by Douglas Coupland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
My first impression of this book as I read it was that it seemed like a good depiction of the zeitgeist of 20-somethings at the end of the 20th century. What makes it impressive is that it was written in 1991. The book reminded me a lot of the movie Reality Bites, which is a great movie that came out in 1994 (it may owe a debt to this book as inspiration).
There were a variety of points in the story where I totally understood where the characters were coming from. For example:
"Okay, yes, I think to myself, they were ugly times. But they were also the only times I'll ever get--genuine capital H history times, before history was turned into a press release, a marketing strategy, and a cynical campaign tool." (p. 151, referring to the Vietnam era)
There were also just some great passages in the book:
"'How are poeple ever going to help themselves if they can't grab onto a fragment of your own horror? People want that little fragment, they need it. That little piece of lung makes their own fragments less scary.' I'm still looking for a description of storyteling as vital as this." (p.13, explaining why people tell their stories at AA meetings)
"...Toronto, Canada, a city that when I once visited gave the efficient, ordered feel of the Yellow Pages sprung to like in three dimensions, peppered with trees and veined with cold water." (p.18)Where it didn't work for me, and thus got only 3 stars, is that the "plot" didn't really exist and the book seemed more like random vignettes from the characters' lives than a cohesive story. I did think the ending really worked well.
Coupland lives in West Vancouver, B.C. and if you ever had a McJob or are part of Generation X, you only know to call it that because of this book.