Shampoo Planet by Douglas Coupland
I have read quite a few books by Coupland in the past and enjoyed most of them. When I browsed this book at the library and realized it was an older one I had missed, I snatched it up.
When I was a teenager I imagined my grown-up life to be that which exists in some of Coupland’s earlier works. I had spent too much time watching movies like Singles and Reality Bites. I imagined scrappy apartments, flannel, and low paying jobs.
When faced with the ‘new future’ as a borderline gen-xer where ‘renting was throwing away money, the only option is to buy’ or ‘work 12 hour days and you too can climb to middle management’ I decided I didn’t want to move home so I could stuff money under my mattress as down payment for a mortgage. Instead I fled to Europe. I took a low paying job but only worked 25 hours a week. It was great. And I am still throwing away money on rent.
But enough about me.
Shampoo Planet takes me back to those ideas of adulthood I once had. It is the story of Tyler, his trip to Europe, and a comparison of the kind of old world/new world dreams & realities. Tyler and his friends have a hard time finding jobs that support them, that offer any kid of lifestyle worth living. Tyler’s mother is an aging hippie, with bad taste in men. Tyler doesn’t really know what to make of the women in his life.
Shampoo Planet picks up where Generation X left off, but it stands alone (it’s been so long since I read Gen X that I probably missed most of the connection anyway). It is probably more accessible now during the current recession than it might have been five years ago. The shopping centers are empty, unemployment is high, and people don’t have a lot of stuff.
This book did make me a bit nostalgic. It wasn’t my favorite Coupland book, but it wasn’t my least favorite either. If you enjoy his writing style, this is worth a look. It was a quick and easy read.
I give it bonus points because it mentioned Paramus Park Mall as one of the 4 most important malls in America. As a teen, this mall was my ‘home mall,’ meaning my go-to mall – there were several others nearby that I would frequent, but none quite as much as PPM.
Only one slight distraction that might have been different from what I experienced, but at one point Tyler and his French girlfriend were listening to The Grateful Dead on his walkman. I didn’t meet too many Europeans in my travels who appreciated the Dead, and certainly none that fit Stephanie’s description…. but that’s just an aside.