Books Briefly


From The Seattle Times (June 30, 1991)

by Clark Humphrey

At last: A novel about people born since 1960 that is neither condescending nor laden with sex-and-drugs sensationalism. Vancouver, B.C., writer Douglas Coupland has captured the nuances of what Billy Idol's first band called "Generation X," or what punk-rocker Richard Hell more poetically called "The Blank Generation." Coupland's characters don't live in hype-smothered Los Angeles but in a forlorn desert suburb.

They work at meaningless, low-paying "McJobs"; they're rootless, family-less and essentially sexless (we don't really learn the narrator's gender until page 47). The narrator and his platonic pals Dag and Claire have grown up cynical about everything and everybody, including themselves. What they do have is that refuge of lonely people the world over: storytelling. In their spare time (which is most of the time), they exchange tales ranging from wry comments about their far-off relatives and long-ago jobs to darkly comic fantasies about planets where the year is always 1974.

By the end, however, they have grown weary of their own "terminal hipness" and are last seen slumming in Mexico, traditional bohemian territory since before the Jack Kerouac era. The imitation Harper's magazine Index at the back is unnecessary padding, as are Paul Rivoche's illustrations, which imitate those comic-strip-parody postcards of housewives pouting, "Damn, I forgot to have children."