– Douglas Coupland
For those not aware, Coupland was the mind who invented the neologism of “generation X,” which either gave a name to the wedge between generations, or created the wedge entirely and enabled further marketing-based wedges to be non-consensually applied to future generations down the line. All this belies the fact that Generation X was only Coupland's first novel, which makes its wild success all the more baffling. And despite the clear and very-established danger in so doing, he nonetheless attempted much the same act in later works anyway.
It reminds me, in some ways, of how Catcher in the Rye was purported to be somehow “representative” of the teenage mind. How once the unfortunate label of “teen-ager” came to be, it forced all high school students to be compared against Holden Caulfield, who was but one person in one point of time with little regard for the circumstances of others. The characters of Generation X belonged only to themselves, yet somehow they became the same sort of measuring stick for which huge swathes of people would soon be subject. ... perhaps with an even worse measure of quality.
I'm grouping each of these three very different books in a single entry simply because I've become convinced that Coupland's writing suffers from the same problems all-around. While they are very enjoyable to read in the moment of reading, once you are finished with them there is surprisingly little left to actually reflect on. There might be a moment or two that provokes thought, but when you actually dwell on it for a while, it eventually reveals itself to be little more than fluff or mere fashion.
This is more or less an effect of how hyped Coupland's “brand” has become after his first book's breakout success, especially within Canada. He exists only within his own marketing. One cannot read a Coupland novel and be truly satisfied simply because the books are over-advertised and cannot meet the wild expectations they set for themselves. The power of his own marketing was exemplary in his biography of Marshall McLuhan, opportunistically written and released close to the centenary of his birth; but I found it to be so offensively terrible for its Chapters-Indigo 30 dollar price that I've since expunged it from my shelves and will never allow it to return.
For a while, I thought I liked Coupland, but the more of him I read, the more frustrating I found him to be. How Coupland got to perform one of his books as a Massey Lecture on CBC Radio has less to do with his ability to evoke new or genuine thought and more to do with the fact that he merely plays the part. Perhaps it is because I've fallen from his graces that my opinions of him are all the more harsh, but one cannot be co-opted by the massive mainstream marketing machine and live to tell about it unscathed.