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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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Jpod and Coupland in the future
Andrew Tate

predecessors, Hey Nostradamus! (2003) and Eleanor Rigby (2004), are structured around melancholy, introspective and, ultimately, redemptive plots that eschew self-conscious experiment or playfulness. Although JPod shares their contemporary Vancouver setting – frequently a signifier of a more solemn, contemplative mode than the chaotic comedy of Coupland’s US set fictions – its atmosphere is boisterous, irreverent and cheerfully lawless. JPod specifically revisits the new technology-focus of Microserfs – indeed, it has been marketed as ‘Microserfs for the age of Google’ – and

in Douglas Coupland
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Coupland's contexts
Andrew Tate

and the spectacular forms of film and television? A tacit anxiety about the legitimacy of the word and print culture informs Coupland’s fiction. Microserfs (1995), the novelist’s prescient exploration of the 1990s IT revolution, for example, wrestles with the possibility that its own form is anachronistic: ‘I wonder if we oversentimentalize the power of books’, reflects Daniel Underwood, both a child and architect of the digital age, and the novel’s narrator.2 This possibility is amplified in a question asked by Daniel’s mother, fearful that her bibliophiledependent

in Douglas Coupland
Coupland and narrative
Andrew Tate

shape of a ‘shimmering, endless New York’, both cartoon-like and tangibly real (GX, p. 57). ‘Denarration’ or getting a life 45 The ‘denarrated’ sensibility experienced by Andy and his alter ego also inflects Daniel’s electronic journal in Microserfs (1995). In fact, this narrator’s conversational, period-specific language is peppered with many references to being ‘deficient in the having-a-life department’ – a version of the distinctively 1990s casual insult that briefly enjoyed ubiquitous popularity – ‘Get a life!’ In Microserfs, this familiar slur takes on a

in Douglas Coupland
Coupland, consumption and junk culture
Andrew Tate

” ’ evades the issue of these novels’ simultaneous appreciation of the benefits of living within such a culture.8 Coupland’s work displays a genuine ambivalence about consumerism and the pursuit of wealth in the Western imagination. ‘[O]ne can just as easily imagine him attending an anti-capitalist rally as shopping in a designer goods store,’ notes Alan Bilton.9 From one perspective, Generation X (1991), Microserfs (1995) and Girlfriend in a Coma read like postmodern jeremiads against the excesses of the age, prompted by loathing for a mindless and corrupt commodity

in Douglas Coupland
Coupland and space
Andrew Tate

Michael in Microserfs (1995): this piece of electronic narrative imagines a ‘beautiful kingdom on the edge of the world that saw time coming to an end’; the kingdom has found a way to transform ‘its world into code . . . bits of light and electricity’ and, simultaneously, to grant itself eternal life ‘after time had come to an end’.3 In the mystic-entrepreneur’s speculative game, eternal peace is secured only after territory has been displaced by virtual space. Coupland’s turn to a space-oriented mode of thought echoes the objectives of Edward Soja’s groundbreaking and

in Douglas Coupland
Coupland and postmodern spirituality
Andrew Tate

exhausted by fundamentalism of all varieties. Jason Klaasen is one of a small number of Coupland’s wayward prophets who grew up with firm religious beliefs. Todd, the most socially confident of the young programmers in Microserfs (1995), described as both ‘historically empty’ and obsessed with body image, is another lapsed Christian now alienated from his ‘ultra-religious parents.’36 In a rare moment of introspection, he confides to the narrator that his ‘body was just something that I could believe in 142 Douglas Coupland because there was nothing else around’ (MS, p

in Douglas Coupland