Reflective Reading


From St. Petersburg Times (February 3, 1994)

by Mike Canning

If you're a real Generation Xer, reading this book is perhaps the closest thing to keeping company with a few fellow exemplary members. Canadian Douglas Coupland has created a trio of Xers with such vivid detail that reading this book is like having Dag, Claire and Andy slumped on the couch next to you, gin and tonics and skewed tales at the ready.

Three 20-somethings provide the story. They have "dropped-out," '90s-style. They haven't stopped working, they've just downgraded their careers for menial jobs. They co-habitate in a desert bungalow in Palm Springs, rather than a hippy commune. Their opiate isn't pot or LSD, but mixed drinks and marathon story-telling. Sometimes true-to-their-lives and sometimes not, these "bedtime stories" always manage to reveal their seething dissatisfaction at the cultural and sociological diffusion left to their generation in the wake of the baby boomers.

With this novel, Coupland has gone a long way in defining Generation X, a demographic known for its lack of definition. Hence the book's most clever feature, an on-going glossary of Generation X terms in the page margins that clarify the world as viewed by Dag, Claire and Andy.

Included is "Mc Job: A low-pay, low-prestige, low-dignity, low-benefit, no-future job in the service sector"; "mid-twenties breakdown: A period of mental collapse occurring in one's twenties, often caused by an inability to function outside of school or structured environments coupled with a realization of one's essential aloneness in the world"; and "obscurism: The practice of peppering life with obscure references (forgotten films, dead TV stars, defunct countries, etc.) as a subliminal means of showcasing both one's education and one's wish to disassociate from the world of mass culture."

Coupland's commitment to capturing the intellectual, spiritual and moral bearing of his characters - and of Generation X at large - makes his writing unavoidably tedious and heavy-handed at times. Caring for the characters is often a challenge. But if any of the above outtakes made you nod to yourself, consider a night alone with this book time well-spent in front of the mirror