My posts during April form part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. I will be writing to a theme: book genres, largely taken from the comprehensive Goodreads list.
Yup, generation-x doesn't appear on Goodreads list of book genres; worse, there's no bunny in the picture! But it was that or X-men. And whilst I love Patrick Stewart as much as the next man - OK more than the next man probably - please don't make me go there.
Instead, it's off to Douglas Coupland's generation christening book we go ... except that my research leads me to believe that the term 'Generation X' was used first by Robert Capa to caption a photo essay he produced of young adults in the 1950s. But it didn't catch on until Coupland used it for his tale of Andy, Dag and Claire.
Coupland's book offered us a stereotype for the generation that stuck: cynical, overeducated, underachievers for whom the Mid-Twenties Breakdown (a period of mental collapse occurring in one's twenties, often caused by an inability to function outside of school or structured environments coupled with a realization of one's aloneness in the world) is real. Disenchanted with marketing and overt commercialisation, desperate to avoid the Veal Fattening Pens (small, cramped office workstations built of fabric-covered disassemblable wall partitions and inhabited by junior staff members. Named for the pre-slaughter cubicles used by the cattle industry) of the corporate world, our trio flee to the California desert, where they go to find themselves.
As you can see from above, the book is filled with wonderfully sharp terms such as:
More seriously, the Pew Research Centre dubbed Generation X as America's neglected middle child, ostensibly because it is sandwiched in between two larger groups - Baby Boomers and Milleniums. But this was also the first generation to experience wide-spread divorce and single parenting, so spawning the phenomena now termed 'latchkey kids'.
Whilst our the three friends are certainly 'cynical, overeducated, underachievers', Coupland allows us to see that they are not simply lazy wastrals, they are genuinely marked by the generation before them - Watergate, Three Mile Island, Bhopal, the Iranian hostage crisis, Iran-Contra and the Clinton-Lewinsky affair: "I want to tell them that I envy their upbringings that were so clean, so free of futurelessness. And I want to throttle them for blithely handing over the world to us like so much skid-marked underwear."
Avid story-tellers, one oft repeated theme is the end of the world: "And that's that. In the silent rush of hot wind, like the opening of a trillion oven doors that you've been imagining since you were six, it's all over: kind of scary, kind of sexy, and tainted by regret. A lot like life, wouldn't you say?" On a visit to Scotty's Junction, Nevada, just east of the Mojave Desert: "... where the atom bomb scientists, mad with grief over their spawn, would come and get sloshed ... they'd then crash and burn in the ravines; afterwards the little desert animals came and ate them. So tasty. So biblical."
The language in this book is so vivid, so rich with texture and colour, I spent an inordinate time trying to decide which quotes to use. I've yet to read any more by Douglas Copeland, although more of his titles are even now being heaped upon the over-loaded TBR list. It is clear why this book had such an impact at publication, even without the snappy catch phrases. I started the book regarding our three friends with somewhat raised eyebrows, but I warmed to them and grew to care for them - ennui, angst 'n all.
If you've read the book - how do you feel about it? How do you feel about previous generations and their impact on the world for future generations?