'Generation X' Author Predicts Technology Will Doom Groupings


From The Columbus Dispatch (February 3, 1995)

by Alice Thomas

The man who wrote Generation X bristles at the pop culture buzzword and thinks society may not find it easy to classify people in the future.

The title of Douglas Coupland's 1991 novel has become shorthand for describing a way of life as well as 42 million Americans in their 20s.

But Coupland, who spoke in Columbus Wednesday night, said the world may be moving too fast to make broad generalizations in the future.

"When we used to think of the next generation, we used to think of sameness. Now, we just assume that the next generation will be different because of technology. "Generations actually become irrelevant. Each of us is a generation. Each of us becomes a new diskette, a new pioneer formatting a new landscape," Coupland said.

Coupland, 33, has been examining technology for his next novel, Microserfs, due out in May. The book, he said, is based on the real lives of a group of people working at Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft.

Like the characters in Generation X - three unhinged young adults living in Palm Springs, Calif., who shun yuppiedom and their parents' way of life - the subjects of his next book don't have traditional ties to religion, family and roots.

What they do have is more disposable income. Not that it helps. "None of them have a life and they don't even realize they don't have a life. But getting a life is not as easy as it used to be. You have . . . to make it up every day," he said.

Computers also are thrusting longtime ideals out the window, he said. "The saying (that) 'knowledge is power' is overturnable . . . because all knowledge is cut and pastable."

In a suit and tie, Coupland addressed a crowd of more than 400 people who packed the aisles, stage and seats at the Ohio Union Conference Theater on the campus of Ohio State University.

He leafed through loose papers and a small journal while reading excerpts of his writing, interrupted himself to add off-the-cuff observations and threw in a few jabs at the hype his first novel received.

Still fascinated with pop culture, Coupland stopped one reading to take a "Gap check" - a show of hands to see how many people were wearing clothing from the store, popular with 20-somethings. At the start of his talk, he held up TV listings and thanked the crowd for missing those shows to attend.

Some audience members said they shun the label "Generation X" but enjoy Coupland's writing.

"They weren't revelations or anything. They didn't change my life, but they were good books," said Frank Penington, 26.

Jay Carson, 25, said he has read all of Coupland's books. "I think he can write in such a way - there's a realism. He taps into a lot of common experiences."