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Author Topic: Douglas Coupland
Gas Filled Dolphin Carcass
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To be fair the book is full of fantastic ideas. What will archaeologists of the future think when they find our gyms? Stuff like that. It's just that he doesn't have the concentration to expand these ideas beyond a couple of lines of flashy prose that don't really go anywhere.

The thing that most people criticize him for though, is his only selling point for me, this trying to capture the spirit of the times. I want literature to speak to me about the environment I live in. I think more writers should be as fastidious about their cultural research as he is.

[ 25.08.2006, 13:03: Message edited by: Carcass ]

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Gas Filled Dolphin Carcass
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Did anyone read his interview with Morrissey for the OMM? He talks about himself for six pages, bullet points some really uninteresting facts about Mozzer that you could have guessed and . . . that's it. No quotes or anything. I can't remember the last time a piece of writing made me that angry.
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ale
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I thought Coupland was actually improving as a writer with Hey Nostradamus & Eleanor Rigby...couldnt get away with either Microserfs or Gen X so gave up on following his progress until Nostradamus....

reviews and comments on Jpod unfortunately suggest hes reverted back to type..

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Not me
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Yeah, writing a six-page article on Morrissey which doesn't contain one interesting sentence, quote or factoid about yourself or your subject is a special kind of achievement.

I remember quite liking Generation X when I was 16, but I'd only really read magazines or comics until that age so the soundbite-y style was quite a good halfway house. I think its follow-up, Shampoo Planet, is still the most inconsequential book I've ever started; I was amazed that anyone could have been bothered to write it. (And what Carcass said about Girlfriend in a Coma.)

Carcass's point about capturing the spirit of the times is interesting. I think itís a tricky thing to pull off in fiction, which is by its nature a longish-term proposition (compared to journalism, at least). I can definitely see it in something like The Great Gatsby, where the gleaming, almost mythical world holds enough drama to captivate people from different times and situations; but I find a lot of Couplandís references too specific and alienating, not having grown up in his environment, watching the same TV programmes and eating the same sweets or whatever. His writing tends to get lost in these minutiae, and reminds me of all those angsty mid-20th century British novels about Catholicism that mean fuck-all to anyone but the most intrepid cultural historians (and maybe Toro) these days. I'd never used a PC when Microserfs was published, but now I use one every day to earn a crust I bet the novel seems completely archaic.

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Tubby Isaacs
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quote:
To be fair the book is full of fantastic ideas. What will archaeologists of the future think when they find our gyms?
Something like that's all in the treatment, though Carcass. That's quite an old idea really, and it reminds me of Spearmint Rhinos's thread where we imagined the people of the dark ages looking at Roman ruins and thinking they'd been built by gods.

Not enough people do zeitgeist well. Iain Banks' Complicity was a pretty good novel of this kind- laptops, Civilisation but still a thrilling adventure story.

I find the characters kind of too weird on Coupland as well. Almost like he tries too hard to make up for the sterile environment.

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Gas Filled Dolphin Carcass
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Nah, this was more specifically about the sado masochistic nature of exercise.

I'm re-reading Peter Ackroyd's 'London The Biography' at the moment and chanced across a passage that reminded me of that thread that you are talking about though. He's talking about the Saxons living amongst the monumental ruins of an already far distant age.

"There is a wonderful Saxon poem on the material remnants of just such a British city; they are enta gereorc, the 'works of giants', the shattered memorials to a great race which passed away 'hund cnect' - one hundred generations ago. In the description of broken towers and empty halls, of fallen roofs and deserted bath-houses, there is a combination of sorrow and wonder. There are intimations here, also, of another truth. The stone fabric of this ancient city has been dissolved by 'wyrde' or destiny and age; it has not been violenty attacked or pillaged by marauders. The Saxons were not necessarily destroyers, therefore, and this poem displays a genuine reverence for antiquity and for a 'beohrtan burg' or bright city, where heroes once dwelled."

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twohundredpercent
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I love Douglas Coupland. I'm just on "Eleanor Rigby" at the moment. The only thing I would say about his books is that they leave you feeling a bit itchy. He's very good at describing grime.
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Tubby Isaacs
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on the Ackroyd book, what a wonderful set of illustration that book has. Those Henry Moore pictures of sheltering in the undeground in particular.
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Pants
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That Coupland 'interview' with Morrissey was dreadful. I can't believe they actually published it.

Man, Ackroyd's 'London' is wonderful. I never get tired of it. The book's sublime but what I like best is the audiobook. Simon Callow puts in what I reckon is the best audiobook reading performance ever. He really brings it to life.

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Crusoe
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Just finished his most recent book, "The Gum Thief". It's a little odd. At times it feels like he wasn't sure which book he was writing - there's an old song by They Might Be Giants called Fingertips which consists of about 18 different snippets from songs they never finished writing, and this book feels a bit like that at times. I liked it, more or less, but it felt detached and a little dispassionate compared to other books I've read lately (The Road, for one). That it's all written as correspondence doesn't help.

Two quotes made earlier in this thread that still hold true for this - Andy C and the Carcass:

quote:
Dull characters with dull objectives in life achieving nothing but unremitting tedium.
Check.

quote:
It's just that he doesn't have the concentration to expand these ideas beyond a couple of lines of flashy prose that don't really go anywhere.
Check. At times he comes across as Bret Easton Ellis with a little more soul, but too tentative to really flesh characters out to more than mouthpieces for bite-sized musings that are never part of a grander theme.

The Gum Thief's protagonists have experienced many personal tragedies but by the end of the book you'd be hard-pressed to remember them, the sketching of their past is so light. Coupland's all about the present, but I don't believe characters who seem never look back.

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sportinguista
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quote:
I've only picked up one of his books, 'Generation X', which I bought purely because I liked the lurid pink cover. I've tried reading it a few times and can't get into it. It's full of stuff like 'Dang liked sitting in cinema theatres when they were empty, it reminded him of when he was a young man in Minnesota, and he'd look at the stars and pray for the apocolpyse. Dang came from a religious family, worked in a 7-11 convenience store and liked corn dogs'. I found it a bit hard work, to be honest. Some of the writing was stunning in pkcaes, but I couldn't believe in any of the characters, they seemed more like footnotes from a creative writing exercise than people.
What he said.
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