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on 3 December 2012
This is one of the key books of the1990's in which he gets characters to act and tell stories about their life and so reveal their attitudes. These Americans are a post Vietnam /Reagan generation on the edge of the digital age. From the viewpoint of the 2010s this looks rather dated but the book has its charms and I enjoyed it. The characters are fairly amiable and their problems are not life threatening. It reminded me of Scott Fitzgerald who gave a similar type of portrait to the Jazz Age. It is also thankfully a short book.
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on 1 June 2005
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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VINE VOICEon 6 August 2007
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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on 5 January 2006
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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on 2 March 2009
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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Douglas Coupland created the name of an entire generation in "Generation X," with his look at the lives of disaffected twentysomethings, in lives that lack an indefinable something. Witty, incisive and intelligent, Coupland's debut is still an outstanding read long after the original twentysomethings are twentysomething no more.

Three twentysomethings -- Andy, Claire, and Dag -- first encounter each other in the California desert, far from their original homes. All three are "underemployed, overeducated, intensely private, and unpredictable," and they are adrift in life -- they want meaning in their lives, but they don't know what it is or how to find it.

Disgruntled by the soulles pop culture, they've all left the world behind in favor of a non-rat-race life. They take up unrewarding minimum-wage "McJobs," and form a little Platonic circle that tells stories about themselves and the future, giving insights into what drove them to that place in the first place.

"Generation X" is one of those rare books that takes on the problems of youth with genuine intelligence. No matter how many curmudgeons say that "kids today have it easy," each generation has its own problems and challenges, including ones of the soul. It's those problems that Coupland seeks to address here.

That intelligent edge has gotten the book labelled pretentious, but if anything it lacks pretension. Coupland is frank and upfront, both about his "slacker" protagonists, and in the attitude he has toward the world. He tackles the insecurities and dissatisfactions of youth, and how the people who came of age in the early 1990s struggled with the concept of a society in flux. They were too old to be innocent, too young to be fully benumbed.

Coupland's writing is rougher here than in his later novels like "Shampoo Nation" and "Girlfriend in a Coma." But it has his usual wry zing and offbeat style, stripped down to a mass of details and thoughts, and the ability to look at how the masses worry about things that don't really matter. He's cynical and dark in places, but has a certain downbeat optimism as well.

Douglas Coupland's debut has a languid, downbeat beauty about it. And the insightful "Generation X" is still a modern classic, with something to say to any generation.
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on 22 March 2017
It has a nice cover and that is all I can say about this alleged classic. If you make it to the end without killing yourself or anyone else, well done.
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Quaint yet contemporary, addictive yet superficial, quite unlike anything else yet utterly familiar, funny yet sooo depressing - there's a distinct Godard feel in there too (he too personified style over substance; thank God he eschewed drugs) - this is consumerism's decadent endgame, affluence's aimlessness plus globalism's uprootedness, the aboutissement (or coming to fruition) of Just What Is It Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing, yet with an eerily provincial, at-one-remove feel (only a Canadian, one feels - North American yet not 'American' - could have written it; this is a very Canadian book!), the chameleon observer or innocent abroad. 'Some people don't have to play the hip game; I like Elvissa, but she can be so clued out.' Is he for real, this narrator? Or Claire: 'Girls can be so froufrou'; 'VSTP: very severe taste problem, that lady'. Exactly how tongue in cheek is this? Worth remarking on too is the loose, at times somewhat Decameronesque, or Sheherazad, structure - aimlessness embodied! Get the original edition - style and content were never better fused.
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on 24 April 2005
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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on 5 November 2004
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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