2001 volume 33(12) pages 2109 – 2125

Cite as:
Hamers D, 2001, "Having arrived, time to move on: Coupland's Brentwood as an experiment with space and time" Environment and Planning A 33(12) 2109 – 2125

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Having arrived, time to move on: Coupland's Brentwood as an experiment with space and time

D Hamers

Received 23 October 2000; in revised form 17 May 2001

Abstract. In "Brentwood Notebook" the Canadian author Douglas Coupland depicts Brentwood, an affluent community on the outskirts of Los Angeles, as a place that in many ways hardly deserves our attention, but that for some of its characteristics may nevertheless serve as a symbol of our hypermodern Western society at the close of the 20th century. Coupland's essay can be interpreted as a challenging experiment with time and space. His Brentwood has various faces and they are evoked in a text that relies on a number of creative and disciplinary traditions, including cultural philosophy, social and cultural geography, new journalism, and literature. His representation of Brentwood is not only based on his personal observations, but it is also informed by three powerful cultural myths, involving notions generally associated with utopia, dystopia, and the ideal of upper class suburban life. If we are to grasp the meaning of the "Brentwood Notebook" properly, we should focus on what the text reveals about this California community and especially on how it conveys the author's understanding of that place. A close reading suggests that the tension between presence and absence, between the visible and the hidden, as well as between progress, stasis, and decay characterizes Brentwood in particular.

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