The setting: the Southern California desert, 1991. The characters: three twenty-something friends–Andrew, Dag, and Claire–who are underemployed, overeducated, floundering. The concept: they tell each other stories–some personal, some invented–as they try to manufacture meaning for their underwhelming lives.
Douglas Coupland defined a generation with his novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. He coined phrases to describe the previously undefined cohort following the Boomers, such as McJobs (“low pay, low prestige, low benefits, low future”), option paralysis (“the tendency, when given unlimited choices, to make none”), and conspicuous minimalism (“the nonownership of material goods flaunted as a token of moral and intellectual superiority”).
Generation X’s chapter titles are as thick as its content: Our Parents Had More. I Am Not a Target Market. Shopping Is Not Creating.
Its amazing, in hindsight, how much clarity Coupland had about (one segment of) this generation, and how well his critique has held up over twenty-plus years.
Cosmopolitan blurbed the book as “a modern-day Catcher in the Rye.” That may be going a bit far. Generation X is a groundbreaking novel, no question. But opinions are split on whether or not it’s a good one.
Have you read Generation X? Do you agree that it was groundbreaking, and do you think it’s any good?
***** ***** *****
This is the twelfth post in a series, 31 Days of Cult Classics. You can click here to see a list of all the posts, updated everyday in the month of October.