Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Shampoo Planet

Shampoo Planet by Douglas Coupland
Hardcover, 299 pages
Pocket Books, 1992
ISBN-10: 0671755056
highly recommended, but...

Synopsis from the Publisher:

Shampoo Planet is the rich and dazzling point where two worlds collide — those of 1960s parents and their 1990s offspring, "Global Teens." Raised in a hippie commune, Tyler Johnson is an ambitious twenty-year-old Reagan youth, living in a decaying northwest city and aspiring to a career with the corporation whose offices his mother once firebombed.

This six-month chronicle of Tyler's life takes us to Paris and the ongoing party beside Jim Morrison's grave, to a wild island in British Columbia, the freak-filled redwood forests of northern California, a cheesy Hollywood, ultra-modern Seattle, and finally back home. On the way we meet a constellation of characters, among them: Jasmine, Tyler's Woodstock mom; Dan, his land-developer stepfather; "Princess Stephanie," Tyler's European summer fling; and Anna Louise, his post-feminist girlfriend with an eating disorder.

Tyler's dizzying journey into the contemporary psyche — a voyage full of rock videos, toxic waste, french-fry computers, and clear-cut forests — is a spellbinding signature novel for a generation coming of age as the millennium comes to a close.

My thoughts:

Shampoo Planet was in some ways a brilliant piece of writing with unique characters set in a specific place and time, but in other ways it rather missed the mark with me. While I really did enjoy Coupland's witty observations and similes in Shampoo Planet and the many references to the young product obsessed American consumers of the early 1990's, I've never personally been a participant in rampant consumerism. With that said, though, there was something sad, sweet, and touching in Shampoo Planet, but in other ways it felt too sleek, glib, and disposable. Coupland is an enigma to me. He is a great writer and can be scathingly funny and insightful, but there always seems to be something askew in his worlds. Highly Recommended - but...

Random Reading challenge


My mother, Jasmine, woke up this morning to find the word D-I-V-O-R-C-E written in mirror writing on her forehead with a big black felt pen. Of course she didn't know the word was there as she was awakening. Not until she stepped into the bathroom to brush her teeth and looked in the mirror (a mirror surrounded by a long-suffering wandering-Jew vine and the mirror in front of which I learned to shave several years back) did she see the word, now facing the correct way, at which point she screamed loud enough to wake the dead, which in my house means my sister, Daisy. opening

Now is an exciting period in my life and refuse to let fate steal away my excitement. I'm back in the New World now, back in the world of jumbo ruby Florida grapefruits and understandable telephones, of bottomless coffees, decent malls, and high ambition - back after spending a summer of thrills in the Old World of Europe. pg. 4-5

Hair is important.

Which shampoo will I use today? Maybe PsycoPath, the sports shampoo with salon grade microprotein packed in a manly black injection-molded plastic motor-oil canister. Afterwards? A bracing energizer splash of Monk-On-Fire, containing placenta, nectarine-pit extract, and B vitamins. And to hold it all together? First Strike sculpting mousse manufactured by the pluTONium hair-care institute of Sherman Oaks, California. pg. 7

If you ever have a free moment, you might consider checking out the travel brochures for the town in which you live. You might be amazed. You might not want to live there any more. pg. 9

Jasmine was/is a total hippie, even though sometimes she can be too modern for words. Jasmine has the perennially breathy, childlike quality particular to the ex-hippie group, a childlike quality we, her children, understood early on in life. Because of this quality, Daisy and Mark and I have always felt parental toward Jasmine, have always been on "hippie parent alert": inspecting the microwave oven for chunks of hash before friends came over to watch videos.... pg. 15

I call my room the Modernarium, the only room in the house into which Jasmine's hippie stained glass decorating sensibility has not been permitted to seep.... extremely tasteful black modular sofa units, a TV and CD sound system built into the man-high "entertainment totem"(black), the incredibly tasteful nonshag carpet (gray), the futon (gray-and-white stripes),....sleek Italian minifridge (gray)....The walls are gray. All ornament has been neutralized. It is - yes - hot. pg. 25

"You're beautiful, Tyler"

"No, you're beautiful, Anna-Louise."

Tyler, you are fabulous. Truly fabulous. Stop being so fabulous. Just stop it."

I love you, Anna-Louise. From the bottom of my heart I want you to know how much I love you, Ana-Louise."

We kiss.

Anna-Louise and I are speaking to each other in Telethon-ese. That's how we met last year at Lancaster Community College. pg. 28

No one challenges my authority regarding designer knock-off merchandise. That's how I paid for my trip to Europe, as well as the Comfortmobile and the Modernarium: fakes - watches and T-shirts. pg. 37

The tactic of choice? Preemptive boringness. Being one-dimensional is the most satisfying method of coping with out-of-control people - with any situation that's out of control. Keep your face like a screen-saver software program. Don't let people know the ideas you love, the games you've played, the places you've visited in your mind. Keep your treasures to yourself. pg. 47

1 comment:

Lori L said...

I find this halarious. Someone left the following comment - in part, now deleted - on this post:

HI, I came across the damage meter test designed to know what kind of treatment or conditioning your hair needs. This test is devised by a hair expert. The shampoo variants recommended in the test result would only help you to improve your hair if it is dull, dry or have Split ends...

Obviously it was NOT from a reader or even anyone who knew what Shampoo Planet was, although it conjoins nicely with the message concerning consumerism in the book.