Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Generation A

We read Generation A for book club. It's the latest by Douglas Coupland.

It's about these people that get stung by a bee, and it takes place in the not-so-distant future where bees are thought to be extinct. After these five folks get stung, they get quickly gathered up by scientists and taken in for observation and to find out if there's something special about them that attracts bees.

There are five main characters and some of them are kind of interesting - a young man from Sri Lanka who works at a call center for Abercrombie & Fitch and has an idealized view of Americans (in stylish, cotton clothing) mostly named "Craig". A young woman with Tourette's Syndrome. A corn farmer/pornographer. The others kind of merged into one person for me - but others in book club said they found them all quite distinct.
In Sri Lanka, a dog in a doghouse owned more than I did. Could I ever be a Craig? No. A person was born into Craigdom, with its multiple ski holidays, complex orthodontia, proper nutrition and casual, healthy view of recreational sex.

Without giving too much of the plot away, they all do have something in common, and ultimately what emerges (I don't think this will ruin it for you) is how, despite living in the digital age and all it's presumed alienation, we're (some of us) nevertheless more in touch with each other than we ever were before.

Coupland's book was a little disappointing only because I think he skirts closely to some rather profound thoughts, but doesn't commit to them. I wish his book had been a lot more challenging. Instead he seems to opt for a more pop sensibility which certainly lends an equanimous readability to the work, but it's also a kind of cop-out to the audience.

One bit I loved, however, was how Coupland played a little bit with language and text - check this out - can you read it?
Wondering where that title came from? Coupland is partly responsible for the popularity of the term "Generation X", as you may know. But Gen A is slightly different, and, if you ask me, this book will most assuredly not carry the same caché and come to define a generation as X did. It comes from Kurt Vonnegut:
"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."

No comments: