Coupland's Latest Strong


From Winnipeg Free Press (January 16, 2000)

by John Lyons

Douglas Coupland defined a demographic with his 1991 debut novel, Generation X. Those born at the tail end of, or after, the baby boom would forever after be linked to that tale of loathing, yet simultaneously embracing, modern commercial and consumer society.

The Vancouver-based writer hasn't changed his style much since he first surfaced in public consciousness. Sure, his books are now printed in a traditional format, which allows the reader to focus more on the written subject and less on the form.

But not much else has changed. He still writes an engagingly fast-paced story. He's still fascinated with escapism. He still skims over many motivations. He still turns a lot of nouns into verbs and affects forced, overly cute similes.

"Evergreens that absorbed noise like sonic tampons," he writes at one point. "Sad, pale eyes like snowy TV sets," he writes at another.

Miss Wyoming, the title of his seventh book, isn't going to enter the lexicon as did the title of his first. Nonetheless, it is as strong a book as he has written, with the possible exception of his last, 1998's splendid Girlfriend in a Coma. Miss Wyoming concentrates on Coupland's familiar themes of people searching for a bit of soul in a very commercial world. It contains his trademark elements of television culture and reinventing ourselves.

The novel begins with the chance encounter of Susan Colgate, a fading former child star, and John Johnson, a producer of action movies. From there, the reader careens back and forth over time and space, as Coupland serves up the life stories of the pair and continues the tale of their possible romance.

Colgate and Johnson come from different backgrounds, yet share much in common. Both became disaffected enough with their lives to disappear from their own worlds, giving up all elements of their lives: homes, money, family and identity. Both returned from that journey to rejoin their former existence. Miss Wyoming weaves the lives of these two Los Angeles denizens into an intriguing read.

Coupland is too flippant to be a great writer in the literary sense of, say, an F. Scott Fitzgerald, who defined a much earlier lost generation. Nevertheless, Coupland writes compelling stories, critiques of the world we live in. He writes increasingly with a more assured, less sarcastic voice. The self-proclaimed voice of Generation X is growing up.