This book was published in 1991. That means the characters, all in their 20s, were born roughly between 1960 and 1970. I’ve heard the term “Gen X” applied to people born as late as 1981, people who would have been 10 years old and of a completely different culture from the underemployed slackers who make their way through this world of Swedish disposable furniture and McJobs. But somehow the label kept getting applied to younger and younger people during the 1990s. Of course, Douglas Coupland (born 1961) didn’t coin the term; he just popularized it. I bought this copy at St. Mark’s Bookshop when I was 28 or 29 and hanging out in the East Village, visiting friends (I lived in Pennsylvania then). The book inspired a lot of bad newspaper Op-Ed columns by twentysomethings and baby boomers, as I recall, plus a terrible plague of other popular entertainments (“Reality Bites”). But it did capture something about being young and broke in the 1980s. I know the so-called millennial generation (people born around the time this book was published, I guess) are finding themselves in a similar situation. Advice: hang in there.
Sample chapter headings: Our Parents Had More. Quit Recycling the Past. Quit Your Job. I Am Not a Target Market. Shopping Is Not Creating. Purchased Experiences Don’t Count. Define Normal. MTV Not Bullets. Adventure Without Risk Is Disneyland.
The format of the book included marginalia definitions of various aspects of life as a 20something in the 80s/90s. The story is overshadowed by a Cold War ear fear of nuclear destruction that seems quaint now. We have so many other things to fear.
Notably missing: The Internet.
Legislated Nostalgia To force a body of people to have memories they do not actually possess: “How can I be part of the 1960s generation when I don’t even remember any of it?”
[Originally posted on my discontinued This Old Book Tumblr.]