Slower, and with more serious undertones, I didn’t enjoy The Gum Thief as much as other Douglas Coupland, zeitgeit-capturing, novels I’ve read.
Amazon.co.uk link: The Gum Thief – Douglas Coupland
Not wanting to start my Christmas present reading and having tried (in vain) Alison Weir’s Eleanor of Aquitaine I resorted to raiding Phil’s reading, and Girlfriend in a Coma came recommended.
The novel tells the story of Richard and Karen, with occasional accompaniment from their circle of friends and parents, from young love and teenage togetherness in the twilight of the 1970s, through the 20 years of Karen’s coma most of which sees Richard lost in any number of emotional wildernesses despite the fact that 9 months after falling into her coma Karen has their daughter, culminating in a strange sci fi / parallel universe / zombie horror section which sees the rest of mankind killed off by a mysterious sleeping sickness and including god/ghostlike intervention from “unexpectedly dead at 16” schoolfriend and high school jock Jared.
I really enjoyed the first two sections, but the third and final part of the novel left me a cold and it felt like Douglas Coupland had really lost the plot by the end. One of the Amazon reviews describes the novel as “ultimately extremely uplifting” – I’m afraid I found it depressing, because having reached the end of the novel I had no expectation that Richard, Karen and co would make a better job of their lifetimes second time round.
I picked this out of Phil’s bookshelf as a filler in between finishing The 8.55 to Baghdad and finding time to get some fresh reading out of the library, or in the form of Christmas presents, whichever came sooner.
All too nihilistic for me, Generation X is the tale of three disillusioned American twenty/thirysomethings whose lives and desires have diverged from the routine career /life paths followed by their contemporaries and envisaged by their families. Instead, Andy, Claire and Dag choose to live in the faded glory of Palm Springs, a dying town on the edge of the desert, to work in low paid jobs free from both career path and (for the most part) stress, and to share time telling stories and drinking hard.
Amazon.co.uk link: Generation X – Douglas Coupland
Read on the recommendation of Phil, selected due to running out of library books and the media coverage surrounding the publication of JPod, and very good it was too.
Although of more immediate appeal to those of us with an interest in technology, Microserfs is actually also worth reading if you’ve ever wondered what people whose work involves “programming” or “the internet” actually *do*. Or, more accurately given that this was written in the late 1990s, “did”. It’s also an excellent snapshot of the coming together of a generation of geekoids, the technical developments / opportunities they could both envision and create with the venture capitalist investment and proliferation of IT in both workplaces and homes which resulted in the dotcom boom.
But it’s not an altogether alien world of techno-speak and nerds. Yes, the book is set on America’s west caost, in the high tech towns of Seattle and San Francisco, but Dan, Karla and the rest are characters that recognisable in their foibles and their fears – even if some of their fads and fetishes aren’t quite so familiar. There are lots of funny moments, and poignant ones too, and I really liked the way the main characters are given a wider family setting, so that you get a sense of how they have ended up who and where they are.
Buy it: Amazon link