Good with brill, bad with girls


From The Daily Telegraph (May 15, 1993)

by Jake Michie

Reading Shampoo Planet is like being warped into a television; into one of those cool, sassy American sit-coms where all those lovable characters glow with quiz-book sophistication, gorgeous gags and "problems" you would sell your house for. Everything is somehow recognisable, but without contact with the real world, and in this sense they provide a curious comfort; you may shriek with laughter, you may weep manly tears, but when it is over you take nothing with you. It has gone.

Coupland's second novel is as dazzlingly disposable as his Generation X. Set in Lancaster, a moribund nuclear satellite town in America's north-west, it charts the desperate aspirations of Tyler Johnson, 22, shampoo-expert and aphorist. "If money isn't so great," asks Tyler, "then why do rich people keep it all to themselves?" His mother cannot help him; she is a Sixties flake with a born-again haircut and a doorbell that plays "Greensleeves". He wants to live in LA in a room "so quiet I can hear the nice clean furniture", but skulks in his bedroom ("The Modernarium"). Tyler wants just about everything he does not have - "a feeling at once destructive, romantic and grand, like falling into a swimming pool dressed in a tuxedo."

The author's philosophy is simple: pile up enough one-liners and you get a novel. Miraculously, he gets a novel. A very funny one.