Friday, January 15, 2016

Two Months from today Coupland's "Generation X" Turns 25

In just two months, Douglas Coupland's zeitgeist novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture will turn twenty-five. That's right, a quarter century ago on March 15, 1991, Generation X was named as the book was published. This year is the year for a generation, which had been deemed the Slackers, to look back on 25 years. In that time, slacking is really the last thing we've been doing. But what we have been doing is worthy of reflection - growing up, getting jobs, raising kids, creating the internet, hacking society, creating artisan crafts, seeking authenticity in a world severely lacking. These ideas are the focus of the retrospective book I've been working on and hope to put out soon. In the meantime, here's the foreward to the book version of my Master's thesis on Coupland's early works. It's title -  McJob: Consumer Culture in Douglas Coupland's Early Works.

In the middle of summer in 1991, as I was about to enter my final year of college, a good friend who had just graduated but was still on campus waiting tables casually mentioned to me “this new book about people our age …” The focus, he said, was on twenty-somethings who had graduated into a lethargic economy with a sense of career ennui and were working hourly service industry jobs rather than pursuing careers. The key, or intriguing element, was that they were “choosing lifestyle over career.” Sure, they were working “McJobs” that had nothing to do with their college majors, and they were earning far under their potential or promise … but they were choosing to do that while they focused on finding some meaning in their lives. They had unintentionally, and rather subconsciously, embraced the mantra laid out for them years before by the Everyman teen hero Lloyd Dobbler who in Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything calmly and rationally explained to Diane Court’s father how “I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that.”  For my friend and other recent graduates in our spehere, Lloyd's idea resonated with validation of our unexpected post-graduate experience. The book was, of course, Douglas Coupland’s Generation X: Tales of an Accelerated Culture (1991), and it would be the work of fiction that captured a moment in time and incidentally named a generation.  

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