Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Please hold, your life is important to us

I’m suffering yet more post-natal regrets about the Noughties book: now I realise that I didn’t give nearly enough space to the works of Douglas Coupland. I’ve already discussed the fact that several of his books have a tendency to degenerate into loosely connected strings of one-liners, but is that necessarily a bad thing? Maybe this simply reflects the direction in which culture and society is developing; as the interminable Big Brother retrospectives have proved, our attention spans today can’t even cope with the Warholian 900 seconds.

In Coupland’s most recent novel, Generation A, one of the main characters is a Sri Lankan call centre worker called Harj, who defines his own professional identity as
...a chunk of disgraced meat at the end of a phone line, forced by the global economy to discuss colour samples and waffle-knit jerseys with people who wish they were dead.
which would have been useful in my deliciously fleeting contribution to the BBC2 show History of Now, in which I discussed the ersatz Englands being constructed right now in the cubicles of Bangalore. And Harj also encapsulates the Noughties interface of capitalism and celebrity culture with his prank commerce site:
For $4.99 you could visit my site and download one hour of household silence from rooms belonging to a range of celebrities, all of whom promised to donate their royalties to charity. There was Mick Jagger (London; metropolitan), Garth Brooks (rural; some jet noise in the background), Cameron Diaz (Miami; sunny, sexy, flirty)) and so forth. For cachet, I threw in household silences from the Tribeca lofts of underworld rock survivor Lou Reed and motherly experimental performance artist Laurie Anderson.


Valerie said...

Overseas call center workers themselves may be a creature of the Noughties only. A recent report on public radio here pointed out that with the recession, and the consequent drop in expected wages, U.S. companies are starting to turn back to U.S. workers for call center work, finding the lower salaries and the downsides of hiring far-away workers narrowing the decision gap.

Dick Headley said...

I read Generation A. It's good but I'm not sure Doug has quite the same fresh exciting aura anymore. Or maybe I'm just jaded.

Billy said...

Coupland is fantastic.

garfer said...

All call centres should be in Glasgow. Everybody trusts Glaswegians, even if they can't understand a word they say.

Kirses said...

I do love Coupland, have read all of his books. JPod is definitely the best, it has a storyline and everyhting. I particulalry liked the way he features as himself in it.

Tim F said...

That’s true, Valerie. Although if the economy picks up, all those US workers might suddenly have to hand in their headsets again.

I do think there’s a law of diminishing returns with him, Dick. Although Billy disagrees.

That may be true, Garfer, although I have no idea what you just said.

JPod has a storyline, Kirses, but isn’t it just a framework upon which to hang his one-liners?