Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture
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Generation X is Douglas Coupland's acclaimed salute to the generation born in the late 1950s and 1960s--a generation known vaguely up to then as "twentysomething."
Andy, Claire, and Dag, each in their twenties, have quit "pointless jobs done grudgingly to little applause" in their respective hometowns and cut themselves adrift on the California desert. In search of the drastic changes that will lend meaning to their lives, they've mired themselves in the detritus of American cultural memory. Refugees from history, the three develop an ascetic regime of story-telling, boozing, and working McJobs--"low-pay, low-prestige, low-benefit, no-future jobs in the service industry." They create modern fables of love and death among the cosmetic surgery parlors and cocktail bars of Palm Springs, disturbingly funny tales of nuclear waste, historical overdosing, and mall culture.
A dark snapshot of the trio's highly fortressed inner world quickly emerges--landscapes peopled with dead TV shows, "Elvis moments," and semi-disposable Swedish furniture. And from these landscapes, deeper portraits emerge, those of fanatically independent individuals, pathologically ambivalent about the future and brimming with unsatisfied longings for permanence, for love, and for their own home. Andy, Dag, and Claire are underemployed, overeducated, intensely private, and unpredictable. Like the group they mirror, they have nowhere to assuage their fears, and no culture to replace their anomie.
there are no young people and it feels like an expensive waiting room." "Andy, I'm the last person to be saying this, but, hey—your parents are only getting old. That's what happens to old people. They go cuckoo; they get boring, they lose their edge." "These are my parents, Dag. I know them better than that." But Dag is all too right, and accuracy makes me feel embarrassingly petty. I parry his observation. I turn on him: "Fine comment coming from someone whose entire sense of life begins and
finest labels. Slick. And they can afford them because, like most Global Teen princes and princesses, they all live at home, unable to afford what few ludicrously overpriced apartments exist in the city. So their money all goes on their backs. Tyler is like that old character from TV, Danny Partridge, who didn't want to work as a grocery store box boy but instead wanted to start out owning the whole store. Tyler's friends have nebulous, unsalable but fun talents—like being able to make really
Tobias to New York. Stop looking at me like that." "Actually, Claire, I'm just reading the paper," I say. "Well you w a n t to stare at me. I can tell." Why bother telling her she's only being paranoid? Since Tobias left that day, Claire has had only the most cursory of telephone conversations with him. She chirped away, making all sort of plans. Tobias merely listened in at the other end like a restaurant patron being lengthily informed of the day's specials —mahimahi, flounder, swordfish—all of
bedroom soon enough. I can see the signs." POVERTY LURKS: Financial paranoia instilled in offspring by depression-era parents. PULL-THE-PLUG, SLICE THE PIE: A fantasy in which an offspring mentally tallies up the net worth of his parents. UNDERDOGGING: The tendency to almost invariably side with the underdog in a given situation. The consumer expression of this trait is the purchasing of less successful, "sad," or failing products: "/ know these Vienna franks are heart failure on a stick, but
parks people had dropped from a truck. Perfectly shaped like a water dowsing rod. Well! Talk about an object speaking to you from beyond! It just woke me up, and never in my life have I lunged so instinctively for an object as though it were intrinsically a part of me—like a leg or an arm I'd casually misplaced for twenty-seven years. "I lurched forward, picked it up in my hands, rubbed it gently, getting bark scrapes on my black leather gloves, then grabbed onto both sides of the forks and