Douglas Couplandgreenspun.com : LUSENET : The Book Club : One Thread
I am ashamed.
Lisa just called him the voice of his (my) generation, and I have read not one word.
Someone recommend something, stat, before I explode.
-- Beth (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 09, 2000
You can't go wrong with Generation X. That's the book that named our generation, after all, and it's one of my favorites. I hated Microserfs (aimless and pointless), but I liked Shampoo Planet. I have Girlfriend in a Coma but have not yet read it... I'm curious to see what the consensus is on that one.
-- Monique (email@example.com), March 09, 2000.
I just realized that I own Generation X. I bought it at a used bookstore but never read it. Guess I should do that.
-- Beth (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 09, 2000.
I just started reading "Miss Wyoming", his latest, and I'm enjoying it. He's very aware of the influence that pop culture has had on his (our) generation. I can't say I was crazy about "Generation X", probably because the hype surrounding it began before the thing was ever published. I hate that.
-- Sarah (email@example.com), March 09, 2000.
I loved Microserfs. It's one of my favorites. Generation X is entertaining, as long as you don't take it too seriously. I have Miss Wyoming, but I haven't started it yet -- I'm wholeheartedly recommending it for the book club for Apr
-- Mary Ellen (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 09, 2000.
I had to laugh at the recommendation not to take Generation X too seriously. I did my senior thesis (50 page paper and defense in front of a committee) on that book! Of course, this was in 1994, before the label became completely overused. It was only slightly overused then, and the paper was a literary analysis more than anything else. But I cringe at some of my assertions when I read that paper now.
I really, really liked Microserfs (which is supposedly being made into a movie) and Girlfriend in a Coma (although that is almost two separate books, but an interesting experiment) and Shampoo Planet. I didn't like Polaroids from the Dead or Life After God at all. I haven't read Miss Wyoming yet.
I think Coupland's writing is such that you either love it or hate it. I haven't met many people who feel lukewarm about it.
-- Kim (email@example.com), March 09, 2000.
Read them in order of writing, if you can. There is a great progression in the writing, and reading them in order shows that nicely.
Girlfriend in a Coma is the saddest to read - not because of the topic or plot, but because he had a mental breakdown while writing it, and it is pretty obvious where in the book that happened, which doesn't make it the best one to start with.
I liked Shampoo Planet, but it is very 'time' specific, in that the reader has to take into account the year it was written in order to understand the character's motivations.
-- Kristin (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 09, 2000.
I read Generation X years ago, and the fact that the title of that book was used to label our generation is a bit silly, since that's *not* what it was about! Coupland even makes jokes in magazines about that fact. It *is* a good entertaining read, and introduces his whole pop-speak style. It also has some wonderful moments described, and he shows us these pockets of real meaning that is right in front of us - but that most are too busy to pay attention to.
Actually that seems to be the real basis of most of his writing. Makes for lovely little shocks while you're reading...
My favorite was probably Microserfs - partly because I was just getting into the whole computer thang and also because it was the first time he created *real* people and successfully meshed them with his writing style. Shampoo planet was a tad obvious, but Microserfs really brought it all together seamlessly.
I read two or three pages of that 'Polaroids from the Dead' or whatever it was called. Don't bother. I also just flipped through a few pages of his latest, Miss Wyoming I think? And well... the fact that words in sentences were italicized to clue you in to the where the character placed emphasis while speaking... that seemed a little lame.
His stuff is definitely worth a read, no doubt at all, and he did influence a lot of people; not to mention a lot of writers - he broke down some barriers there. But as for him being the voice of my generation? Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.... no.
-- jennifer (email@example.com), March 09, 2000.
Microserfs was a great book. One of my favorite books, even. I haven't read any of his other titles, but I should.
-- Julie (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 09, 2000.
Microserfs is the only Coupland book I would say I really liked...maybe because of the books of his I've read (Shampoo Planet and Gen X are the others) this is the only one which I thought had developed, realistic female characters.
-- Jennifer Wade (email@example.com), March 09, 2000.
I would start with Life After God, Beth, because it is short pieces that are easily digestible and therefore suits your scattered lifestyle right now. With most Coupland books, I absolutely do not want to be disturbed from beginning to end, and would therefore recommend them only during serious downtime where you are not going to be summoned every ten minutes, because that would make me, at least, incredibly cranky. However, it is also somewhat heavier than his novels; it's a series of allegories and there isn't much to laugh at in it. The copy I have is signed by Coupland; he made a tracing of his hand on the endpapers and wrote "Doug" in the middle, and I thought that was so wonderful, because the book is largely about seeking contact. I like to put my hand where his was and know that we are somehow touching.
Of course, I am insane about the man and can barely breathe in his presence.
My favorite novel is probably Microserfs, because at the time I read it it reflected my life so perfectly, the subject matter being a group of twentysomethings who start their own software company. I'm sure this bias prevents me from seeing the book's flaws (if it HAS ANY, which I DOUBT.) There is an abridged version on audiocassette read by Matthew Perry (Chandler on Friends, before he was famous) that's quite good -- although I've never heard it in toto because it always makes me yearn for the chapters that got left out.
Generation X and Shampoo Planet are both excellent. The format of Gen X bothers me a bit because every time I turned the page I'd get distracted by the little neologisms in the margins, although the neologisms themselves are clever and funny. I would have liked them better if they'd been separated from the story, Sniglets-style, but at the same time I think that their concurrency was planned, because "an accelerated culture" (part of the book's subtitle) is all about trying to find meaning and retain concentration when presented with a glut of information.
I would strongly NOT recommend Polaroids from the Dead. Coupland got it into his head that someone needed to write a book that was truly representational of the Deadhead culture, so he kept starting various stories, but none of them ever jelled properly and turned into anything worth reading, so he -- get this -- compiled all the false starts into a single volume, along with some previously-published short work, and sold it to suckers like me. In most cases I had read the mercifully edited versions of the retread work in their original magazine format, and they were much better for the cuts made. Yes, sometimes those big mean hack-and-slash editors are indeed doing you a favor.
Girlfriend in a Coma also sucks, for reasons that I wrote about at the time that I read it. I'll try to dig up that piece, which it wounded me to write.
I was neutral on Miss Wyoming until I heard Coupland read from it aloud a month ago, and suddenly, with his inflections in the dialogue, the characters all made perfect sense to me. I see on Amazon.com that there's an author-read audiocassette available, and that might actually be better than the book.
Blah blah blah I love Doug blah blah blah. I gave him some vintage postcards for the collages he likes to make, and he actually used one of them in the pieces he posted to the Tour Diary on his website. Again with the not breathing. Just so you know my bias.
-- Kim Rollins (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 09, 2000.
Microserfs is great. Legos and anti-Microsoft pro-Macintosh stuff for the mindless either/or types like me. Generation X I did not like so much, but it was the first I read by him and perhaps I was expecting too much or I wasn't used to his style yet or it was too much like Less Than Zero. I asked him (ya know, since we're such pals) and he said he lifted the term from Paul Fussel(l?)'s book Class, which he was surprised I had even heard of, let alone read (I had read it because a fellow grad student went to Penn and had him as a prof). He did not coin the term Generation X--that honor belongs to an old bat of a curmudgeonly old man who wrote, besides Class (which is funny if you're in a William F. Buckley kind of mood), a charming tome called Thank God for the Bomb. DC made it known. DC said he was sick of being associated with the term but there in my copy of Polaroids from the Dead is his signature with an x in a circle.
So anyway I've read Polaroids from the Dead, which was about various forms of dying and death and not recommended as a pick- you-up, and Shampoo Planet, which I don't remember well, and Life after God, which is my 2nd favorite to Microserfs, and Girlfriend in a Coma, and while it pains me to disagree with Kim Rollins (for the second time in two days, no less), I liked it. I liked the combination of the Smiths and Karen Annn Quinlan and he even mentions the Grouse Grind, which reminds me of proud papa to be Scott Anderson.
And I said he was the voice of my (our) generation. I think he wouldn't say so, especially since he's got a good seven years on us and seemed, in 1998 if not last month, to look down on folks younger than he. Not that generation.
A way back generation, for that matter; Kim, how long has it been since you saw him? Two years ago I thought he was fairly cute in the general tall, skinny, dark eyes and hair way that I'm a sucker for-- or maybe I was going along with my friend Hillory, who'd been nursing a crush on him for a while. Last month we waited for bated breath for him to appear for a little lustful listening to Miss Wyoming, and he was bald. Or just about. Severly -ing, at least. Took the wind out of our superficial sails I must say.
Still funny though, still got his finger on the pulse. Blame Canada.
-- Lisa Houlihan (email@example.com), March 09, 2000.
Everything before 'Girlfriend...' is good. 'Girlfriend...' seemed straying and other things I'm not going to go into. 'Life After God' is a good started. 'Microserfs' is his most entertaining.
-- amy (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 09, 2000.
i finally read microserfs a few months ago and was less than impressed. perhaps it would have made a better impression on me if i'd read it when it first came out--a lot of the 3133+ H4X0R jargon comes off as quaint and slightly embarrassing now. it was an entertaining read, but it hasn't compelled me to find any more of his books, and it makes me snicker to hear him described as the voice of his (mine, too) generation.
then again, gen-x popular culture makes me gag. at least coupland had the wits in 1995 to declare "X is over."
-- eva (email@example.com), March 09, 2000.
I loved loved loved Miss Wyoming.
I have not read anything else by him, however. Well, except for browsing through Generation X at work once or twice.
-- krystyn (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 09, 2000.
Apparently, I am the only person on the planet who did not like Microserfs. You all have me doubting my own dislike of this book! It just seemed to drag on... and on... and on... with not much happening. Maybe if he'd had a better editor...
Anyway, I must go re-read it now, just to find out if I am in fact crazy for thinking this.
-- Monique (email@example.com), March 09, 2000.
I just found Gen X in a used bookstore in upstate New York and am rereading it for the nth time. It's my second favorite, however. My favorite Coupland book is Microserfs. If you're interested in computers, I tend to think it's a must-read. I have many friends who are graduating and going to work for Microsoft and I keep trying to get them to read this, but they're not interested. It's Coupland's funniest and most developed book. I love the characters in Microserfs (though I also really like Claire in Gen X) for the changes they go through from beginning to end. And, being the geek I am, I like it for the random technology references scattered throughout the book.
-- Emily J. Wolf (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 10, 2000.
Oh, yes, Kim, I should have said "Don't take Generation X too seriously now that the term is used primarily to sell Mountain Dew and such." It is a really good book. And the recommendation to read them in order of publication is good, too -- one thing I really like about him is, all of his books are very different in style, or in tone. "Life After God" is one I can keep rereading over and over. I didn't know he'd had a breakdown... details, someone?
-- Mary Ellen (email@example.com), March 10, 2000.
Hmm. I think everyone said everything for me already.
Blah blah blah, favorite author, blah blah blah, Microserfs most entertaining, blah blah blah.
Seriously though, I love Life After God and Girlfriend in a Coma... What am I saying, I love all of his books.
Except Miss Wyoming. That was just disappointing.
But yeah Beth, go with Microserfs first, if you like him... then keep reading. Try Gen X, then Shampoo Planet, then Life After God, then Girlfriend in a Coma, then Miss Wyoming, then Polaroids from the Dead.
My own personal recommendation. He
-- Mar (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 10, 2000.
I just didn't want Monique to be the only voice of dissent. I picked up Microserfs after a glowing recommendation from a friend and couldn't even make it through the whole thing. I've never been inspired to even look at any of his other books because I was so bored by that
-- Jenn (email@example.com), March 10, 2000.
hey, i believe *i* was the first coupland voice of dissent. :P although i admitted microserfs was an entertaining read...
-- eva (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 10, 2000.
I've read Generation X, Shampoo Planet, and Microserfs. The only one that I have any real memory of is Microserfs, and what stands out in memory is not so much that I found it a fun, entertaining read, but the fact that I was then hit whammo! at the end with real pathos and compassion and feeling. All of those words kind of mean the same thing, but it takes expressing all three to try to get across how I felt when the mother of one of the characters was using the PC to communicate after her stroke (and I *think* I'm remembering that correctly; it's been about 5 years since I read it). It made my eyes well up at the very end, and that was a Good Thing.
-- Desiree (email@example.com), March 10, 2000.
I don't think Microserfs ages that well, because it was so up-to-date when it was written. It just all feels so dated to me now. I still enjoy it, but it's more nostalgia for that time period than anything else. I just wanted to add that caveat to anyone reading it for the first time.
-- Kim (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 10, 2000.
So, I just finished Gen X. I was struck by his definition of the X Generation as the late 50's and the 60's. I was born in 1971 and always considered myself an X'er. My husband was born in 1959 and insists he's a boomer. I think the book defined my peer group more than his. I enjoyed the read, I'm going to work through his work chronologically as suggested.
-- Jenn Turner (email@example.com), March 17, 2000.
Generation X is defined by Strauss and Howe (authors of _Generations_ and _13th Gen: Abort, Retry, Fail?_) as those born between 1961 and 1981. This is how the term is popularly used -- except by ignorant media pundits who use "Generation X" as a synonym for "Twentysomething", as if generations were such malleable things, which is as dumb as calling all infants members of the "Baby Boom" generation, because that generation was named while its members were still in their cradles. The generation is divided into "Atari wave" (those born in the 60s) and "Nintendo wave" (70s and turn-of-the-decade.)
I believe that when Paul Fussel coined the term "Generation X" he did so because those who were in our age range at the time of his writing were the youngest Americans living, and had not yet developed a personality of their own from which to make a label. (Children are pretty much defined by the culture that adults create for them, from school to Saturday-morning cartoons.) The name was meant as a placeholder, to be used until we came of age.
Too bad no one rustled up a war or anything to unite us. We're still such slackers we never got it together and formulated our own title.
-- Kim Rollins (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 20, 2000.
Did Paul Fussell coin the term "Generation X"? I thought he tried to pigeonhole Americans by class, found that he was uncomfortable fitting himself and his nonconformist academic friends into a class, and invented category X for them in his last chapter, "The X Way Out." His X didn't seem to have anything to do with age, although you might identify some of the same elements (e.g., recycling markers of other classes, with irony added).
But I could be wrong.
-- Diana (email@example.com), March 21, 2000.