It’s no wonder Coupland saw literary success after this book. It really smells like a triumph on all the scales that authors and their critics measure each other. It has many devilishly clever moments, it is rife with scythe-like word-play, the plot is well-paced, the sidebars appeal to po-mo chin-scratchers in the group… It reeks of everything a novel should be.
But at its kernel, Generation X is a book about some of the most pathetic folks to walk the face of Coupland’s imagined Earth. A couple of burnt-out hipsters (before there was such a thing?), wallowing in the hole of self-pity that they dug out for themselves in the midst of the Coachella valley — a trio of not-quite-losers but mid-to-late-20-somethings that self-righteously reject consumerism and yet seem to cringe under the comparative psychic weight of their forced rejection of materialist standards (the only yardstick they seem to have). And yet they won’t take any risks. For lack of what I can only assume is courage, they do not deviate from their course. Sure, you can pick apart the prose for clues to the contrary but the notes in the margins spell it out for you. They are doomed, basking under the shade of their mushroom clouds. Even our closing act has the melancholy stench of cautious abandonment hanging over it.
Which is why I could not help but kick myself for enjoying it as much as I did. Who wants to enjoy the company of these whiney bastards?