part and Gen X characterizes, covers roughly those born during the 60's and 70's. We reached adulthood in the 1980's and saw leaders like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan dismantling social assistance and sensed that the world was changing. With real wages stagnant since the 1970's we would be the first generation unlikely to surpass the living standards of our parents; the social contract had been permanently broken. What that means today is if you're an in demand developer with the likes of Facebook and Google competing for your services then that freedom to choose is great; the rest of us though are screwed and have been sold down the river. We have the freedom to choose between lots of poor options and need two incomes to even dream of buying a home. Our middle class fathers might have been company men with all the compromises that entailed, but they could at least support their families and retire with the comfort and security of good pensions, something that will be denied to us. Whilst I never wanted to sell my soul and be a company man, it would have been nice to know that it was still an option.

This I believe is what gave the book some of its bite; the way in which despite their meandering lives full of irony and post apocalyptic stories, the characters gave voice clearly to these types of concerns. If you were never likely to be that successful economically or allowed access to the means to do so, then the yardstick of success by which previous generations judged was less important for you; you had to find meaning and purpose in other ways. This is a message with even greater relevance today, and after such a meaningful deconstruction of intergenerational issues the ending chosen for the characters was a bit of a letdown, but in leaving it open Coupland allowed his characters to live on in memory in their hazy, timeout world, their questions all the more potent for being unanswered.

I've read a lot about Coupland to find out more about the background to the book; what he was trying to express, and his perception of his creation years later. I was fortunate to find a series of articles and an audio interview conducted by the Guardian newspaper in the UK last year. Coupland makes an interesting interviewee, but what struck me most was the palpable emotion in his voice as he looked through the book for the first time in 18 years. It became clear the reason he'd never gone back to it was what it brought up for him; the rawest of emotion. The kind of bone-crushing, soul-sucking loneliness I also experienced once in my life and like him have never forgotten; who'd want to be reminded of that? He also talked movingly about the characters he'd created; how you live with them as parts of yourself and how when you finish a book those characters die; his voice trembled as he wished them well.

Coupland has been variously described as a chronicler of our times and a post modern transcendentalist, and he went on to confirm his talent for defining the zeitgeist and for good timing with "Microserfs", which came out the week Windows 95 was launched. Since starting this essay I've dived further into the Coupland oeuvre and enjoyed "The Gum Thief", "JPod", "Life after God" and "Shampoo Planet". One can see how his style has developed and his story telling abilities have improved, yet the razor sharp wit and biting satire of Gen X have not been surpassed. His later books flow better and often have a kind of inspired lunacy and cultivated pointlessness, but for me Gen X has stood the test of time both as a snapshot of social trends that still have relevance today, but also as the first major work of a important and thought provoking voice.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Adventure Without Risk is Disneyland", 6 Aug. 2007
By 
Matt Pucci "mattpucci.com" (Here, there and everywhere) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (Paperback)
I was mildly disappointed when I read this for the first time recently as I was expecting something a little more fast-paced, a little edgier. Perhaps this was because I - erroneously, as it turns out - associated the title with grunge music, a hybrid of punk, indie-rock and heavy metal that reached its peak in the early nineties - right about the time Generation X was first published. In fact, the title refers to a generation slightly older than me and the majority of grunge fans, and there is no mention of Nirvana et al in this, Douglas Coupland's debut novel.

The story itself is a gentle, somewhat uneventful tale of three friends who, having become increasingly disillusioned with the soulless pursuits of the yuppie/baby boom generation, relocate to the Mojave desert, in California. Here, they tell each other stories ("memories of Earth") not merely as a way of passing the time but in an attempt to re-discover their humanity. If the topics of these stories seem lofty and language employed to tell them pretentious, then it's entirely deliberate, Coupland capturing the "overeducated, intensely private and unpredictable" nature of his characters in a touching and wonderfully ironic style.

What intrigued me most about this book, however, was the impressive glossary of terms and slogans found at the foot of the pages. Wryly observed, and for the most part, searingly funny, they reveal as much (if not more) about the generation Coupland is concerned with. And if you recognise yourself in any these descriptions, fear not! You are surely not alone. I for one have been guilty of "Ultra Short Term Nostalgia" and "Musical Hairsplitting" in my time, and have come pretty close to a "Mid-twenties Breakdown" once or twice...

In conclusion, Generation X isn't an overly thrilling read, but it is a lyrical, insightful and romantic book that remains an iconic and culturally significant work of fiction.

Matt Pucci
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, 5 Jan. 2006
By 
Ms. F. M. Stygall "CornflowerBlue" (Preston, Lancs, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (Paperback)
Generation X has become something of an 'our song' between myself and my friends. Deeply moving and subtly bitter, without ever being in any way 'normal', it is the lives of three highly intelligent people who have effectively dropped out from society.
Their backgrounds aren't always clear, and there are moments of very modern identification - Dag declares himself 'a lesbian in a man's body', while Andy is pained by his younger brother's apparently infallible capitalist happiness. It's a strange and broken novel, and there is no clear ending, but it's also a beautiful novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Artistic and poetic. An inspiring piece of work, 5 Nov. 2004
By 
Mike (Liverpool, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (Paperback)
Coupland writes with so much poetry in one sentence, that you could fill a gorge just with the thoughts it creates.
Generation x is about three friends, Andy, Clare and Dag, who have moved out to the Arizona desert to escape modern city life. They tell beautiful stories to pass the time and to make each other think and they make the reader think too.
The book combines the wonderful tales the characters makes and the situations that they are going through at the same time. The apathy of the three characters really links with the reader and the stories, metaphors and similies give a real "woah" moment as you look away and think. In all, it's got to be Coupland's best works despite the smallness of the book. It's just simply beautiful. You must read it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars without doubt the best book i have ever read, 11 Jun. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (Paperback)
This was my first coupland experience & the only drawback to that is that it has spoilt me. the only book that comes close is Microserfs. I read 3/4 of this book sitting in a coffee bar for 2 houirs waiting to see a client in newcastle! read this book just read the book. it's enlightning, refreshing, reassuring & VERY tempting. BUY THIS BOOK!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Flourish of Style With Little Substance, 7 Jun. 2012
By 
Herman Norford "Keen Reader" (Birmingham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (Paperback)
Come up with a catchy title, Generation X, and chose a topic that gives a sense of significance, alienation, or to paraphrase the beatnik edict turn on, tune in and drop out; and hey bingo you have a novel that will attract attention and there I say critical praise. That is exactly what Douglas Coupland has done with Generation X. It is a hip, cultish type novel that wears its heart on its sleeve right from the outset, there is a hint in the title, and then for another 200 plus pages hasn't got much else to say apart from a pretence to being a great debut novel.

It is the early 1990s so Coupland presents us with three characters: Andy, Dag and Claire, in their late twenties, all of them want to look back on the 1980s and even before the 80s and distance themselves from the ramification of the entrapment of climbing the capitalist ladder that the 80s engendered. Disillusioned with the way of the world as they experience it they drop out of `mainstream' society to lay about in California. Here they can drink, picnic in the Californian desert with dogs to accompany them, reflect on a spoiled world and tell stories.

Based on the above premise the novel quickly arrives at its conclusion and then thereafter has very little to of significance to tell the reader. The novel is narrated in the main by Dag and his narration holds a number of stories within the main story together. We get short descriptive passages of each of the three main characters past experiences. But these very short descriptions of various experiences do not add up to much. At best the stories reveal slight insights into the odd behaviour of the characters.

Perhaps there are some compensating features of the book and hence the reason why I gave it two stars rather then one. There are some humorous and insightful observations. An example being a reference to the effort some people make to buy their own home all too often clearly beyond their means. The narrator tells us: "When someone tells you they've 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; they're broke ... that they no longer listen to new ideas." Another example in this vein is: "the only reason we all go to work in the morning is because we're not built for free time as a species. We think we are, but we aren't." Although these observations are insightful, I nonetheless could not stomach the cynicism that indeed runs right through the novel.

The novel is littered with footnote definitions, brief advert like blurbs and brief graphic fiction sketches. They don't really add much to the novel. Indeed, the final straw for me was the definition given for "Obscurism". It said: "The practice of peppering daily life with obscure references (forgotten films, dead TV stars, unpopular books, defunct countries, etc.) as a subliminal means of showcasing both one's education and one's wish to disassociate from the world of mass culture." Well I am glad we are not all going out of our way to dumb down.

The novel failed to engage me because from the outset one knows that it is premised on the idea of a generation that has become alienated from modern society. This does not leave much to discover or learn about the human condition. All that is effectively left to glean from the novel is how Coupland tells his story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Less is a possibility", 29 Nov. 2010
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (Paperback)
What's good about Generation X?:
It has some great neologisms; it only slightly overstays its welcome; it is warm, forgiving, accepting of its protagonists; it is often funny, relevant, smart and witty.

What's not so good about Generation X?:
Many people just won't *get* it; those who do will find plenty to despise and pick apart; the stories are dubiously eloquent and clever - and they are all told in exactly the same voice, so there is little differentiation between the three main characters; conflict and plot development are resolutely absent.

One critic on Amazon rejected the book because the "'I'm cool because I'm deliberately a slacker' attitude is morally and ethically empty." But if books were confined to writing solely on topics that are moral and ethical their number would drop to at least half. Such an objection is ridiculous when you consider that there is no sex in the book and the only crime depicted is one minor (and accidental) act of vandalism. Yes it propounds a lifestyle of non-productive and non-reproductive reactionism, but could this be related to the soulless surroundings of 1990s America - the malls, the projects, the proliferation of McJobs, where once there were genuine employment prospects? "Slackerism" seems a fairly reasonable reaction.

Nonetheless, this doesn't entirely satisfy as a reading experience. I felt restless as I read it, waiting to see where it was taking me. To a dead end, it seemed, and it meant to do so. That's what Generation X sees. It's also as predicted by David Foster Wallace in his brilliant essay on Irony. See A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again - the real rebuffal of intelligent slacker irony within it will get you thinking.
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Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture
Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture by Douglas Coupland (Paperback - 7 Nov. 1996)
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