He who dubbed us Generation X fails to live down to his politically correct image


From The Ottawa Citizen (March 23, 1994)

by Tammy Sutherland

Douglas Coupland is a Canadian author who has achieved a cult following with his first two novels.

Generation X and Shampoo Planet were hailed as the coming-of-age novels of this so-called lost generation. Just as Salinger and Kerouac defined their eras, so has Coupland created an image of himself as a politically correct manager of a fast-food restaurant. Imagine my surprise when a handsome, slightly awkward Coupland took the stage last week at the National Library to read from his new book Life After God.

He was not shaved, and he was dressed casually in jeans and a green pullover in the spirit of St. Patrick's Day. He quickly established a rapport with the audience by telling an anecdote about an earlier New Year's resolution of his to learn to sing. "I found my voice to be intractable, was his way of telling us not to expect too much.

On the contrary, his gravelly, monotone voice lent an air of authenticity to his reading.

He began with a short piece entitled The Island , then read some supposed Patty Hearst transcripts, which led into a story called Patty Hearst . His easy humor was apparent through his first two pieces, while the third highlighted his reflective qualities. The full auditorium responded in kind with gales of appreciative laughter and then riveted silence.

Coupland poked fun at yuppies and the ladies who lunch. He expounded on the little moments of one's life that make up our own stories. He captivated the audience with his easy-going manner and good humor and descended the stage to the sound of applause.

He was available for book signing and questions in the lobby after the reading. Apparently some people took the question part too seriously because it took two hours to get through the line. The wait was worth it, though, for a chance to chat for a moment with this voice of a generation.

In my copy of Generation X , Coupland traced his hand and then inside of it wrote: "To Tammy: We dream of giving up our hearts. Doug.

I left with a sense of enlightenment and a renewed interest for this talented young author.