Saturday, May 08, 2010

Generation A

I'm reading this book by Douglas Coupland right now, and it's been a bit of a disappointed. Years ago, either at the end of high school or in early university, I read Microserfs and really really enjoyed it. So I suppose I expected Generation A to live up to the same hype... And maybe it has, and maybe that's the problem.
The book title is a reference to Kurt Vonnegut's statement, made in a commencement address in 1994 to graduating students at Syracuse University:

"Now you young twerps want a new name for your generation? Probably not, you just want jobs, right? Well, the media do us all such tremendous favors when they call you Generation X, right? Two clicks from the very end of the alphabet. I hereby declare you Generation A, as much at the beginning of a series of astonishing triumphs and failures as Adam and Eve were so long ago."

But this book's actually about the generation after Generation X, my generation. We've been labeled everything under the sun - sometimes Generation Y, sometimes Generation D (for "Digital"). And we've been called a lot of things: lazy, self-centred, convinced that we're the smartest and best at everything, and that we deserve raises and promotions just for showing up to work.

So why don't I like the book? Well, while there's a lot of cleverness and wit, and while the author manages, with some irreverence, to capture the ridiculous materialism and media obsession of modern-time, there's almost too much of it, and the characters are pretty vapid and superficial. I have a hard time caring about vapid characters, and I need to like characters to enjoy a book. But maybe the book gets it just right and this is the problem. Maybe by being such an accurate description of Generation A, by portraying my generation as the shallow, materialistic people we are, Coupland's lost my interest. Are we all actually like this? I don't think so, but I think there's an alarming number of us who are (as evidenced by the characters (who are unfortunately real people) on shows like Jersey Shore and The Hills) to scare me about our future... How many of us, relative to past generations, read books? How many of us follow politics, or business, or something other than movies and tv shows? How many of us know what happens in countries other than our own?
I'll finish the book, but only because I'm so close to the end. Maybe it's frustrating me because it shows such a bleak and meaningless future. That's not the future I want.

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