Douglas Coupland’s first novel is an excellent introduction to postmodern aesthetics. It attempts to tackle the particular circumstances which were faced by the generation that came of age in the 1980’s. The setting is in California where particular areas had experienced a considerable boom but were now busted due to severe economic crises.
The structure of the novel is original in that is known as a framed narrative, similar examples are Boccaccio’s Decameron and The Canterbury tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. The story revolves around three main characters and focuses on certain material aspects such as Disneyland and marketing strategies such as target markets which became a buzzword in the 1980’s. The characters change and evolve but there are also other love stories which infiltrate part two where we get to explore the social mores of the time.
The postmodern aesthetics are reflected in the fact that Southern California was at the time intensely materialistic and evolving rapidly. There was a lot of expectation from the baby boom generation but eventually there was nothing that actually came to fruition and this created a sense of intense disappointment. The ambience of the novel is also framed with rivalry for the achievement of social status which is not always applicable. As the characters start expanding their horizons and visit other large US cities such as New York, the novel widens its own aesthetic features. Family also presents a leitmotif which is regressive in Generation X since there is nothing to look back to except inertia. Elvissa is typical of this since she remains rooted in her past while Tobias is a sort of hippy who has no real interest in life. Generation X reeals the situation of the 1980’s in a strikingly original way.
Gary Dexter January 20, 2008, "History of the Name", The Sunday Telegraph,
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Mark Muro, November 10, 1991, City Edition "Baby Buster's Resent life in Boomers' Debris", The Boston Globe,
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Leah McLaren September 28, 2006, "Birdman of B.C.", The Globe and Mail,