Douglas Coupland is one of my most enduring favorite authors, along with Jonathan Lethem and Haruki Murakami and Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve found him to be the voice of my generation many times — even including when he popularized the term “Generation X” for my generation — in the title of his 1991 book Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture.
Looking back now, from 2010, it’s clear that while we felt like life was accelerated in 1991, we had no idea how much faster culture and life would get — that we’d see the fundamental innovation of the web start to take hold just a few years later, and the rate of change would just get faster and faster and faster.
Coupland’s themes have always really spoken to me — he writes about the struggles we all go through to make meaning of our lives — in his book Life After God, he explores the idea that in the past, in America, that religion and the church was the main organizing principle — the connective tissue between events & moments that ultimately shapes all of it into something coherent. But that religion, for many Gen Xers, has lost that narrative power — and so we’re all searching around for something else to take its place.
The answer, naturally, has to be that nothing can take it’s place, and finding meaning in your life was never really connected purely to religion anyway — but the structure of activity and thought that religion brought made it a little easier. Finding meaning — rather, making meaning — is more intrinsic than that; it has to come from within yourself.
But I’ve been having a hard time with Coupland’s last few books — they’ve been harder for me to believe & internalize — they’re just a little more random and less accessible than I found his writing before. Or it may be that as he — and I, and all of Generation X — gets older that the ideas of alienation and narrative and meaning are getting harder to think about, harder to see — so you have to just tell stories to try to get a glimpse at their truths.
I liked this book; it’s a little quirkier than I was hoping for, and I can’t tell yet what meaning to make from it — but think I may come back to it in a year or two to consider it again. (And it’s already caused me to pick up Life After God again.)