Douglas Coupland used to be in the habit of sleeping under his desk in a cubicle he dubbed the ''veal-fattening pen'' at a Toronto business magazine. Then he decided to write an ''ironically sincere'' novel, Generation X, portraying three rootless dreamers languishing in their 20s, longing for a future full of the steadiness that characterized their parents' past.
Now Coupland sleeps in his own bed. Generation X has outsold Less Than Zero, Bret Easton Ellis' first novel, about the same age group. ''It has given me a nice, warm, tribal feeling,'' says Coupland, 29 and single. ''I thought maybe this book was just one weird voice in the wilderness.''
It seems to be a most welcome voice to a generation that claims The Brady Bunch as its major icon. In Coupland's eyes, ''Xers,'' people born between 1961 and '71, are scarred by coming of age with divorce, Watergate, and Three Mile Island and without religion. ''We've been so brainwashed by Woodstock rhetoric that we've never developed any identity of our own,'' he says. ''The Eisenhower era is emerging as a new religion. With the Bing Crosby and Bob Hope generation you had a sense of correctness and stability, which if not helpful is at least comforting. Generation X must keep the flame.''