A cover I did 17 years ago re-surfaces...Generation X by Douglas Coupland
How to Judge a Book by its Cover
By Jonathan Gibbs
Published: March 1 2008 02:00 | Last updated: March 1 2008 02:00
by Douglas Coupland
Illustration by Paul Bateman
First impressions of the cover for this book are likely to be along the lines of how dated it looks.
The collage design, by British illustrator Paul Bateman, leans heavily on 1950s and 1960s imagery, which is at odds with the book's reputation. For this is Generation X, Douglas Coupland's debut novel, that did so much to define the zeitgeist of the 1990s.
But this was always a much misunderstood book, not least because its publication was closely followed by the explosion into the mainstream of grunge, which fused the book and the movement in the public's mind forever. This is unfortunate as Coupland's characters were not disaffected, Nirvana-obsessed rebels like the grunge kids, but ironical, informed drop-outs, haunted by nostalgia for their country's lost innocence.
Hence the retro look. According to Bateman, ''the source imagery was mainly from ads in 1950s and 1960s American magazines, reflecting the cultural memory and stories that the book's characters share''. He also deliberately blew up many of the images until the print pattern showed through, alluding to the media-savvyness of the Gen X mind. The pixelated areas were a nod to the emerging computer technology of the day, though, amusingly, this is clearly an old-school cut-and-paste job. Digital design would have to wait.
Also striking is the book's square shape, which makes it look more like a coffee-table book than a novel. This was a result of the interior layout, which reserved wide columns at the page edges for slogans, cartoons and Coupland's famous mini-definitions (''McJob'', ''Ultra Short Term Nostalgia'' and so on). These, together with the shape, gave the feeling that the book was somehow non-fiction after all - a key factor in its success.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008