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Yuppies, Beware: Here Comes Generation X

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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

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.

The deficit.

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

mousse.

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