Tag Archives: Kurt Vonnegut

Generation A by Douglas Coupland


Who Will Like it?

  • those who like cultural critiques
  • those who like books with little or no romance
  • people who like atypical novels, avant garde

The Plot

I just finished Generation A.

I don’t read much Coupland (why does he pronounce “cope” and not “coup”?), but I do think he is eccentric, talented and insightful. His observations on the current state of society are bang on and often take away my breath away, or pull the metaphorical rug from under my slightly shaky feet.

Despite all these amazing reasons, I don’t read Coupland often because I don’t find his writing voice compelling.

Generation A did not disappoint. It is a powerful book set in the near future about five people stung by bees around the same time, in different parts of the world. People consider this an amazing event because bees have been extinct for years

The five people are similar in their inability to connect and have meaningful relationships with those around them. They all have a general unease with a new drug, called Solon. This medication is a stress reducing drug that speeds up the perception of time. It is so addictive that once you take it, you can never come off it.

The five individuals are swept away by government officials, placed in isolation, and studied to learn why the bees have considered them special. A conspiracy unfolds involving drug corporations. The drug companies are interested because the bee-stung people do not feel a need for Solon. Their detachment and laissez-faire attitude is what the company intends Solon to do anyways. They take Serum from their brains and it’s farmed to make the ultimate Solon.  The production of Solon was the reason the bees became extinct. Thus,  the current way of Solon production could be stopped and the remaining bee population would bounce back.

I won’t say more regarding the plot.

Relevance

Does anyone else remember when that study was released about the decrease in world bee population? (click here to see the study) It was somehow related to the increase in cell phone usage and the radiation interrupting bees’ ability to communicate with each other and thus their ability to make honey and continue on with their bee lives.  It is ironic that cellphones, which are supposed to help us communicate better, are destroying bees’ ability to communicate and survive.

In Generation A, the reader gets the sense that the world is small, and it has been made small by things like cellphones and other forms of digital communication. Ironically though, the people in the book are not connecting with each other in meaningful ways. The digital world is changing how we communicate, our language, and the way we internalize our daily existence. I often find myself thinking in Facebook status language “Elisha Stam Judson… hates it when she drops her fork while eating pancakes.” It’s embarrassing, but it’s also incredibly mind-boggling. Cellphones and digital social networks are around to keep us better in touch, but maybe, like the bees, it’s interrupting with the natural way of things.

People are constantly texting. Have you intentionally spent time with someone only to have them text every five minutes? (or five seconds) It’s ironic because it interferes with your ability to connect with them. It’s not even the physical act of texting or “liking” something on Facebook that is a hindrance to connecting. I think it has something to do with attention. Our culture is changing, and very rapidly.

Coupland believes a new species is evolving.

Generation A also says some poignant things about the story of man. About our cultural narratives and our own personal narratives. If you sit down and ask people to tell a story off the top of their heads, Coupland believes common themes will develop. These are what we should unite around. The desires in our hearts.

I was taken aback by Coupland’s description of prayer as trying to make sense of the story in your head. That prayer can take you to the place where the unimportant voices are drowned out. I think there are quite a lot of unimportant voices that drown out my meaningful thoughts.

Just to warn you: there’s quite a bit of swearing in this book, one of the main character has Tourette’s Syndrome.

“Now you young twerps want a new name for your generation? Probably not, you just want jobs right? Well, the media does such tremendous favours when they call you Generation X right? Two clicks from the very end of the alphabet. I hereby declare you Generation A.  As much at the beginning of a series of astonishing triumphs and failures as Adam and Eve were so long ago.”

– Kurt Vonnegut