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Author: Andrew Tate

This book is a full-length study of Douglas Coupland, one of the twenty-first century's most innovative and influential novelists. It explores the prolific first decade-and-a-half of his career, from Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (1991) to JPod (2006), a period in which he published ten novels and four significant volumes of non-fiction. Emerging in the last decade of the twentieth century—amidst the absurd contradictions of instantaneous global communication and acute poverty—Coupland's novels, short stories, essays, and visual art have intervened in specifically contemporary debates regarding authenticity, artifice, and art. This book explores Coupland's response, in ground-breaking novels such as Microserfs, Girlfriend in a Coma and Miss Wyoming, to some of the most pressing issues of our times.

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Coupland's contexts
Andrew Tate

1 Introduction: Coupland’s contexts I have always tried to speak with a voice that has no regional character – a voice from nowhere . . . home to me . . . is a shared electronic dream of cartoon memories, half-hour sitcoms and national tragedies . . . I used to think mine was a Pacific Northwest accent, from where I grew up, but then I realized my accent was simply the accent of nowhere – the accent of a person who has no fixed home in their mind.1 (Life After God, 1994) Does Douglas Coupland’s fiction ‘speak’ with ‘a voice from nowhere’? Is he a Canadian who

in Douglas Coupland
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Jpod and Coupland in the future
Andrew Tate

6 Conclusion: JPod and Coupland in the future I am thinking about the future. I am optimistic about the future. (Shampoo Planet, 1993)1 ‘I don’t believe in the future. I think we’re all doomed’. (JPod, 2006)2 What do Douglas Coupland’s abundant – and frequently conflicting – images of the future reveal about his worldview? Does his writing and visual art aspire to represent the innovative and the imminent, that is, to forge new ideas in a seemingly exhausted, derivative era? His novels occupy a perplexing hinterland between Tyler Johnson’s irrepressible

in Douglas Coupland
Coupland and space
Andrew Tate

‘American’ landscape. At the end of The Great Gatsby (1926), Nick Carraway, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s disenchanted narrator, gazes out from an East coast shore and attempts to visualize how seventeenth-century colonists might have viewed the now populous land: 108 Douglas Coupland [T]he inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes – a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees . . . had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a

in Douglas Coupland
Coupland, consumption and junk culture
Andrew Tate

supermarkets.1 (Girlfriend in a Coma, 1998) Douglas Coupland is captivated by rubbish, its possible uses and its plural connotations. Motifs of household garbage, environmental pollution and technological junk are everywhere in his fiction and visual art – the substance of his work is frequently constructed from broken things, forgotten concepts, obsolete inventions and the many ‘time-expired’, disposable items that we routinely ditch. In his ‘Canada House’ exhibition (2003; 2004–5), for example, a number of sculptures incorporate salvaged odds and ends – discarded tin cans

in Douglas Coupland
Coupland and postmodern spirituality
Andrew Tate

, or its absence, haunts Douglas Coupland’s most dispirited protagonists. The wilderness reflections, for example, uttered by the anonymous narrator of ‘In the Desert’ – one of the thematically interconnected narratives in Life After God – pivot around a sensation of spiritual dissatisfaction that is shared by many individuals in Coupland’s fiction. This desert sojourner’s conviction that he was raised in a creedal vacuum, without fixed beliefs – a personal history ‘clean of any ideology’ – is optimistic but, as he suspects, not entirely credible. The blank

in Douglas Coupland
Coupland and narrative
Andrew Tate

disintegration of erroneous, coercive social narratives – stories that condemn individuals to lives of economic and imaginative ‘Denarration’ or getting a life 39 servitude – might reasonably have given hope to anti-capitalist thinkers in the 1970s. Yet, as the authority of coherent public convictions liquefied, the illusive language of the market, fuelled by consumer dreams, filled the narrative gap with a seductive virtual story and gave birth to the epoch of globalized capitalism narrated by Douglas Coupland. If Coupland qua novelist necessarily has a professional

in Douglas Coupland
Anna Dezeuze

precariousness account for the widespread apathy attributed to a generation often termed ‘Generation X’, after the eponymous novel by Douglas Coupland, and described as ‘slackers’ and losers? As he was writing Generation X in 1991, Coupland remembers, he ‘had this sadness that some dimension of history, a certain kind of potency, was over…’6 Indeed, he recalls Francis Fukuyama ‘declaring the end of history’ at the time. In 1989, Fukuyama had proposed that the end of history was a consequence of ‘the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism

in Almost nothing
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Scott Wilson

is common in neither. Associated with Seattle and bands like Mudhoney and Pearl Jam, grunge provided the soundtrack to an American generation that was given novelistic definition by Douglas Coupland’s Generation X (1991) and cinematic renown by Richard Linklater’s film Slacker (1991). The term Generation X became a media label and a marketing tool, identifying a market of twentysomething Americans born in the 1960s, the children of the baby boomers. According to Douglas Brinkley, the generation was regarded as ‘numb and dumb’, ‘lazy underachievers, apathetic

in Great Satan’s rage
Anna Dezeuze

globalised capitalism would continue into the first decade of the new millennium. My purpose in Part II is to locate the precarious practices developed in the early 1990s in this context. Its title, ‘The light years’, is inspired by contemporary studies such as Bauman’s analysis of a new ‘liquid modernity’ which suggested that global capitalism was increasingly characterised by its 27 28 Almost nothing ‘weightlessness’, ‘motility’ and even ‘buoyancy’. Part II starts in 1991, four years after the economic crash. The chosen date coincides with the publication of Douglas

in Almost nothing