This little bear went to Stanley Park

“The late Alasdair Cairns Russell (l.) created a character about a Whistler bear cub that travelled to Vancouver in a garbage truck. A book inspired by his notes and drawings has now been published by his mother.” FULL STORY

The origins of a modern classic

It was twenty years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play. And it was twenty-five years ago that Douglas Coupland wrote Generation X.

April 14th, 2016

Doug Coupland (centre) and Mac Parry imitate wind turbines near Palm Springs in 1988.

Former Vancouver Magazine editor Mac Parry has passed along Coupland’s overview of the famous book’s origins.

With Coupland’s permission, we hope to include his highly amusing reminiscence in his entry on the new Literary Map of B.C.

Coupland’s mini-memoir about his first novel first appeared in Vancouver Magazine as Genesis X.

The editor for the piece was Gary Ross. It was likely Ross who added the teaser atop the piece: “I was designing baby cribs and preparing for an art show. Then I got a message on my answering machine…”

Coupland proceeds to write brilliantly, in a seemingly off-the-cuff style, to show how his entire success as one of the world’s best-known authors is all due to the fact that he followed through on an inclination to acquire a newfangled device called an answering machine. He proceeds to let the reader know that because he was perceived to have jumped the queue in the hierarchy of freelancers who were writing for Vancouver Magazine in its heyday under Mac Parry, there are still people who hold a grudge for the speed of his ascendancy. It was even more galling for some of the local scribes to know that Coupland’s early ambitions as an artist were not even literary.

Douglas Coupland’s Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (St. Martin’s Press, 1991) now easily qualifies as one of the most significant books by a B.C. author, competing for the unofficial title of Most Famous B.C.-Written Book with William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano.

Coupland, Douglas & William Gibson PHOTO by Mac Parry

Douglas Coupland and William Gibson. Mac Parry Photo.

The two wunderkinds Coupland and Gibson have occasionally crossed paths, once captured by an impromptu photo taken by Mac Parry.

Gibson’s first published story, “Fragments of a Hologram Rose,” appeared in Boston’s UnEarth magazine in 1977 and he was paid $23 for it–but it was written as a course assignment at UBC in Vancouver. For many years Gibson had published only one story directly related to his hometown of Vancouver, “Winter Market,” commissioned by Mac Parry. It appeared in Vancouver Magazine in November of 1985 when Mac Parry was editor. “I recall that we commissioned him in 1985 to write a piece that would be set here,” says Parry, in 2016. “I believe that The Winter Market is still his only work that does that. My recollection is that the fee was $900. We figured that his star was ascendant. Before our version appeared in print, he had sold second rights for twice that amount, possibly to a magazine or publisher in Norway.”

The story “Winter Market” is set around the False Creek area of “Couverville” sometime in the future. It’s narrated by the editor of a newly released album by “Lise,” whose creative dreams are marketed like pop songs to achieve instant triple-platinum success. Lise is a doomed “high-tech St. Joan burning for union with that hard-wired Godhead in Hollywood.” Aspects of that story have subsequently resurfaced in Gibson’s novels. Gibson describes a desolate future. “Trashfires gutter in steel canisters around the Market. The snow still falls and kids huddle over the flames like arthritic crows, hopping from foot to foot, wind whipping their dark coats. Up in Fairview’s arty slum-tumble, someone’s laundry has frozen solid on the line, pink squares of bedsheet standing out against the background dinge and the confusion of satellite dishes and solar panels.” Gibson’s 2007 novel Spook Country culminates with scenes in Vancouver.

Douglas Coupland’s breakthrough novel, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, clearly had its origins in Vancouver Magazine, edited by Parry. After Coupland had a solo sculpture show at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1987, called Floating World, he began describing his own ‘twentysomething’ generation at the behest of Parry. Having written a few Budget Gourmet reviews for the Vancouver Sun, Coupland later worked for Western Living magazine as a staff writer before a stint with soon-to-be-defunct Vista magazine. Coupland was invited to go to Toronto and write for Vista by Parry, who used the new magazine’s substantial coffers to send Coupland to New York where he got a literary agent, resulting in first book deal.

At Vista, Coupland revisited the realm of his Vancouver magazine articles on Gen-X as a comic strip. Coupland was subsequently contracted to write a non-fiction ‘handbook’ on Generation X. Eventually Coupland went to Palm Springs and completed Generation X, the novel. Generation X was rejected by 15 Canadian publishers and 14 American publishers before it appeared in March of 1991.

The retrospective article by Douglas Coupland from Vancouver Magazine in 2007 recalls a life-changing day in July of 1987 when he was living in a bachelor dump between Gastown and Chinatown.

“The gals down the hall were moving back to Halifax and held a garage sale at which I bought my first answering machine for $15. In 1987 people still thought “Woo…cool…an answering machine.” So I plugged it in at around one in the afternoon, and went down to Günther’s Deli by the Gassy Jack statue and ate some perogies. When I got home an hour later, the red light was blinking…my first message ever! And what a message it was: Mac Parry was calling from Vancouver magazine, and, as accurately as I can remember, he said, “Coupland! Mac Parry from Vancouver magazine. Get your ass down here right away. We want to send you to Beverly Hills to write a feature story for us!””

In a self-deprecating manner, Coupland proceeds to describes his neophyte days as an artist, designing baby cribs rather than hankering to write War & Peace 2.

“Me write a story? I’d have been no less surprised if he’d asked me to come into Vanmag and fix the hot water heater. Until then I viewed myself almost exclusively as someone who, to be specific, made items in three dimensions, either manually or using industrial processes. I shared a huge studio space with a death metal band in the neighborhood now known as Yaletown, in the space now occupied by Cioppino’s and their $500 bottles of wine. I spent my time in that studio making items for a tiny show that opened in late 1987 at the Vancouver Art Gallery. During that summer I also designed baby cribs (I know) for Storkcraft out in Richmond. That was a wonderful job, and some of my designs are for sale to this day and I see them in movies and TV shows all over the world and I get an adrenaline hit every time.”

Given that Parry is also largely responsible for transforming the profile of logger-poet Peter Trower from a backwoods bard to someone who eventually received the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for an outstanding literary careeer in B.C., credit must be given in retrospect for Parry’s ability to identify originality when he sees it.

For that matter, kudos must be given to Vancouver Magazine itself for once being more than a glossy twin to Western Living. With editors Mac Parry and Bob Mercer, the magazine was essential reading, fostering the careers of the king of all Vancouver freelancers, Daniel Wood, and long-serving City Hall columnist Sean Rossiter, to name only a few.

***

Coupland then writes:

Mac had heard of me because I’d written three tiny articles for a long-defunct shopper-type magazine called West Side Weekly. That was a paper set up to capitalize on what used to be the triennial Pacific Press strike which, for some reason, didn’t happen that year. West Side Weekly lasted only three issues and sank like a stone. I wrote about the art world in a way that now makes me blush: for example, I was in a stalled elevator in a South Granville gallery and I wrote about that. I mean, that’s all it was. I’d scored that brief newspaper gig because some months before I’d been living in Tokyo and had sent its editor’s wife an amusing postcard and the editor called in and asked if I’d write for them. That’s how life seems to work.

Coupland-1-WEB

Original Vancouver Magazine page, September, 2007

This West Side Weekly gig led to a brief and amusing stint for the next three months as “Budget Gourmet” at the Vancouver Sun where I received $75 once a week to pay for both my food and my writing fee. It was a boon to my social life, and it taught me a few important lessons about writing. First, getting published is no big deal. Get over it. Second, newspapers have to enforce house style and conceal a writer’s voice, whereas magazines amplify a writer’s style. I quit the Sun job because I described the portions at some long-gone restaurant as being not unlike the bronto-ribs that tip over the Flintstones’ car during the closing credits of that show. My then-editor, Daphne Gray-Grant, crossed that out and wrote, “caveman-like.” Here I learned my third lesson about writing: some people enjoy irony; some people don’t. I quit after the Flintstone edit.

Back to the beep, and Mac Parry’s call…

I had no idea how to handle the offer. I suppose I had to get dressed up for a meeting, but I was six-foot-one, weighed about 110 pounds, had big 80’s hair and a wide selection of Pet Shop Boys-style raincoats. On the designated morning I decided to wear a nubbly Value Village blazer the color of 7-Up bottles. It was a cool morning, and as I was walking up Water Street to the office I bumped into a friend, Allan, who asked me where I was going, and so I told him. And then he said to me, “Doug, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but you’ve got a seagull shit the size of a fried egg on your jacket.” I looked and…voilà, there it was. So I went home to change into a backup jacket, and I arrived barely on time at the Vanmag office. It was located at the corner of Davie and Richards—in the warehouse and semi-industrial deadlands that now, 20 years later, define the new Vancouver landscape—but back then it was dirty and semi-abandoned and, after a recent zoning change, the throbbing center of Vancouver’s sex trade.

Upstairs I had to sit in the mirrored lobby and be intimidated by a parade of way-too-attractive people clad in the most extreme versions of 1980’s power dressing. The lobby vibe very much lived up to my preconception of what a magazine office ought to be like. Only later did I learn it was the day of the company’s once-a-year annual ad sales meeting—the rest of the year everybody showed up as though dressed for a Grade 10 social studies class. But the effect of all those glamorous people never left me. To me, magazines = glamour. Sometimes I go through periods when I like them more than at other times, but it’s always been love, and I think it’s forever.

Back to Mac Parry.

Mac’s office was at the end of a hall that was definitely not mirrored or glamorous. Like almost any magazine offices anywhere—including all the biggies in New York and London—it was a cobbled together mess of semi-functional office furniture, desecrated mismatched fabric-covered cubicle baffles, stacking chairs and maybe five IBM Selectrics in various degrees of functionality (and now available on eBay for roughly fifty bucks a pop). The overall effect? Glamour! It was great! I could sense the anarchy and lack of rules in the air. I felt like a dog driving past the butcher shop, its snout stuck out the window getting a heady, crack-like burst of sensations: this is life.

Coupland-2-WEB

Original Vancouver Magazine page, September, 2007

Mac was both terrifying and amusing. He swore like a pirate, he had battle stories, he’d seen the world, he travelled everywhere and, if he got bored, he went to the window and shouted hello to the transsexual hookers across the street who owned that specific trade territory. They’d flap open their curb-length white fox jackets and show Mac a flash of their white panties. It was strangely friendly in the neighborhood. There was a food chain and everyone in it got along with everyone.

Beverly Hills? There was an art dealer originally from Vancouver who’d been involved in a number of, um, unfortunate financial dealings over the past decade, and Mac had had a number of writers try and cover the story, but none of them seemed to “get” (for lack of a better verb) art, and maybe I could handle it. Using the same voice used by the teenager who sells French fries on The Simpsons, I said, “Sure Mr. Parry. I’ll try to write this story.”

Two days later I was in Beverly Hills and going to my first real art opening, the opening of the Ace Gallery in what had been the old Bullocks-Wilshire building across the street from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The next day I wrote the story, handed it in and received a check for—I think—$2,500. Huh? Seriously? I felt like I was looting the place, and boy, that much money really made my studio life easier. Then, as now, making anything is never cheap. In my mind, writing was a terrific means of paying studio bills with a bonus social life thrown in.

After that art story, Mac asked if I’d do a story for the next issue on the founding of the Reform party at the Hyatt on Burrard. I seem to remember a lot of people in brown suits and a generalized impression that the average IQ was about 105. I don’t have copies of any of these things. They’re distant memories now.

In 1987 Vancouver magazine was owned by a company called Comac Communications and has since been sold a few times over. The Comac regime was very relaxed, and it was the golden age of freebies. I remember I wanted to go visit my cousin in Aberdeen, Scotland, but I couldn’t afford it. Mac said, “Good God, nobody pays for travel. Call British Airways.” I did, and ended up in first class to Glasgow with a car and driver on the other end to drive me and cousin James on a week-long tour of the whiskey distilleries of the Spey River Valley.

Douglas Coupland

Douglas Coupland

Vanmag’s offices were in a clapped-out two-storey building that even in 1987 had DOOMED stamped all over it. Vanmag was upstairs and Western Living, also a Comac publication, was downstairs. It sounds so hokey now, but there was this culture of paranoia between the magazines and nobody from either floor ever visited the other. As well, our particular street corner’s sex trade specialty seemed to be boys who liked needles, and we’d show up at work and find rigs all over the front alcove. In spite of this, everyone was fairly courteous to each other on the street, and there was a tacit agreement that the boys and girls outside weren’t allowed to use either our bathrooms or our telephones.

I ended up spending a lot of time in the office. Primarily, they had typewriters there and I didn’t own one. More importantly, it was a real treefort of a place. There was Mac’s saxophone playing and endless supply of salty stories, Rick Staehling the art director, was never without a dry quip, and there were cocktails at the end of the day. Sometimes there were parties, and if the parties weren’t hopping, Mac would invite up the ladies from the corner across the street, which taught me a very good lesson, that for any party to hop, you have to have sexy people in the room.

It ended up with me writing a story per issue, which annoyed some of the old guard who thought I hadn’t “paid my dues” by writing small hundred-word pieces for the up front City Seen section. I thought this was so corny, but even now, two decades later, I meet these people and they’re still fuming that I never wrote blips for City Seen before I began writing features.

Following the Reform Party piece, I wrote a series of small fictional vignettes set on Robson Street, then undergoing a resurgence, and this was my first foray into fiction. Nowadays with everyone visiting dozens of websites daily, and with 4,000 different magazines for sale, it needs to be remembered that magazines were a more dominant cultural influence in the 1980s than they are now. In the same way that people now discuss the second season of Entourage on DVD, people talked about what they read in Vanmag. I can only wonder at the cultural force of magazines in the days before TV.

Somewhere that fall I also wrote a little piece called “Generation X” which caused a bit of a stir around the city’s water coolers. It was absolutely the seed of what went on to become the book, though I would like to say here that it was edited in such a way as to make Generation X sound like it came from the name of Billy Idol’s band, but it wasn’t—it comes from the final chapter of a book called Class by U.S. social critic, Paul Fussell. There. I hope that’s the last word on that.

Life is Strange, and I look back on those Vanmag years now and marvel at how utterly clueless I was about the choices I was making for my future. In the summer of 1987 my job description was “sculptural installation maker.” Within two short years, I quit everything else I was doing and moved away to the desert to write experimental fiction. It was a total and radical transformation of my life that I simply could never have anticipated that cool July day when I plugged in my answering machine. Like anyone, I wonder what would have happened if I didn’t buy the answering machine. I try and create scenarios in my head, and none of them are very pleasant. If I was guided by anything back then, it was, a) the protective naïve coating called “youth,” b) my belief that you can only be happy if you pursue activities that you find genuinely interesting, and, c) the kindness of Mac Parry and the Vanmag crew who let me experiment, who allowed me to find my written voice and who taught me how to throw a mean party. Thanks guys.

***

Genesis X is a splendid piece of seemingly relaxed and yet simultaneously slick writing.

It’s not easy, folks, to make it look that simple.

An argument could be made that Coupland’s ability to serve the needs of magazines near the outset of career had generated a writing style that come sometimes be viewed askance as bordering on facile. He has written a wide range of novels with much less acclaim than his first. But Coupland’s willingness to take risks, to experiment, to have the courage to fail, has been his hallmark. The versatility of Coupland is an original strain of naive, West Coast bravado that the world needs.

In 2010, he began his own clothing label with Roots. In 2012, the developer proposing the large redevelopment at Oakridge complex in Vancouver submitted a plan that included Coupland as a design consultant to “re-think the library for the 21st century.” The proposal contains text from Coupland’s website describing him as “as possibly the most gifted exegete of North American mass culture writing today” and “one of the great satirists of consumerism.” He then had a major one-show that surveyed his career as a non-literary artist at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2014. Douglas Coupland is only the second, major literary artist to have such a major, one-person show at VAG, following bill bissett.

***

Here’s a summary of Douglas Coupland’s career as a writer.

The third of four sons, Douglas Coupland was born on December 30, 1961 on a Canadian Armed Forces Base for NATO at Baden-Solingen, Germany. His father was putting himself through medical school by flying jets. After his father suffered an Achilles tendon injury while skiing, the family relocated to Vancouver where Coupland attended Sentinel High School in West Vancouver. Raised without religion, he attended the Emily Carr College of Art and Design in Vancouver, the Hokkaido College of Art and Design in Sapporo and Milan’s Istituto Europeo de Design. In 1987 he had a solo sculpture show at the Vancouver Art Gallery called Floating World. That year he also first began describing his own ‘twentysomething’ generation for Vancouver magazine, an urban lifestyles magazine edited by Malcolm Parry. During his twenties, Coupland also took a two-year course in Japanese business science at the Japan/America Institute of Management Science in Honolulu, Hawaii. Having written a few Budget Gourmet reviews for the Vancouver Sun, he worked for Western Living magazine as a staff writer before his stint with glossy and soon-to-be-defunct Vista magazine. At Vista he revisited the realm of his Vancouver magazine article on Gen-X as a comic strip. Coupland was subsequently contracted to write a non-fiction ‘handbook’ on Generation X. Coupland went to Palm Springs and completed a novel called Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. It was rejected by 15 Canadian publishers and 14 American publishers before it appeared in March of 1991.

It is often erroneously suggested the Coupland took the term Generation X from a Billy Idol song. Untrue. “The name comes from Paul Fussell’s (RIP) book ‘Class’ from the 1980s,” Coupland says, “where he postulates the existence of an ‘X Class’ at the book’s end. I think I’ve said this hundreds of times since 1991 but I think it takes too long to say and people write the wrong thing.” On 6/30/2014, Doug Coupland also wrote to Alan Twigg: “The old Vancouver magazine offices were at the corner of Richards and Davie. I started working there a few months after Vancouver’s sex laws changed, and Vanmag’s corner suddenly became the de facto tranny corner — sex workers are quite territorial. In the middle of the day I’d be working, and then someone out the window in a curb-length fox coat would open its flaps and would show me panties. My studio then was down the street on Hamilton, and at 5:00 tumbleweeds would blow through, and the neighbourhood became a ghost town. My studio space ended up, 25 years later, becoming the cigar smoking room at Cioppino’s. I guess the point of all of this is remembering what Yaletown used to be like compared to now. Driving through it in 2014 feels like I’m on another planet. I’m not nostalgic for the way it once was — it was interesting but dumpy — but I am a bit nostalgic for an era when change in Vancouver wasn’t so massive and so fast. We’re one of the few cities left on Earth that has yet to become what it will ultimately be. This is liberating and adventurous, but I like remembering the ghosts, too.”

Coupland’s magazine-styled novel Generation X is the ‘edgy, funny and hip’ story of three young refugees from the world of yuppie wannabeism who are under-employed, over-educated and intensely private. With ascerbic cartoons and textbook design giving rise to terms such as McJobs, this satirical novel of manners was critically acclaimed as groundbreaking. Media endorsed Coupland as a ‘spokesperson’ for a so-called slacker generation, whether he liked it or not. Since then Douglas Coupland has continued exploring, increasingly concerned with characterization in his novels, while also working as a designer and visual artist. Coupland is one of the few B.C. authors whose work is consistently reviewed internationally. Plots can be far-fetched. In his novel Girlfriend in a Coma, a high school senior named Karen Ann McNeil descends into a coma after a skiing accident–and gives birth to a child nine months later. She remains comatose for 18 years. Meanwhile Karen’s closely-knit group of friends has been working on the sets of shows like “The X-Files” and “Millennium” in Vancouver. With Karen’s amazing reaawakening, their lives begin to take on the same disturbing darkness that infuses the television shows on which they work. Visions of the world-at-an-end quickly become real as violent and apocalyptic events unfold. “Personally,” wrote Nicholas Lezard in The Guardian Weekly, “I think Coupland’s conclusions, his remedies for the world, are contradictory, possibly bogus, and not a little embarrassing; but at least he is trying to say something, to raise the stakes. He is becoming extraordinary.”

While Vancouverites have also come to know Coupland as a sculptor and public commentator (whose oeuvre was partially formed at the rich kids’ enclave of Sentinel High School in West Vancouver), the rest of the world continues to be curious about Coupland’s literary cocktails of pull-quote philosophizing, consistent cleverness and peripatetic angst. Recent novels have increasingly dealt with faith or acknowledgement of God, or lack thereof, amid the diversions of a consumer culture and technology. His novel Microserfs, for instance, used the corporate backdrop of Microsoft headquarters in Seattle to depict the high-tech and somewhat geeky lives of young employees ‘who realize they don’t have lives’. In a similar vein, Coupland examined the working lives of six characters whose names start with J who are employed by a huge computer games design company in Vancouver for jPod. [See below]

Sometimes you just can’t improve upon the hype. The jacket for Doug Coupland’s follow-up novel The Gum Thief, about the angst-ridden lives of employees in a Staples outlet, offers an excerpt that neatly captures the interplay between pathos and humour in Coupland’s ongoing critiques of modern North American society. Once again, Coupland and his characters have melded into one narrative voice: “I work in a Staples. I’m in charge of re-stocking aisles 2-North and 2-South: Sheet Protectors, Indexes & Dividers, Notebooks, Post-it Products, Paper Pads, Specialty Papers and ‘Social Stationery.’ Do I hate this job? Are you nuts? Of course I hate it. How could you not hate it? Everyone who works with me is either already damaged or else they’re embryos waiting to be damaged, fresh out of school and slow as a 1999 modem. Just because you’ve been born and made it through high school doesn’t mean society still can’t abort you. Wake up. Let me try to say something positive here. For balance. Staples allows me to wear black lipstick to work. — Bethany”

“We are all born lost, aren’t we?” says a high school character named Jason in Coupland’s chilling Hey Nostradamus!, a novel about the aftermath of a fictional shooting spree in North Vancouver’s (now defunct) Delbrook High School cafeteria. “We’re all born separated from God–over and over life makes sure to inform us of this–and yet we’re all real; we have names, we have lives. We mean something. We must.” The novel earned the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and won the Canadian Authors’ Association Award for Fiction. Coupland returned to Vancouver to accept the Canadian Authors Association award for Hey Nostradamus! at their convention at UBC in June of 2004. He had been in Toronto preparing for the opening of his his art and sculpture installation ‘Canada House’ at the Toronto’s Design Exchange. In his follow-up novel called Eleanor Rigby (Random House), Coupland has a plump and plain Vancouver heroine form an intimate relationship with a younger man in makeup and fishnet stockings. In October of 2004 Douglas Coupland’s one-man play, September Ten, had its premiere at the Royal Shakespeare Society in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Coupland lives in West Vancouver from where he continues his parallel career as an installation artist and photographer who enjoys being Canadian. This work has led to several non-fiction titles. Brilliant at recognizing and deciphering manners and trends, Coupland has turned a nostalgic eye on Canada, one of the world’s most enduring democracies, for Souvenir of Canada (2002) and Souvenir of Canada 2 (2004), two photographic troves of collective memories. Funny and serious, Coupland’s own brand of Sociology Lite touches upon subjects that include the dearly-departed stubby beer bottle, Newfoundland, the Maple Leaf, poutine, water, piss (“There are few, if any, Canadian men who never spelled their name in a snowbank.”), hockey, England, Ookpiks, the CN Tower, a Banque Royal calendar, a Royal Conservatory of Music piano lesson book, treeplanting, Sudbury, the GST, the Bluenose, Canola and Nanaimo bars etc. Coupland presents Terry Fox’s holey sock as if it’s the Shroud of Turin and takes a rare stab at addressing politics with a quickie memoir and analysis of the FLQ crisis of 1970 in which he predicts Quebec is destined to repeat itself. To mark the 25th anniversary of the beginning of Terry Fox’s failed–but hugely successful–Marathon of Hope run across Canada, Coupland edited Terry (2005) as a fundraising endeavour for the Terry Fox Foundation.

In 2007, Douglas Coupland accepted a honorary doctorate from Simon Fraser University where his sculptural installation, Fifty Books I Have Read More Than Once, was exhibited in September of that year as “an architectonic model of one artist/writer’s mind and soul.” Representations of book covers–arranged chronologically in terms of when Coupland was influence by them–were glued onto wooden blocks, varying in height, in relation to how important each book has been in Coupland’s life.

Set in the near future when honey bees are almost extinct, Douglas Coupland’s Generation A (Knopf $32.95) starts when five people around the world are stung simultaneously. As a deliberate reflection of Coupland’s famous first book, this story takes it title from comments made by Kurt Vonnegut at a Syracuse commencement ceremony in 1994. In his address to graduating students, Vonnegut said, “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 favours 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.”

In 2010, Coupland delivered by CBC Massey Lectures series, and Player One, subtitled What Is to Become of Us, A Novel in Five Hours, is the published result. Player One is a real-time five-hour story set in an airport cocktail lounge during a global disaster. Five disparate people are trapped inside: Karen, a single mother waiting for her online date; Rich, the down-on-his-luck airport lounge bartender; Luke, a pastor on the run; Rachel, a beautiful young blonde incapable of true human contact; and finally a mysterious voice know only as “Player One.”

In the tradition of Kurt Vonnegut and J.G. Ballard, Coupland explores the modern crises of time, human identity, society, religion and the afterlife. Readers will leave the story with no doubt that we are in a new phase of existence as a species–and that there is no turning back.

Review of the author’s work by BC Studies:
City of Glass: Douglas Coupland’s Vancouver
Fred Herzog: Photographs

FICTION:

Worst. Person. Ever. (Random House 2013)
Highly Inappropriate Tales for Young People (Random House 2011). Illustrated by Graham Roumieu. $21. 978-0-307-36066-0
Player One (House of Anansi, 2010) 978-0-88784-972-5
Generation A (Random House 2009)
The Gum Thief (Random House 2007) $32 978-0-307-35628-4
jPod (Random House 2006)
Eleanor Rigby (Random House $32.95) 0-679-31337-0
Hey Nostradamus! (Random House $34.95, 2003) 0-679-31269-2
All Families are Psychotic (2001)
God Hates Japan (2001)
Miss Wyoming (Pantheon, 1999)
Girlfriend in a Coma (HarperCollins, 1998) 0-00-224396-2
Microserfs (HarperCollins, 1995)
Life After God (Simon & Schuster, 1993)
Shampoo Planet (Simon & Schuster, 1992)
Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (St. Martin’s Press, 1991)

NON-FICTION:

Kitten Clone: The History of the Future of Bell Labs (Vintage Canada 2014)
Extraordinary Canadians Marshall McLuhan (Viking, 2010) 978-0670069224
Terry (Douglas & McIntyre, 2005)
Souvenir of Canada (D&M 2004)
School Spirit (2002)
Souvenir of Canada (D&M 2002) 1-55054-917-0
City of Glass (D&M 2000)
Lara’s Book (1998). With Kip Ward.
Polaroids from the Dead (1996)

One Response to “The origins of a modern classic”

  1. Anne Miles says:

    I really enjoyed this article, having finally read Generation X in recent years–I remember laughing out loud in parts. Glad to learn more about the author.

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