Tales that defined a generation

Tales that defined a generation

31 days of cult classics | Modern Mrs Darcy

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.

Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, Douglas Coupland. 31 Days of Cult Classics | Modern Mrs Darcy

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? 

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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.


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8 comments | Comment


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  1. Plopinette says:

    I absolutely love your 31 days series, I’m definitively going to read the first Jane Austen works, and maybe even this one !

  2. Anne says:

    I read it, Anne, and I think it went right over my head at the time. I meant to read Girlfriend in a Coma because the cover art was the same as Tori Amos’s from the choirgirl hotel cover art. I wonder what I would think of Gen X now.

  3. Lauren says:

    This is one I will definitely have to read. I think I actually am part of generation X…too young to be a yuppie and too old to be totally comfortable with all the modern aspects of our techno world. When I read some of the quotes you included I was shocked to find that they fit…somewhat. Thanks for doing this series!

  4. 'Becca says:

    I hated that book. The phenomena and terminology aspects of it are insightful, but to me the characters were unlikeable and half their behavior was incomprehensible, even though I am a member of Generation X myself. It’s one of many things I’ve read/seen that make me want to stay far away from Southern California.

  5. Paige says:

    “conspicuous minimalism (“the nonownership of material goods flaunted as a token of moral and intellectual superiority ”

    Are we seeing this more now than ever, or what?

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