It’s time for CBC’s Canada Reads once again! One book I’ve already read, but I definitely remember enough to post something about it (considering it’s been 3 years, that’s a pretty good sign!), and three are currently in the mail.
The one that is not in the mail is Douglas Coupland’s Generation X. The reason for that is that I’ve read Coupland’s stuff before. About 1/3 of a novel. That was enough at the time, so I wasn’t anticipating I’d really want this one—despite being so famous—on my bookshelf.
So clearly I had a bias going into it. I really, really tried to give it a fighting chance. Whether it was able to step out of the shadow of stink left by its sibling or not I can’t say for sure, because if it did it cast enough of its own shadow that I couldn’t finish this one either.
First, the superficial. The format for this book was not an appealing one. The first page of every chapter has, inexplicably, a dull grey square in the middle of the text which seems to serve no purpose whatsoever aside from making the reader jump across the page to finish each line. In order to maintain this frame of text around the meaningless grey, there are no paragraph breaks on these pages. Oh, there are paragraphs, denoted by that funny P symbol, but no hard returns. This shouldn’t be a reason for disliking the book—good writing should trump bad typesetting—but in the end it just kept reminding me how much I wasn’t enjoying myself reading it. Someone was trying to be clever and innovative and fell flat on their face. Not unlike the prose itself.
A lot of the space of the large square pages are used for oversized margins, occasionally filled with glossary type definitions, bad cartoons, and big bold slogans like “eroticize intelligence”, “reinvent the middle class”, and “you are your own sex”. I don’t know if this was something Coupland wanted, or if this is again the publisher overstepping bounds. If anything Coupland wrote might have been considered a smart turn of phrase, it is immediately sullied by having it explained in the margins. This isn’t Romeo & Juliet and I’m not in grade 9. Who thought it would be good to reproduce that experience. And does every sentence need italicized syllables to force emphasis? “Pllll-eeze.”
But what these sidenotes really do is highlight the attitude in the story that I find wholly distasteful. The characters are smug, self-righteous, and aimless. They seem to loathe everything about the world around them and they feel so superior because of it. Everything to them is “artificial” and everything deserves mocking. Half the time I found myself wanting to yell “what does that even mean?” at them. It’s this kind of vacuous bitching that airhead reality show stars tend to throw around behind everybody else’s backs. Each one of those bold face slogans—”Stop History” or “Bench Press Your I.Q.”—and chapter titles—”Puchased Experiences Don’t Count”—is completely devoid of meaning to me. Why am I even reading this tripe?
So eventually I had enough of the mind-numbing idiocy and decided to skim through the rest. I picked out passages here and there and didn’t come across anything that indicated anything interesting happened down the line. There was something about a nuclear bomb at the end but by that point the characters had pretty much sucked the life out of me and I left about as apathetic as they were. I’m hoping this one is voted out on the first day.