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30 September 2008 @ 08:24 pm
and your sense of culpability  
The Gum Thief, Douglas Coupland

So I reckon this book was supposed to be a homage to youtube, but it got lost along the way.

When I first started reading Coupland, what attracted me (aside from being referenced in bandom fic, lol) was his lj-entry style of writing. That's obviously not a technical term, but he has a loose, easy way of sticking in random shit that reminds me of reading my flist. Observe:

Wouldn't it be great if stars turned black during the day - the sky covered with dots like pepper?

Like, that has NOTHING to do with anything else in the book, and it's clear he just had that thought one day and wanted to share. But it's a cool thought, so I'm glad he did.

On the other hand, I think he secretly wants to be a more pretentious writer than he is. Either that or he considers himself well smarter than everyone else, especially when it comes to cultural trends, because he explains them so. very. clearly!

How romantic, in a Japanese manga kind of way.

Because he wanted to point up the difference between Japanese, Chinese and Western manga in his metaphor? Yeah, I don't think so. To those in the know, the cultural origin of manga does not need defining. And for those not in the know ... why are we pandering to them?! You can google 'manga' in two seconds flat.

A lot of his metaphors suffer from this over-explaining habit of his:

Honestly, they look like the coronary tissue from an eighty-nine-year-old woman's heart.

As if it could have been coronary tissue from her liver. I mean SERIOUSLY.

... grief is a werewolf that moves into your house one day and never leaves

This one I don't get at ALL. The defining characteristic of WEREWOLVES is SQUATTING? UM, WHAT?

What was it - a batch of kittens secretly takes over a weight-loss clinic? And then the kittens turn a ragtag bunch of losers into skinny people with rich sex lives and unconditional love from their family members?

I would so read that, actually.

Let's be practical: Earth was not built for six billion people all running around and being passionate about things. The world was built for about twenty million people foraging for roots and grubs.

YESSSSSSSSS, see, this is why I like him lots - no really. I do.

When something good happens to one writer, all writers read about it and rejoice! [...] Take that, Internet!

Puzzled, again. I read more on the internet that I do in any other forum. It's a harbour for some of the best and worst writing around. More than that - it's the greatest vehicle for literary talent since the invention of the Guthenburg Press. So. Puzzled.

The plot itself was pretty daft, and not in an 'initially daft but developed into so much more' kind of way. I realised towards the end that it was essentially epistolatory, and I hate epistiolatory. You don't need to justify the first-person POV, but Coupland seems to do it a lot. I HATED the Glove Pond intervals. I skimmed through them, horrified that they seemed to multiply as the page number rose. And the bits with the TOAST, what the FUCK. He was trying to slander writing exercises in creative writing courses, I guess, but did I need to suffer that? I don't think so. Remind me never to take a creative writing course. I don't want to write about the trials and tribulations of baked goods, jesus.

Oh, and. No way would this make me laugh out loud on a plane. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

Previously, on Book Glomp 2008:
Middlemarch | Invisible Monsters | A Thousand Splendid Suns | Love in the Time of Cholera | Oscar and Lucinda | Kim | Breakfast at Tiffany's | Atonement | To the Lighthouse | On the Road | Brideshead Revisited | Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance | Bonjour Tristesse | A Passage to India | Three Men in a Boat | Vile Bodies | Prozac Nation | The Heart of the Matter | Jinx; Airhead | Doomsday Book
Current Music: don't you forget about me (simple minds)
murklins: hogwartsmurklins on September 30th, 2008 07:51 pm (UTC)
The defining characteristic of WEREWOLVES is SQUATTING? UM, WHAT?

Obviously, Coupland did a lot of internet research when writing this book and, like so many before him, fell quite by accident into Harry Potter fanfiction. This is a reference to a classic Snape/Lupin slash trope, in which Snape conceals his deep love for Lupin by whining about the werewolf problem in his house.

This is why Coupland feels the need to over-explain his metaphors. We clearly are NOT smart enough to get them. :D
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: converse prettyscoradh on September 30th, 2008 08:15 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure how it relates to the death of a child, though ... if that child was even dead. wtf, idek.

I think I mainly like Coupland because we have something in common: writing sucky endings. lol.
murklinsmurklins on September 30th, 2008 08:27 pm (UTC)
Hmm, as a child, Snape was almost killed by his werewolf problem? AHAHAHA, OMG, do not encourage me. If we are to seriously dissect the werewolf metaphor, I guess it has more to do with the idea that grief moves in and after a while it integrates easily into your life -- you get used to it being there, and it eases off a bit, assumes a less devastating form. But periodically it rears up and manifests its savage side, ripping into your heart and rampaging through your life before settling back once more into a vaguely innocuous shape.


I have read and enjoyed many of your and Coupland's works, endings included. :)
jehnt: narnia - will - fabulousjehnt on September 30th, 2008 08:44 pm (UTC)
As if it could have been coronary tissue from her liver. I mean SERIOUSLY.

I mean, maybe if she was in a terrible accident and coronary tissue was SHOVED into her liver by the VIOLENT PENETRATION OF SOME OBJECT and/or SMASHING CAR DEATH, and then later PICKED OUT OF HER LIVER by a CONFUSED MEDICAL EXAMINER during the autopsy. I mean, improbable, and probably not what the author meant... BUT POSSIBLE.

This one I don't get at ALL. The defining characteristic of WEREWOLVES is SQUATTING? UM, WHAT?

I think he meant that grief moved in and then tore you apart on a regular schedule. BUT IT COULD HAVE BEEN MADE MORE CLEAR. Like maybe he could have said "Like a homeless werewolf, grief moves into your house and begins tearing you apart on the full moon with its lust for ripping flesh." Except maybe that's not an improvement. Nevermind. He should just abandon the whole endeavor.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: skirtscoradh on October 1st, 2008 08:06 pm (UTC)
I just know he assumes people need clarification of the word 'coronary.' If they do it's not your biz, Doug.

It was the moving into a house part that threw me. Besides, grief is an unpredictable monster, whereas werewolves practically have a timetable. Just a crappy metaphor, on the whole.
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every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: statuescoradh on October 1st, 2008 08:08 pm (UTC)
I've only read three - Eleanor Rigby, Hey Nostradamus! and this. The writing and characterisation is always good but the plot facile. Still, it's more interesting than Moby Dick (difficult though that is to achieve...)