Picks & Pans


From People (April 25, 1994)

by Maria Speidel

This collection of eight short stories is the third book by Coupland, whose 1991 novel, Generation X, christened the age group born between 1961 and 1981 and helped spawn a marketing revolution. In his previous two works, Coupland, 32, wickedly satirized the fast ecological ruin, shrinking white-collar job market and fear of intimacy confronting his generation. These bare-bones tales - many in the first person - set mainly in British Columbia catch Xers in varying states of misery.

A couple of the book's lost-at-the-strip-mall characters are compelling. Laurie, an affluent suburban druggie who becomes so obsessed with the story of Patty Hearst that she runs away, is lovingly remembered by a sibling as "the one for whom I would skip high school." But most are cardboard creations whose sole distinguishing quality is self-pity: Witness one narrator who notes, "I think the price we paid for our golden life was an inability to fully believe in love; instead we gained an irony that scorched everything it touched."

Like Generation X, which included pictures and slogans in its margins, Life After God has a gimmick. Illustrated with pen-and-ink drawings, the book is the size of a pocket Bible. But Coupland's ultimate commercial maneuver is his 30-second readings on MTV. Sly marketing savvy may always be part of Coupland's art, but fans will hope he ditches the self-indulgent wailings and regains his hip, funny point of view. Growing up, even in the '90s, doesn't have to be this humorless.