Coupland Interview: GenX v. GenA

My friend John hipped me to this interview with Doulgas Coupland, in which the author discusses his most recent novel, Generation A, particularly in contrast to Generation X. Appropriate that John should be the one to tell me about it, since he was the person who introduced me to Douglas Coupland’s via Generation X.

It’s a CBC Radio interview, which I tend to like because they tend to be more indepth, free-ranging and meandering, which with someone like Coupland you definitely want. He may be able to do sound bites well, but listening to him free-associate and just talk is very interesting indeed.

The associated introductory text with this video tags it as a sequel to Generation X. I recently read Generation A and don’t think of it as so much a sequeal, at least not in the strict sense, as an akin book, if that makes sense. Also, I don’t think it is one of Coupland’s stronger book. However, I reminded that I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about The Gum Thief when I first read, but upon rereading it I liked it much better. So perhaps I should withhold final judgement until I get a chance to read Generation A again.

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GenX Frogs

Sounds like a band or something, doesn’t it? Okay. Maybe not. Doesn’t matter. That’s not what I was going f or. So nah.

I’m using frogs as a cheeky endearment for the French not a pejorative. That’s my story and I’m sticking too it.

Anyhoo….

I’m not sure if the French buy into the whole Generation X thing (my understanding is that it’s got it’s Kool Aide drinkers across the channel in England) but if they do then Michel Houellebecq is one of their GenX authors. Born in 1958 he doesn’t fall into the age-range for Generation X, but the themes of his book definitely apply.

Just finished reading his novel, Platform.

And I fucking loved it. And not just because of the cover either, although I am rather fond of it – hubba hubba. I’m reading the hardcover edition and the cover is nothing like the paperback. But we’re not judging a book by it’s cover here. Or are we…..?

Briefly, the story is about a 40 year-old disaffected, cynical French guy whose father has just died. The mother doesn’t really figure in; I can’t even recall in what context the mother is even mentioned. Michel Renault, the main character and narrator, uses some of the money he inherits from his father to go on a vacation, a sex tourism deal — he eagerly and without shame frequents prostitutes. He does meat a girl, Valerie, but nothing happens until they meet up again back in France. Then they carry on a very passionate, lusty affair. In addition to writing about the taboo of sex tourism, Houllebecq’s narrator is none to kind to Arabs/Muslims, toward which his attitude is provacative, derogatory, even caustic and bigotted. My understanding is that MH has been hauled into court for some of the shit he’s written. One can understand why, but that does not take away from the ferocity of the prose and imagination (I scammed that phrasing from a blurb on the back of the book; but it’s true so it’s cool). He sort of reminds me of Brett Easton Ellis, but MH is a much better stylist.

No doubt this novel will not suit the typical American reader. They’re not going to like what they read, especially the derisive attitude toward Western culture, even particularly American at times, though mostly I think the narrator is referring to French culture, which is still Western.

In the end, MH’s fiction version of himself (what othe conclusion can one draw?), having dared to open himself up enough to receive pleasure from a woman lover moves from simply being apathetic to being incredibly bitter. And in the end, like in Douglas Coupland’s, Generation X, the  main character ditches his Western digs for some place more exoctic but not with any sense of hope or new beginning but simply to live out his days, and to be forgotten, forgotten quickly.

Psst. Did I mention that it has some of the best sex scenes I’ve read — sexy, erotic, filthy and lusty all at once!

Strange aside: I tried to read this novel some years ago, after reading the author’s previous novel, The Elementary Particles, but for whatever reason could not…penetrate it, retain much of anything about it. That was before I got on my meds and therapy. Now, I realize just how foggy my head was, and that was why this novel would not click for me. But now, well, it’s crystal clear. I picked it up again and had to plow right through it. Now I’m going back to TEP because I can’t recall what that book was about either, only that on some vague level I liked it.

Because We Are Here…

… is the title of a short story collection by Chuck Wachtel, which I used to possess.

For some reason, though, I felt the  need to withdraw it from my meager library of short story collection. Not sure why exactly. I suppose I was never really able to get into it, for whatever reason.

Anyhoo…I recently came across a used copy and decided to reclaim it. Not that i’s the same copy. At least, I’m pretty sure it’s not.

I’ve often wondered if I’ve ever reclaimed a copy of a book that I’d previously discarded; I’m considered leaving myself a marker, say, circly the page number 67 or someting like that, see what happens. I’ve no idea why, it just seems like a curious experiment.

Anyhoo part deux… I’m pretty sure I bought this collection new, and it was probably in Kalamazoo at the John Rollins Bookstore, a great independent bookstore, which doesn’t seem to have a web page, which seems odd to me. It was published in 1996, the year I graduated from Western Michigan with my MFA in creative writing, afterwhich I hung around Kalamazoo for a couple more years, adjunct teaching and hanging out in coffee shops, drinking too much coffee and smoking too many cigarettes. Ahhhh good times!

Anyhoo take three… at the time I knew nothing about this author but I’d buy just about any new collection of short stories that I happen to come across. Novels required a recommendation, but I was pig for short stories, and right so, if for no other reason than I discovered David Foster Wallace that way, when I came across a copy of Girl with Curious Hair amongst the remainder books. In fact, there were multiple copies. If I’d only known, I would have bought them all. In any case, that one discovery was well worth all the collections that didn’t cut it for me and were eventually discarded.

Why did Because We are Here not cut it? Hard for me to say now. I mean, the first story, St. Ralphie (great title btw) is about a fairly ordinary guy that gets struck by lightening on the golf course one day and is suddenly invisible. Of course, it is about more than that, but just the basic premise rocks!

On the one hand rediscovering a book like this one delights me, but on the other it makes me wonder how many other good books I’ve junked just because at the time I wasn’t digging ’em. Of coures, I wouldn’t  be a GenXer if I didn’t that such an event wasn’t entirely a good thing.

Another GenXer bites the dust

This time a younger one.

Brittany Murphy at the age of 32. That’s my wife’s age. Yikes!

Of course, Brits got her start in the movie Clueless, directed by Amy Heckerling the creator of one of the all time great GenX flicks, Fast Time at   Ridgemont High, which launched the career of Sean Penn and laid bare a side of Phoebe Cates for which I an countless other GenX guys will be forever grateful.

She was also in 8 Mile with Eminem, which is about my old stomping grounds.  In fact, I grew up less than a mile from the trailer park where they shot some of the scenes for 8 Mile. I used to ride my BMX bike through that trailer park to get to the one next to it becase my buddy Rick lived there.

Repots are saying that Murphy died of cardiac arrest, which of course sounds like perhaps an eating disorder (she’d gotten really thin) and/or drugs. Wow! Shocker.

I swear I’m trying to think of something else to say but I’m drawing a blank. I didn’t dislike Brits but wasn’t a huge fan either. I was, however, a fan of some of the movies she was in — Clueless, 8 Mile, Sin City.

RIP Brits.

NEXT!

Bright Lights, Big City redux

When it gets cold like this, especially if it’s accompanied by snow, I’m reminded of when I lived in the dorms at school. Sitting with my feet up on the radiator, reading. While through my window I had a view of the dorm complex courtyard coated with a layer of snow that twinkled in the bright, even harsh at times, sunlight.  I read a lot. The book I read more than any other was Jay McInerney’s novel, Bright Lights, Big City. (Less than Zero by Brett Easton Ellis was a close second) And today  I’m compelled to read it again, as I have been doing almost every years since I first discovered, not when it was first published in 1984 but in 1988 after seeing the movie, staring Michael J. Fox, Kiefer Sutherland and Phebe Cates.

I know that BLBC, like it’s author, has something of checkered past, and that even McInerney himself refers to it at times as a kind of albatross around his neck. The books was and still is sometimes mocked. Sometimes I wonder when a Best of Bad McInerney contest is going to be created, if it doesn’t exist already. The second person narrative technique employed is often dismissed as nothing more than a clever device. Perhaps. But no book before it nor since has continued to resonate with me, has regulaly lured me back to read it again, has made me want to write. For me, it was my persmisson book – it gave me permission to write about what I really wanted to write about because I didn’t know you could write about such things; I wasn’t very well read at the time, so sue me. Before I’d read BLBC it was J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, of course, that held that distinction but it was quickly replaced.

I’m trying to resist the impulse to set aside what I’m reading now to read BLBC because I’m perpetually backed up on my reading and never seem able to make a dent in the stack of books that I want to read, it just keeps growing, but forces seems to be conspiring against me.

This morning the movie was on cable. Of course, it is not a very good movie but even so I’ve watched it many times. Less Than Zero is a better movie. But a remake of BLBC: the movie is in the works, due to be released in 2010. I’m curious to see what comes of it this time around. I’ve often wondered what it would been like if Woody Allen  had directed it or perhaps Ed Burns. My person preference would be for Stephen Sodeberg to do it. But I think the guy who produced and directed Gossip Girls for TV is doing it.

No doubt, in the end I’ll succumb to t his impulse to read BLBC yet again.And maybe this year of all years I shouldn’t even attempt to resist since 2009 marked the 25the aniversery of it’s publication. And as such maybe this year more than most it deserves a re-read.

I wonder if McInerney, because he seems to want to be remembered for his more sophisticated novels, is balking at a 25th aniversary edtion of BLBC. Or maybe they’re simply waiting until the movies comes out, releasing them together.