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on 7 June 2012
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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on 25 May 2015
I first read Generation X in the early 90's shortly after leaving University(well Poly but like all at the time, mine changed to a Uni in my final year). I have re-visited in many times since then, with a different perspective as I moved through life.

It resonated most when I was in the first stages of a career, struggling, working for 'the man', getting engaged and buying my first house, moving up the corporate ladder all be it slowly. Each year it was a book I took on holiday with me, leaving it behind in the hotel lending library for others to pick up on a good number of occasions. Then I went back to it after my divorce and was evaluating my life choices, and I took something different from it. Now, 46 delighted it is now available as a Kindle version. So it will be joining me on holiday again, this time with my wife and two young children and I am sure my take on the book will be one of nostalgia for how I felt when I first read it in my early 20s but maybe I will get something new from it.
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on 24 March 2010
My book group selected this book as it was being covered on one of the Radio Four book programmes. To tell the truth, we were all pretty disappointed. The characters seemed two dimensional and the little phrases and comments at the bottom of lots of the pages - while amusing in some cases - irked after a while. The book's format involves the characters telling stories to each other - but that too became irritating pretty quickly. Most of us are around the same age as the author and left of centre politics wise. So we thought we'd empathize with Coupland's yuppie society drop-outs. But somehow it didn't work for us. Perhaps we're just a bit too 'grumpy old woman' or just didn't get all the cultural references because we're British. I'm not quite sure but I don't think any of us will be reaching for any of his other works.
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on 8 January 2013
Whilst this is not my favorite of his book (I would probs rank it about 4th or 5th) I would still recommend it.
The title itself has become such an important phrase in modern culture and i think that alone means it is worth a read. It introduces lots of new words and phrases which are explained at the bottom of each page which I thought was really cool. The narrative isn't exactly ground breaking but perhaps the style in which it is written is.
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on 29 April 2013
This is an essential read for anyone writing contemporary fiction or non-fiction. It is worth it just for the the footnotes, that are in the margins, 'McJob' 'fattening pen' etc. I have stolen a few of the expressions for my own writing, as have many others. I bought this for my son, buy it and you will not be disappointed.
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on 30 March 2015
A funny and very studied look at human behaviour,a great read!
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on 27 December 2016
Hipsters in the desert. So much better than it sounds!
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on 7 December 2014
Perfect. Fast delivery
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on 5 June 2004
There's so much about this book worth shouting about and recommending that it's difficult to know where to begin- but for me the characters are the main appeal of gen x. The witty wordplay, insights and stories within the story probably have more to do with the success of the book, but it is the characters (Andy, Claire and Dag)- who are apathetic and idle and complicated- that make the reader feel involved and gripped and who kept me reading.
The book raises many questions and explores a whole range of issues, which probably all boil down to 'what is the meaning of life in these messed-up times?' and even though it doesnt quite live up to its potential, by the convoluted ending you'll find you really don't need it to.
Forget about the characterisation of Coupland's modest book as 'a study of post-modernism in the 2Oth Century'- pick it up and read it because it's a damn good read and you'll very likely take something away from it that's completely different from me or anyone else. That's the beauty of it!
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on 29 January 2015
I have dozens of dog eared pages in this so I can go back and remind myself of the biting satire on show here. Truly great.
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