This is Douglas Coupland’s debut, and the novel that popularized the term Generation X. I binged on a few of his books a couple years back, but hadn’t read anything of his since this. While this wasn’t my favourite of his, it was a nice reminder of why I should still be reading him. He’s has a creative way of telling stories.
The overarching narrative here is about three disenfranchised twenty-somethings as they meander through unambitious lives. They hold jobs that are beneath their skill levels, live in a dive apartment block, and spend their time telling each other stories. Their lives are just a framing device for the novel, and in a way it could be seen as a collection of short stories. These stories are sometimes made up, and sometimes personal, and they all give some insight into why these characters are the way they are.
Laziness is masqueraded as deep thinking, and it all comes off as pretension at times. In the context of the era, the characters could be seen as representatives of a shifting society, a generation that is fed up with rat race careers and a meaningless, empty culture, but that doesn’t mean I’d want to be around any of them. I feel like if you were in your early twenties in the late eighties to early nineties, when grunge music and ‘loser culture’ was growing in popularity, reading this at the time may have carried more weight, but right now it makes me feel a bit old and grumpy.
The entire novel is peppered with little margin notes that I really enjoyed. Little terms that describe an action or group that loosely relates to the story at that moment, such as:
EARTH TONES: A youthful subgroup interested in vegetarianism, tie-dyed outfits, mild recreational drugs, and good stereo equipment. Earnest, frequently lacking in humor.
NOW DENIAL: To tell oneself that the only time worth living in is the past and that the only time that may ever be interesting again is the future.
I wasn’t in love with this, but it did keep me entertained throughout, and it’s made me want to get back into reading his novels again.