Twenty plus years just breeze by in the blink of a McJob. I wonder what Andy, Dag, and Claire are doing today?
To back up to the past, I am looking at a book which writer, or would he prefer creator?, Douglas Coupland never seems happy with being analyzed. In 1991, he unleashed the fiction book disguised as a sociological breakdown, Generation X: Tales For An Accelerated Culture to the masses.
The book entered the cultural lexicon slowly, but soon the terms used and identified in it were co-opted by the media who scarcely understood it, and mostly grossly misquoted it. When I inhabited College shortly after Generation X came out, it became the go-to book for so many in my class. I finally imbibed right at the end of College, just so I could take part in the cool conversations with the cool kids.
And the funny thing is? I completely enjoyed it.
The characters. The philosophies. The entire package. And quite a package it is. But more on that later.
The narrative story here is the tale of three over-educated, under-employed twentysomethings who have ditched a normal life and gone to live and work in the dessert. Andy, our storyteller, is best friends with Dag and Claire. They live and wonder and reminisce about everything, from their futures to their families. Minutiae and grand thoughts are exposed here. Along the way, they share made up stories (are their any other kinds?) to entertain and enlighten each other.
The fears and foibles of the three are shown, and in some ways come to light, at the best part for me, when they head home for Christmas. They disembark from who they choose to be with and re-engage with whom they were born into. Reuniting back at where they started, a fully picture of who and what they are is painted. To be cryptic, my favourite moments of character is the part with the candles and the section with the sand. No googling, read it and find out for yourself.
Cloaked in all this character work is gobs and gobs of thoughts and concepts and ideas that Coupland is postulating. But only maybe. Coupland can be a very obtuse interview, and quite often gives answers that feel made up on the spot, depending on his mood. He seems to not want to explain his thoughts and wants you to make your own conclusions. He comes across as a kinder, gentler Flannery O’Connor in that regard.
To complicate the matter of analyzation, Coupland has filled the margins with little cartoons and definitions of faked words. The toons are satirical one panel bits, usually expanding on whatever thought was going in the pages at the time. Same with the faked words, one of the most famous being “McJobs.” Again no googling, read and find out. Even more fun and merriment in the thinking department comes from the chapter titles, with a favourite for many being “Adventure Without Risk Is Disneyland.” Add to that the listing of real statistics in the back, and you have a real soup of thoughts at play here. A package of philosophies.
Much of the dissertations Coupland seems to be going on about is how people are too attached to the trivial of pop culture and the materialism of modern society, all to forsake real experiences and interactions. While that may not sound revolutionary, Coupland’s parody throughout of the fakeness and disassociation most of us indulge in is very sharp and to the bone. The bad sitcom moment of having to endure Claire’s father and the wine cork still makes me cringe, which is the desired job. Coupland is not preaching or telling us or lecturing us not to partake in what culture is, even bad culture, but to measure it out in little spoonfuls. Living your life authentically, much like Holden Caulfield would pontificate, is of utmost importance. That was my takeaway, but as Coupland would probably attest, I got it wrong.
Back in those bygone days before Generation X entered my head, much discussions about a potential movie was bandied about by so many of my College friends. These, of course, went over my head, but upon finishing it, everything, all of it, became oh so clear. This casting was based on the nineties, and should have been done at the time, since no one else can fill these roles.
Who plays each part? Glad you asked! Andy is Mathew Perry. Total complete fit here. Dag is Chris O’Donnell. Would have been amazing. Claire is Uma Thurman. From Pulp Fiction to here, what a journey. Ed Asner as the bar owner and Bill Pullman as the astronaut. Don’t ask, it all makes sense. Karma must have realized the righteousness of some of this, since the other Coupland book I have read, Microserfs, was performed on audiobook by Perry.
Perry being involved felt so natural, and the growing popularity of Generation X, in both thought and character, is in many ways reflected in the television show Friends, also starring him.
In many ways, Friends feels like a sideways universe where Andy, Dag and Claire are just somewhere around the corner. They would not be working away in the dessert anymore, but have “grown up” grabbed the brass ring, and tried to live real lives. No McJobs for them, more of a fulfilled existence, with plenty of love and hugs.
Sounds almost like a fairy tale. Maybe that is what Tales For An Accelerated Culture is. A wonderful fable of thoughts.
…is currently reading Gladiator by Philip Wylie.
P.S. Generation X: Tales For An Accelerated Culture is copyright 2013 to Douglas Coupland. It is 183 pages in enlarged trade. You will have to see it to understand.