Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture
Overview
Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, published by St. Martin's Press
St. Martin's Press
St. Martin's Press is a book publisher headquartered in the Flatiron Building in New York City. Currently, St. Martin's Press is one of the United States' largest publishers, bringing to the public some 700 titles a year under eight imprints, which include St. Martin's Press , St...

 in 1991
1991 in literature
The year 1991 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:*Douglas Coupland publishes the novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, popularizing the term Generation X as the name of the generation....

, is the first novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 by Douglas Coupland
Douglas Coupland
Douglas Coupland is a Canadian novelist. His fiction is complemented by recognized works in design and visual art arising from his early formal training. His first novel, the 1991 international bestseller Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, popularized terms such as McJob and...

. The novel popularized the term Generation X
Generation X
Generation X, commonly abbreviated to Gen X, is the generation born after the Western post–World War II baby boom ended. While there is no universally agreed upon time frame, the term generally includes people born from the early 1960's through the early 1980's, usually no later than 1981 or...

, which refers to Americans and Canadians
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 who reached adulthood in the late 1980s. It is a framed narrative
Frame story
A frame story is a literary technique that sometimes serves as a companion piece to a story within a story, whereby an introductory or main narrative is presented, at least in part, for the purpose of setting the stage either for a more emphasized second narrative or for a set of shorter stories...

, in which a group of youths exchange heartfelt stories about themselves and fantastical stories of their creation.

Coupland released the similarly titled Generation A
Generation A
Generation A is the thirteenth novel from Canadian novelist Douglas Coupland. It takes place in a near future, in a world in which bees have become extinct. The novel is told with a shifting frame narrative perspective, shifting between the novel's five main protagonists...

in September 2009.
Generation X is a framed narrative
Frame story
A frame story is a literary technique that sometimes serves as a companion piece to a story within a story, whereby an introductory or main narrative is presented, at least in part, for the purpose of setting the stage either for a more emphasized second narrative or for a set of shorter stories...

, like Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales
The Canterbury Tales
The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer at the end of the 14th century. The tales are told as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together on a journey from Southwark to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at...

or The Decameron
The Decameron
The Decameron, also called Prince Galehaut is a 14th-century medieval allegory by Giovanni Boccaccio, told as a frame story encompassing 100 tales by ten young people....

by Boccaccio.
Quotations

101-ism - the tendency to pick apart, often in minute detail, all aspects of life using half-understood pop psychology as a tool. (page 85)

2 + 2 = 5-ism - caving in to a target marketing strategy aimed at oneself after holding out for a long period of time: "Oh, all right, I'll buy your stupid cola. Now leave me alone." (page 139)

air family - describes the false sense of community experienced among coworkers in an office environment. (page 111)

anti-sabbatical - a job taken with the sole intention of staying only for a limited period of time (often one year). The intention is usually to raise enough funds to partake in another, more personally meaningful activity such as watercolor sketching in Crete or designing computer knit sweaters in Hong Kong. Employers are rarely informed of intentions. (page 35)

anti-victim device (ADV) - a small fashion accessory worn on an otherwise conservative outfit which announces to the world that one still has a spark of individuality burning inside: 1940s retro ties and earrings (on men), feminist buttons, noserings (on women), and the now almost completely extinct teeny weeny "rattail" haircut (both sexes). (page 114)

architectural indigestion - the almost obsessive need to live in a "cool" architectural environment. Frequently related objects of fetish include framed black-and-white art photography (Diane Arbus a favorite); simplistic pine furniture; matte black high-tech items such as TVs, stereos, and telephones; low-wattage ambient lighting; a lamp, chair, or table that alludes to the 1950s; cut flowers with complex names. (page 75)

Armanism - after Giorgio Armani: an obsession with mimicking the seamlesss and (more importantly) controlled ethos of Italian culture. Like Japanese minimalism, Armanism reflects a profound inner need for control. (page 82)

Bambification - the mental conversion of flesh and blood living creatures into cartoon characters possessing bourgeois Judeo-Christian attitudes and morals. (page 48)

black dens - where Black Holes live; often unheated warehouses with Day-Glo spray painting, mutilated mannequins, Elvis references, dozens of overflowing ashtrays, broken mirror sculptures, and Velvet Underground music playing in background. (page 135)

black holes - an X generation subgroup best known for their possession of almost entirely black wardrobes. (page 135)

Encyclopedia
Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, published by St. Martin's Press
St. Martin's Press
St. Martin's Press is a book publisher headquartered in the Flatiron Building in New York City. Currently, St. Martin's Press is one of the United States' largest publishers, bringing to the public some 700 titles a year under eight imprints, which include St. Martin's Press , St...

 in 1991
1991 in literature
The year 1991 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:*Douglas Coupland publishes the novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, popularizing the term Generation X as the name of the generation....

, is the first novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 by Douglas Coupland
Douglas Coupland
Douglas Coupland is a Canadian novelist. His fiction is complemented by recognized works in design and visual art arising from his early formal training. His first novel, the 1991 international bestseller Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, popularized terms such as McJob and...

. The novel popularized the term Generation X
Generation X
Generation X, commonly abbreviated to Gen X, is the generation born after the Western post–World War II baby boom ended. While there is no universally agreed upon time frame, the term generally includes people born from the early 1960's through the early 1980's, usually no later than 1981 or...

, which refers to Americans and Canadians
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 who reached adulthood in the late 1980s. It is a framed narrative
Frame story
A frame story is a literary technique that sometimes serves as a companion piece to a story within a story, whereby an introductory or main narrative is presented, at least in part, for the purpose of setting the stage either for a more emphasized second narrative or for a set of shorter stories...

, in which a group of youths exchange heartfelt stories about themselves and fantastical stories of their creation.

Coupland released the similarly titled Generation A
Generation A
Generation A is the thirteenth novel from Canadian novelist Douglas Coupland. It takes place in a near future, in a world in which bees have become extinct. The novel is told with a shifting frame narrative perspective, shifting between the novel's five main protagonists...

in September 2009.

Synopsis

Generation X is a framed narrative
Frame story
A frame story is a literary technique that sometimes serves as a companion piece to a story within a story, whereby an introductory or main narrative is presented, at least in part, for the purpose of setting the stage either for a more emphasized second narrative or for a set of shorter stories...

, like Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales
The Canterbury Tales
The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer at the end of the 14th century. The tales are told as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together on a journey from Southwark to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at...

or The Decameron
The Decameron
The Decameron, also called Prince Galehaut is a 14th-century medieval allegory by Giovanni Boccaccio, told as a frame story encompassing 100 tales by ten young people....

by Boccaccio. The framing story is that of three friends—Dag, Claire, and the narrator, Andy—living together in the Mojave Desert
Mojave Desert
The Mojave Desert occupies a significant portion of southeastern California and smaller parts of central California, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah and northwestern Arizona, in the United States...

 in California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

. The tales are told by the various characters in the novel, which is arranged into three parts. Each chapter is separately titled rather than numbered, with titles such as "I Am Not A Target Market" and "Adventure Without Risk Is Disneyland".

The locations of the novel was set circa 1990 Southern California
Southern California
Southern California is a megaregion, or megapolitan area, in the southern area of the U.S. state of California. Large urban areas include Greater Los Angeles and Greater San Diego. The urban area stretches along the coast from Ventura through the Southland and Inland Empire to San Diego...

 in the then rapidly-growing and economic booming-turned-into-depressed communities of Palm Springs
Palm Springs, California
Palm Springs is a desert city in Riverside County, California, within the Coachella Valley. It is located approximately 37 miles east of San Bernardino, 111 miles east of Los Angeles and 136 miles northeast of San Diego...

 and the Inland Empire (California)
Inland Empire (California)
The Inland Empire is a region in Southern California. The region sits directly east of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The Inland Empire most commonly is used in reference to the U.S. Census Bureau's federally-defined Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario metropolitan area, which covers more than...

 region. Some characters were born and raised in L.A. and suburban Orange County, California
Orange County, California
Orange County is a county in the U.S. state of California. Its county seat is Santa Ana. As of the 2010 census, its population was 3,010,232, up from 2,846,293 at the 2000 census, making it the third most populous county in California, behind Los Angeles County and San Diego County...

.

Part One

The first part of the novel takes place over the course of a picnic. Andrew, Dag, and Claire tell each other stories—some personal, others imagined—over the course of the day. Through these tales, the reader glimpses the characters' motivations and personalities.

Part Two

The initial group of characters is expanded in this section, which introduces stories from additional characters: Claire's boyfriend Tobias, Claire's friend and Dag's love interest Elvissa, Andy's brother Tyler, and Andy's boss and neighbour and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. MacArthur. Each character represents a cultural type; Elvissa is constantly stuck in the past, Tobias is a "yuppie
Yuppie
Yuppie is a term that refers to a member of the upper middle class or upper class in their 20s or 30s. It first came into use in the early-1980s and largely faded from American popular culture in the late-1980s, due to the 1987 stock market crash and the early 1990s recession...

", Tyler is a "global teen", and the neighbours represent members of an older generation.

The frame is muted here, as the narrative draws back to reveal more of the main characters, while allowing for other characters' stories to be heard.

Part Three

In this section, the novel continues to pull back its focus, as Andy and Claire travel away from California. Again, the frame is enlarged to include additional characters. Claire travels to New York, while Andy takes a dreaded trip to visit his family. Through the characters' personal and mental journeys, more tales are told and more of the characters' personal stories are revealed.

Andrew "Andy" Palmer

The book's narrator and main character. Andy is a bartender (a "McJob
McJob
McJob is slang for a low-paying, low-prestige dead end job that requires few skills and offers very little chance of intracompany advancement...

," as he describes it). He is close friends with Dag and Claire. He is from Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon
Portland is a city located in the Pacific Northwest, near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 Census, it had a population of 583,776, making it the 29th most populous city in the United States...

.

Dagmar "Dag" Bellinghausen

A former office worker, he now works with Andy at the bar, and lives next door to him. He is obsessed with the possibility of a nuclear holocaust
Nuclear holocaust
Nuclear holocaust refers to the possibility of the near complete annihilation of human civilization by nuclear warfare. Under such a scenario, all or most of the Earth is made uninhabitable by nuclear weapons in future world wars....

, and is prone to occasional erratic behavior. Unlike the other characters (who are American), he is a Canadian, from Toronto
Toronto
Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario and the largest city in Canada. It is located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. A relatively modern city, Toronto's history dates back to the late-18th century, when its land was first purchased by the British monarchy from...

.

Claire Baxter

A friend of Andy and Dag that lives in a neighboring bungalow. She is from a large family connected by multiple divorces. She wants to live life as Andy and Dag are trying to, but struggles, partially because of her relationship with Tobias. She is from Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles , with a population at the 2010 United States Census of 3,792,621, is the most populous city in California, USA and the second most populous in the United States, after New York City. It has an area of , and is located in Southern California...

.

Tobias

Claire's boyfriend, a superficial yuppie. He finds the lifestyle of Andy, Dag, and Claire to be interesting, but is unable to commit to it. Neither Andy nor Dag likes him, and he is a foil to the other characters in the novel. Yuppies in the novel were thought to represent Orange County (where they grew up), the Inland Empire (where they live) and commuted to L.A. (where they work).

Elvissa

Claire's best friend, and Dag's love interest. She finds herself constantly trapped in the past, never quite catching up to the modern world. The character represented the poverty and desolation of the Mojave Desert and Sonoran Desert
Sonoran Desert
The Sonoran Desert is a North American desert which straddles part of the United States-Mexico border and covers large parts of the U.S. states of Arizona and California and the northwest Mexican states of Sonora, Baja California, and Baja California Sur. It is one of the largest and hottest...

s of California, esp. Palm Springs when spring break
Spring break
Spring break – also known as March break, Study week or Reading week in the United Kingdom and some parts of Canada – is a recess in early spring at universities and schools in the United States, Canada, mainland China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, the United...

ers once partyed there and young gay
Gay
Gay is a word that refers to a homosexual person, especially a homosexual male. For homosexual women the specific term is "lesbian"....

 couples moved in en masse during 1980s.

Tyler

Andy's younger brother. As the youngest child in a large family, he is somewhat spoiled, but secretly wishes he could live as Andy does. He is a "global teen", later deemed by the media to be a member of Generation Y
Generation Y
Generation Y, also known as the Millennial Generation , Generation Next, Net Generation, or Echo Boomers, describes the demographic cohort following Generation X. There are no precise dates for when the Millennial generation starts and ends, and commentators have used birth dates ranging somewhere...

, and bears great similarity to the main character in Coupland's second novel, Shampoo Planet
Shampoo Planet
Shampoo Planet is Douglas Coupland's second novel, published by Pocket Books in 1992. It is a thematic followup to Coupland’s first novel, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. The novel deals with Tyler, a Global Teen, who shares many characteristics of the character Tyler from...

, that shares his name and mannerisms.

Title

Coupland has presented different narratives concerning the origin of the title Generation X. In one version, the title came from the work of Paul Fussell
Paul Fussell
Paul Fussell is an American cultural and literary historian, author and university professor. His writings cover a variety of genres, from scholarly works on eighteenth-century English literature to commentary on America’s class system...

. In Fussell's 1983 book Class, the term category X designated a part of America's social hierarchy rather than a generation. As Coupland explained in a 1995 interview, "In his final chapter, Fussell named an 'X' category of people who wanted to hop off the merry-go-round of status, money, and social climbing that so often frames modern existence." However, in a 1989 magazine article, Coupland attributed the term Generation X to Billy Idol
Billy Idol
William Michael Albert Broad , better known by his stage name Billy Idol, is an English rock musician. A member of the Bromley Contingent of Sex Pistols fans, Idol first achieved fame in the punk rock era as a member of the band Generation X...

.

Novel

Coupland felt that people his age were being misclassified as members of the Baby Boomer
Baby boomer
A baby boomer is a person who was born during the demographic Post-World War II baby boom and who grew up during the period between 1946 and 1964. The term "baby boomer" is sometimes used in a cultural context. Therefore, it is impossible to achieve broad consensus of a precise definition, even...

 generation.

History

In 1987, Coupland (who was born in 1961) wrote an article for Vancouver Magazine
Vancouver Magazine
Vancouver Magazine is an English-language lifestyle magazine focused on Vancouver, British Columbia and the Lower Mainland.Vancouver Magazine describes its mission as informing, guiding and entertaining residents of a "dynamic, international city."...

in which he lamented the lack of realization for people within his own birth cohort. A year later, he received a $22,500 forward from St. Martin's Press
St. Martin's Press
St. Martin's Press is a book publisher headquartered in the Flatiron Building in New York City. Currently, St. Martin's Press is one of the United States' largest publishers, bringing to the public some 700 titles a year under eight imprints, which include St. Martin's Press , St...

 to complete a handbook on the "generation" that he had outlined in the article. Coupland moved to the Mojave desert and the Coachella Valley
Coachella Valley
Coachella Valley is a large valley landform in Southern California. The valley extends for approximately 45 miles in Riverside County southeast from the San Bernardino Mountains to the saltwater Salton Sea, the largest lake in California...

 in California to work on the book, which became a novel. This surprised the publishing company, who canceled the work, which was subsequently accepted by St. Martin's Press and published in March 1991.

The novel was a sleeper
Sleeper hit
A sleeper hit, a.k.a. surprise hit , refers to a film, book, single, album, TV show, or video game that gains unexpected success or recognition...

 bestseller, growing in popularity after a slow start. Several terms from the book, such as McJob
McJob
McJob is slang for a low-paying, low-prestige dead end job that requires few skills and offers very little chance of intracompany advancement...

and Generation X
Generation X
Generation X, commonly abbreviated to Gen X, is the generation born after the Western post–World War II baby boom ended. While there is no universally agreed upon time frame, the term generally includes people born from the early 1960's through the early 1980's, usually no later than 1981 or...

, entered the popular vernacular, and Coupland was declared a spokesman for Generation X and lauded for having a feeling for the zeitgeist of the age.

The Generation X fanfare continued through the publication of his second novel, Shampoo Planet
Shampoo Planet
Shampoo Planet is Douglas Coupland's second novel, published by Pocket Books in 1992. It is a thematic followup to Coupland’s first novel, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. The novel deals with Tyler, a Global Teen, who shares many characteristics of the character Tyler from...

, the follow-up about a younger generation; it was also met with fanfare, and Coupland again called a spokesman for a generation.

However, Coupland constantly denied both the idea that there was a Generation X and that he was a spokesman.
Coupland was offered large sums of money to act as a marketing consultant for the Generation X age group, but he turned them down, notably refusing to create an advertisement for Gap
Gap (clothing retailer)
The Gap, Inc. is an American clothing and accessories retailer based in San Francisco, California, and founded in 1969 by Donald G. Fisher and Doris F. Fisher. The company has five primary brands: the namesake Gap banner, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime and Athleta. As of September 2008,...

. "Generation X" nonetheless became a marketing force, as the name and ideas were used to market products and services, such as the clothing store Generation Next
Generation Next
Generation Next was a professional wrestling stable in the Ring of Honor promotion. Formed in Philadelphia, PA at the event Generation Next, on May 22, 2004, by Alex Shelley, the original Generation Next consisted of Shelley, Austin Aries, Roderick Strong and Jack Evans...

 and the 1995 Citroën
Citroën
Citroën is a major French automobile manufacturer, part of the PSA Peugeot Citroën group.Founded in 1919 by French industrialist André-Gustave Citroën , Citroën was the first mass-production car company outside the USA and pioneered the modern concept of creating a sales and services network that...

 car model called "Le Generation X".

In 1994, before the publication of Microserfs
Microserfs
Microserfs, published by HarperCollins in 1995, is an epistolary novel by Douglas Coupland. It first appeared in short story form as the cover article for the January 1994 issue of Wired magazine and was subsequently expanded to full novel length...

, Coupland declared in Details magazine that Generation X was dead. He stated that the term had been co-opted as a marketing term, and that members of Generation X were relatively resistant to marketing ploys.

The biting, ironic tone of the novel and its pop culture allusions helped bring about a new era of transgressive fiction, including the work of authors Irvine Welsh and Chuck Palahniuk. Still in use are the term Generation X and its many derivatives, such as Generation Y
Generation Y
Generation Y, also known as the Millennial Generation , Generation Next, Net Generation, or Echo Boomers, describes the demographic cohort following Generation X. There are no precise dates for when the Millennial generation starts and ends, and commentators have used birth dates ranging somewhere...

. Many critics linked the novel to the popularity of grunge and alternative rock, but it makes no reference to grunge, and the song that is widely credited for boosting grunge into mainstream popularity (Nirvana
Nirvana (band)
Nirvana was an American rock band that was formed by singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic in Aberdeen, Washington in 1987...

's "Smells Like Teen Spirit
Smells Like Teen Spirit
"Smells Like Teen Spirit" is a song by the American grunge band Nirvana. It is the opening track and lead single from the band's second album, Nevermind , released on DGC Records...

") was released after the novel's publication.

Editions

  • ISBN 0-312-05436-X (paperback
    Paperback
    Paperback, softback or softcover describe and refer to a book by the nature of its binding. The covers of such books are usually made of paper or paperboard, and are usually held together with glue rather than stitches or staples...

    , 1991)
  • ISBN 0-349-10331-3 (softcover, 1992)
  • ISBN 0-312-11814-7 (hardcover
    Hardcover
    A hardcover, hardback or hardbound is a book bound with rigid protective covers...

    , 1994)
  • ISBN 0-349-10839-0 (paperback, 1996)
  • ISBN 0-06-039250-9 (hardcover, 2000)

External links

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