Girlfriend in a Coma
by Douglas Coupland
In 1990, Douglas Coupland incorporated the name of a semi-obscure UK rock band into the title of his first novel. In the process he popularized the phrase that would come to describe a generation of Americans and their propensities for directionlessness, narcotizing, self-pity, and reruns. Though only eight years have passed since Generation X: Tales From an Accelerated Culture, both Coupland and the late-born miscreants about which he writes have come of age. In Girlfriend, Coupland, a Vancouver native, deftly applies all of his prosaic gifts — a keen ear for dialog, a satirist’s eye for pop-cultural absurdity, and a profound love for his characters — to a story involving death, spiritual awakening, and the apocalypse as seen from British Columbia. While these elements have appeared in previous works by the author, such were fleeting cameos and mere preludes to the gripping drama and fully-developed story into which they are invested in Girlfriend. Previous Coupland works have succeeded best in helping those in Generation X to understand post-modern culture and their seeming need to fractionalize it into a primary school collage of high and low art. Despite a title taken from a Smiths song, and the mildly distracting sprinkles of other Smiths-related verbiage throughout the work, Girlfriend transcends the limitations of subject and demographics inherent in such devices, and addresses graver and more universally relevant questions, such as “From where does meaning come?” and “Now that we have all the consumer goods we ever wanted, what shall we do with the balance of our lives?” I would recommend Girlfriend in a Coma to anyone of any age.