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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Discovered: 2 new GenX authors

In the midsts of reading Douglas Coupland’s latest novel, Generation A, which I’d been struggling with for a time but closing in on the end it’s really coming together, I discovered two more GenX authors.

Well, I didn’t so  much discover them as stumble across them, which is one of the advantages of working in a library. You’re constantly surrounded by books, and even those that escape your notice when the first enter the collection can suddenly present themselves again. That’s what happened in the case of the first author.

Vanessa Jones (b. 1970), author of the slim novel, The Kindest Use a Knife, which I noticed only because I happened to be passing through that section and Thom Jones’ collection The Pugilist at Rest caugth my eyes. Pugilist is kind of special book for me; I was new to the MFA program at Western Michigan and Thom Jones was perhaps the first big author that I got the chance to meet. Anyway, V. Jones’ book was next to his on the shelf. I don’t know why I picked it up, perhaps because it was slim and black and the title was intriguing. In any case, a quick glance made me want to read it. And further investigation put this young Brit writer firmly with in Generation X. Of course, whether she considers herself a GenX writer or not is another story. But if she doesn’t like the label, she’s welcome to contact me with her displeasure. I like displeasure. It’s at least part pleasure, right. Knife is not Jones’ first book. Her first was entitled Twelve. Check the description posted on Amazon.com for it:

The dullness of repetition and nonimaginative yearnings define the complacency that permeates the lives of the aimless young Brits in Jones’ debut novel. Though seemingly well-employed and decently housed with a nice enough housemate, Lily, her protagonist, can’t seem to shake her restlessness long enough to decide on a general direction for her adulthood, let alone a specific one. She wonders when she started to identify with the company employing her so much that she thinks of herself and it as “we.” Passively, she goes though the surface motions of living as though rehearsing for the real thing, waiting for some recognizably decisive incident to give her past clarity and her future a roadmap providing the direction and purpose she lacks. This ennui verging on anomie is prevalent in a number of recent writings about bright, thirtyish Brits. Can this be the result of England’s post-Thatcher stable growth, where good jobs and comfortable lives are taken for granted? Where did the rebellion and passion go? Whatever happened to England’s beautiful Angry Young Men?

It just drips GenX. She’s the right age too. Of course, the proof will be in the pudding, i.e. the reading, although some chocolate pudding would be nice right now…mmmmmmmmmm. Of course, I have to get a copy to read it; library doesn’t own it.

Knife is different, a darker tale about friendships and rivalry, but it still seems to fit the GenX ethos, at least that is my instinct. I have to read it still too.

The other author is Lydia Millet (b. 1968), who has many more titles to her credit. I’m particular interested in her recent short story collection — Love in Infant Monkeys. Dig it. What really drew me to this particular book was that the stories are, in part, about famous people. I’ve had a few story ideas that perhaps are similar. Again, I’ve yet to read it. But I’m confident that I’m not jumping the gun. And it isn’t just her age, which is pretty much the same as mine, which makes me feel…lacking to put it mildly, since Millet has a half a dozen book out there already, and I’ve yet to have one. More than her age, it is Millet’s unconventionality that makes her a GenX author of GenX Lit. She’s shelved in regular fiction and yet she was a short-listed for the Arhtur C. Clark Award. Reminds me of Jonathan Lethem, whose writing is bends from conventional human drama to sci fic to noir.

My hope is to quickly finish of Coupland’s latest effort and then dig into these two books, see if my intincts are correct.


King or Coupland?

Which do I read first?

Stephen King’s new novel, Under the Dome?

or

Douglas Coupland‘s new novel, Generation A?

How to choose? How to choose?

The King novel is over a 1,00o pages but I don’t really find that very daunting. In fact, I’m quiet undaunted by it, very much eager to read it. Perhaps because the plot is similar to The Simpon’s Movie — small town in Maine gets trapped under invisible forcefield dome and chaos and conflict ensue. Also reminds me a little of The Stand, my favorite King book. Perhaps because they are both, in their ways, about societal collapse, a theme that has intersted me, well, ever since I can remember really. I’ve always suspected that has, at least in part, something to do with growing up under the threat of nuclear annihilation via a conflict between Russia and the United States. That and seeing Night of the Living Dead when I was pretty young.

Of course, King is a Boomer but I think his work has been important to Generation X. It has been to me anyway. Maybe he’s of significant to Boomers, I don’t really know and don’t really care. It’s arguable whether his work is “serious” or can be labeled “Literature.” In fact there was a time when I refused to even consider the possibility that he was anything but a pulp horror writer, a good one to be sure but nothing more legit than that. But I’ve since fallen off that high horse. There’s stuff of King’s that I like and King stuff  that I don’t like. Salem’s Lot, The Shining, The Stand, Misery — I like. Tommyknockers, Dolores Claiborne, Duma Key — not so much.

Still, my anticipation for the Coupland novel has been greater and existed longer. Not just because it is Coupland, although unlike with King I will read anything Coupland produces. Speaking of which, some of the reviews I’ve read about Generation A have been mixed at best, which is why I stopped reading them. In any case, I like the set up of Generation A, which is also in a way about societal collapse. All the bees have died, or so it seems.

I’ve begun Under the Dome so for now I will stick with it. But I’m willing to chuck it if it ceases to tickle my fancy. As I’ve gotten older (41 and counting) I’ve lost my patience for books that don’t “do it for me.” I’m not wasting the time.

Also, Coupland’s from Canada and I’m an American dammit. And there’s nothing more American than Stephen King-eque carange not to mention odd phrases like “happy crappy.”