I wish someday I could stop reading a book as if its sole purpose is to get cool quotes from. I intend to approach a book one of these days agendaless, other than that it feels capricious to have them lying around and serving as things to sniff when unable to read them. But I’m handicapped in that pursuit because I’m at that age. Wisdom is obtained not anymore from text books and lectures and stupid power point presentations but from works of fiction, not entirely intended for education. It’s like being Andy, Dag and Claire who are always looking for ways to say things in fancier, some would say literarier ways than is necessary. It has to be understood, this tendency to take slices of wisdom from not too reliable sources is brought about by the need of certain twentysomethings’ inability to cope in mechanical situations and environments while often simultaneously abhorring the notion of structuredness and routine. No one in their20s that I know seem to really know what they want which is such a cliche sentiment but also so true and really not unemphasizeable. I wouldn’t say things like ‘Either our lives become stories or there’s just no way to get through them’ nor would I know anyone who would but people express that type of sentiment so often and when such feelings don’t get past beyond saying ‘I feel so hopeless’ it’s mostly because people don’t quite know how or what else to say other than ‘I feel so hopeless’.
This irritating tendency to get so floored by a book gets even worse because I loved parts (maybe the whole) of it so much that I wrote things in it, particularly where Dag, who was once a corporate worker, expressed what I brainlessly and perhaps carelessly assume is one of the most universal sentiment of those who ever built their lives around their great benefits-bestowing 8-5 job.
I don’t think I was a likable guy. I was actually one of those putzes you see driving a sports car down to the financial district every morning with the roof down and a baseball cap on his head, cocksure and pleased with how frisky and complete he looks. I was both thrilled and flattered and achieved no small thrill of power to think that most manufacturers of lifestyle accessories in the western world considered me their most desirable market. But at the slightest provocation I’d have been willing to apologize for my working life – how I work from eight till five in front of a sperm-dissolving VDT performing abstract tasks that indirectly enslave the Third World. But then, hey! Come five o’clock, I’d go nuts! I’d streak my hair and drink beer brewed in Kenya. I’d wear bow ties and listen to alternative rock and slum in the arty part of the town.
As Generation X is set in the USA, I definitely wouldn’t know anyone who’d think That’s exactly how I feel! because we are Third Worlders. If only we we’re driving sports cars, feeling complete. What we are are third worlders, enslaved indeed. But not without getting our fair share of arty part of town presence.
Generation X is a dangerous thing to read when you feel as if you’re in the exact position that these people are in or have been, ie having horrible bosses, being in unsatisfying cubicles, doing a job that is totally pointless and abstract. Proceed with caution specially if you’re the type to get all weepy when reading something that feels made for you. You can’t, no matter how impactful certain concepts such as Overboarding which is really just a Couplandian idea that means overcompensating for fears about the future by plunging headlong into a job or lifestyle seemingly unrelated to one’s previous interests, is to you, that you tell your co-workers that this is exactly what you’re doing and feeling. Actually, just don’t tell co-workers anything. It’s best to save the desire to cultivate a I’m-an-avid-consumer-of-all-things-intellectual personality for the worthiest of occasions which is to say never. Also, sometimes, things in our lives are not at all like in Douglas Coupland’s books.
For all the ‘sublime’ characteristics Douglas Coupland gives Dag, Andy and Claire, the supposed heroes in this novel, he treats the ‘yuppie wannabes’ as realistic characters too, sometimes even more so than the three who are always having poignant, adult realizations about life, who are always having ‘delicate little insights’, which is about as Being Twenty-something as you could get. For all his flaws, Tobias, the prime yuppie wannabe feels as real as Dag and company. He’s just as confused and as aspirational as the rest of them. He’s a twentysomething too after all. He just happens to ‘like the hours and the mind games and the battling for money and status tokens, even though you think I’m sick for wanting any part of it… I don’t want dainty little moments of insight. I want everything and I want it now. I want to be ice-picked on the head by a herd of cheerleaders, Claire. Angry cheerleaders on drugs. You don’t get that, do you?’
At some point Dag says they’re always analyzing life too much and it’s going to be the downfall of them all. Towards the end, Tobias the yuppie wannabe leaves the Franny Glass-like Claire. And Andy who has Family Issues would still lean towards his family no matter what he does and where he goes. And as with anything else none of what they seem to have done or said is a big deal. In the end they go somewhere else, unresolved still with their twentyness, and understandably so since their lives don’t look as if it’s going to be bright soon what with the McJobs (a low-pay, low-prestige, low-dignity, low-benefit, no future job in the service sector. Frequently considered a satisfying career choice by people who have never held one) and the insistence on belonging in the Poverty Jet Set (a group of people given to chronic traveling at the expense of long-term stability or a permanent residence), or even remotely meaningful, what with them being in their twenties. But For Dag, Claire and Andy, the uncertainty seems to be the beauty of it.