Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture

From Academic Kids

Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, published in 1991, is the first novel by Douglas Coupland. It is Coupland's most famous novel, partially due to the fact that it spawned the term Generation X. It is often seen as being an accurate description of the generation, although Coupland maintains that the book was meant to show the lack of a single description for it.

The original publishing of the novel was presented in a wide-paged dual column style. In one column is the storyline, and in the other were neologisms (along with definitions for each of them) used to describe the lives of Generation X members, as well as small illustrations. Some later editions of the novel were produced with in a more traditional style, but the margin notes were retained as footnotes.



Coupland took the X from Paul Fussell's 1983 book Class, where the term "class X" designated a region of America's social hierarchy rather than a generation. As Coupland explained in a 1995 interview, "In his final chapter, Fussell named an 'X' category of people who wanted to hop off the merry-go-round of status, money, and social climbing that so often frames modern existence." This would become a popular view in the media of what the Generation X's attitude was like at the time.

The novel became widely popular after its first publication. The assortment of neologisms presented in the book would help in this popularizing. Some of these terms, such as McJob, became commonly used by both the media and the public. More notably, however, was the widespread use of the term "Generation X", which began being used as a name for the generation by the media after the publication of the novel.

Many critics have claimed that Coupland managed to predict the popularity of grunge music with this novel.Template:Ref However, contrary to common belief, the novel makes no reference to grunge at all; in fact, there is very little talk of music in the novel. While grunge had begun to gain popularity at around the same time, it had not yet gained enough to be widely known; Nirvana had yet to release "Smells Like Teen Spirit", the song that is widely credited for giving grunge its mainstream popularity, at the time that the novel was published. Thus, it is unlikely that Coupland had taken grunge music into account when writing the novel, since it is not likely that he knew of it at the time. Still, the characters' attitudes and dress styles were seen by critics and readers alike as being reminiscent of those of grunge fans and musicians.

Plot summary

The novel is a social satire about three members of Generation X - Dag, Andy, and Claire - who have moved to Palm Springs, California to get away from an overly commercialized world and rediscover themselves. In the process, they tell each other (and the guests who drop by now and then) stories, some about their lives and some made up to represent aspects of their lives.

Through the main story as well as the stories the characters tell, we see examples of how life is for members of Generation X. Stuck with their only career choices being in the service industry, being forced to live with the commercialism that is all around them, and being unable to afford housing, their generation lives a bleak life that is only getting bleaker. The only hope for the characters is to leave behind the lives they live and find new ones without the trappings of modern society.


  • Andy - The book's narrator and main character. Andy works in a bar (a McJob, as he describes it) and lives in a small bungalow. He's close friends with Dag and Claire. As in the case of Dag and Claire, Andy is trying to find a way to live his life without the trappings of modern society.
  • Dagmar - Dag for short. He works with Andy at the bar and lives next door to him in his own bungalow. Dag left an office job in order to find himself a better lifestyle. He has an odd obsession with the possibility of a nuclear apocalypse.
  • Claire - A friend of Andy and Dag (though not in a romantic relationship with either of them) who lives in a neighboring bungalow. She wants to live life as Andy and Dag are trying to, but finds it hard especially because of her boyfriend Tobias.
  • Tobias - A superficial yuppie who is Claire's boyfriend. He finds the lifestyle of Andy, Dag, and Claire interesting, but is unable to commit to it. Neither Andy nor Dag likes him.
  • Elvissa - Claire's best friend. She joins the group at one point in the story to tell her own short story.
  • Tyler - Andy's younger brother. Tyler is a young Generation Xer who doesn't seem to take his life seriously but deep down inside wishes he could as Andy does.



  1. Template:Note Similarly, some critics have also claimed that Coupland predicted the rise of Microsoft with his novel Microserfs.

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