Douglas Coupland, Wired to Technological Times


From USA Today (July 5, 1995)

by Deirdre Seiler

WASHINGTON - Douglas Coupland is a reluctant celebrity. Best known for his super-hip 1991 novel Generation X - "Generation X is a way of looking at the world, it just happens to hover around a certain age of people," - the 33- year-old author's in town to promote Microserfs, his new novel about twentysomethings in the computer industry. The Canadian author and sculptor appears in the lobby of the Four Seasons hotel dressed as casually as his laid-back protagonists - in shorts, his old "lucky 13" soccer jersey, and a baseball cap. He explains apologetically that he's "lost the will to groom." But not the will to talk. Being with Coupland is dizzying - like watching TV with someone restless on the remote. Conversation runs the gamut from the thin paper he insisted on being used for Microserfs - "You save the lives of twice as many trees by printing on the thinner paper stock, which is actually really cool," explains the eco-sensitive author - to the O.J. Simpson news of the day: "It looked to me like (the glove) fit pretty well," Coupland decides.

Like the characters in his books, Coupland displays a relentless fascination with popular culture, pulling depth and sensitivity out of its maelstrom. On his way to a bookstore appearance, he comments on the surrounding suburban sprawl: "It's amazing what you can see when you're nowhere." He picks up a discarded cassette tape and, holding it to his ear, jokes, "Ah, Peaches and Herb," referring to the sentimental '70s soul duo. At the signing, Coupland doesn't read from Microserfs. Instead, he gives a multimedia presentation involving video, music and what is essentially stand-up comedy. He professes to dislike interviews, which is why, rather than taking questions from the crowd, he shows a short film. Ironically titled Close Personal Friend, the movie is a sort of MTV-format, pre-fab interview by an off-screen interrogator of Coupland commenting on the themes in Microserfs, designed to answer all the typical questions about the book. As he says when introducing the movie, "If people knew how hard I worked to avoid talking to them, they would be flattered." Still, he's friendly as he signs books after the video and talks with everyone who presents a book, including some Microsoft employees, who attest to the accuracy of Coupland's description of Microsoft corporate culture. Asked later about the controversy that resulted after the first section of Microserfs appeared in Wired magazine (where Coupland is a contributing writer) without being labeled as fiction, Coupland expresses amazement that some readers felt misled.

"I can't believe that! It was on deadline, and the layout person forgot to put in the little slug that says 'fiction.' It was that simple," he says. "It wasn't like, 'Wired's trying to f-- with your mind.' So that's why I can't believe in conspiracy theories. If only, as a species, we were that together. "It would actually say good things for us that we were able to engineer these things."