WASHINGTON - Look out, yuppie scum. Here come the X'ers.
Bitter. Bright. Unpredictable. Cocked to conquer the world.
Uncertain if the world is worth the trouble.
They're the twentysomethings, 41 million Americans born
between 1961 and '71. The demographic hiccup between post-war
baby boomers and the baby boomers' babes. In a decade or
two they'll control our lives. And if you haven't noticed
yet, they're miffed.
X'ers, as author Doug Coupland calls them, belong to the
baby-bust generation, when the U.S. birth rate dropped to
half its post-war peak. In his first novel, "Generation
People are also reading…
X," the 29-year-old Coup-land salutes the X'ers, those
who came of age just in time to be seared by socioeconomic
fallout from the 1980s. Recession. AIDS. Homelessness. Crack.
Coupland denies he's a spokesman for his contemporaries.
But that doesn't stop him from generalizing: All young adults
pass through a stage of disillusionment, he says, but today's
novice grown-ups bear an additional grudge. They've been
handed a society priced beyond their means.
"We're like the White Russian aristocracy, exiled in Paris
cafes, never to get what is due to us," Coupland says.
Coupland's book may not be a generation-defining "The Sun
Also Rises" or "The Catcher in the Rye" or even a "Bright
Lights, Big City." But it is a funny, self-conscious tale
with a running glossary of twentysomething sound bites and
knock-off Lichtenstein cartoons. One shows a young woman
saying: "Don't worry, Mother ... If the MARRIAGE doesn't
work out, we can always get DIVORCED."
Raised by TV baby sitters, in the pall of divorce, political
scandal, the threat of nuclear war and the absence of religion,
the X'ers have trouble naming heroes, professing values.
"They had Watergate, Iran-scam," Coupland says. "They
had scam, scam, scam. Gate, gate, gate. Twenty consecutive
years of that has made them cynical. You can torture an
X'er with four tractors attached to all limbs before he'll
tell you what he believes."
Coupland didn't plan on being a pop philosopher. In college,
he earned a degree in sculpting and later studied Japanese
business science in Honolulu. But when a friend said his
postcards had flair, he took the next logical step, moved
to Palm Springs, Calif., and became a novelist.
In search of their own permanence and significance, "Generation
X" protagonists Andy, Claire and Dag escape to the California
desert. They leave behind "pointless jobs done grudgingly
with little applause." The trio copes with an essentially
ironic existence by telling stories.
Yuppies play the bad guys in their fictional vignettes.
There's Dag, for example, who enjoys scratching the windshields
of yuppie-mobiles with rocks.
Coupland is finishing a second novel, "Shampoo Planet."
The novel exposes the dark side of the next generation.
The book's title reflects Coupland's observation that today's
teens seem to have 500 brands of shampoo, conditioner and