Posts Tagged ‘douglas coupland’


Ahh, look at all the lonely people…

March 29, 2010

Douglas Coupland reminds me of Augusten Burroughs (his wit and abstract sense of humor) and Chuck Palahniuk (story telling time sequences and whatnot) in one. Therefore, he is making his way on to the list of my favorite authors. I’ve read 4 books by him now, my most recent book of his will be the subject of this entry. It’s about a lonely woman, to say the very least. Once I finished this book on a Saturday morning, postponing my much-needed shower just so I could see how it ended, I missed Liz Dunn so much. I still miss her.

Excerpt #60:
One of my big problems is time sickness. When I feel lonely, I assume that the mood will never pass – that I’ll feel lonely and bad for the rest of my life, which means that I’ve wrecked both the present and the future. And if I look back on my past, I wreck that too, by concentrating on all the things I did wrong. The brutal thing about time sickness is that naming it is no cure.
I look at the philodendron on the kitchen windowsill, the only thing in my condo that never changes. I found it at a bus stop twelve years ago and I’ve kept it going ever since. I like it because up close its leaves are pretty, and also because it makes me think of time in a way that doesn’t totally depress me.
If I could go back in time two decades and give just one piece of advice to a younger me, it would be, “Don’t worry so damn much.” But because young people never believe old people, I’d most likely ignore my own advice.
If there’s a future Liz Dunn out there in, say, 2034, may I respectfully ask you to time travel back to right now and give me the advice I need? I promise you, I’ll listen, and I’ll give you a piece of my philodendron to take back with you so you can grow your own plant there. (12)

Excerpt #61:
The boys were bored and, like us, jet lagged. The Vatican trip felt forced and dutiful. It made us wonder if Rome had the equivalent of a Playboy Mansion that was deliberately being concealed from us. We stood there like dock pilings, waiting and waiting and waiting for this little white dot of a man to come out onto a balcony and do something with his hands while his amplified voice frightened pigeons and reminded us that we were hungry and that the morning’s cafe latte and croissant ha long since been metabolized. (65)

Excerpt #62:
I wish modern science would invent a drug that causes time to feel much longer, the way it felt when you were a child. What a great drug. A year would feel like a year, not ten minutes. Your adulthood would feel long and full instead of like some out-of-control carnival ride. Who would want a drug like this? Older people, I’d guess – people whose sense of passing time has hit the acceleration pedal.
And I guess they ought to also invent a drug capable of the opposite effect. Again, there’d be no immediate sensation, but after a year of the drug you’d say, Wow! Has it been a year already? It feels like just yesterday. Who’d take that drug? Me, when I’m lonely, And prisoners with life sentences.
Here’s a third notion: what if you had to choose just one of these drugs? And what if taking one would instantly cancel out any effect you might get from the other? I imagine most of us, myself included, would take the one that makes life feel longer. Which means that a lonely life is still better than no life at all. (73-74)

Excerpt #63:
We drove to the station in Rainer’s car, with me up front, Klaus in the back, silent and grimacing out the window. There were clouds of pigeons, flocks of Japanese tourist, and masonry so ornate and delicate that it seemed to be dreaming. (227)

Eleanor Rigby, Douglas Coupland



March 17, 2009

I checked this book out of the library during my Douglas Coupland streak. I’d already read two books by him, Life After God (excerpted many entries back) and The Gum Thief. I highly recommend both. However I got swept up in other books so reading four books at a time didn’t work too well. After reading the first two pages, I let it rest on my green carpet for a couple weeks before returning it. Recently, I put it on hold again and read past the part I’d stopped at and then a catapult went off and I couldn’t put it down. The story-telling was so fluid and disturbing and funny and relatable and quirky and surreal. I love this author! 

Excerpt #22:
Janet sensed that her opinion of her life was changing. Two days ago, it had felt like merely a game of connect the dots – a few random dots, spaced widely apart and which produced a picture of a scribble. But now? Now her life was nothing  but dots, dots that would connect in the end to create a magnificent picture – Noah’s Ark? A field of cornflowers? A Maui sunset? She didn’t know the exact image, but a picture was indeed happening – her life was now a story. Farewell, random scribbles. (173)
-All Families Are Psychotic by Douglas Coupland 

 I only noted  one excerpt. That’s not to say there are other parts worthy of being recorded on here, it’s just that you’d have to know the context, or I’d have to type up the entire chapter because it’s all that good.
It’s good to have some entries that are short.


Musings worth a look

November 23, 2008

It was a Thursday and I was walking the ten minutes or so it took to where I park my car every day. I walked around the curb, expecting the silver Scion to come into view. It didn’t. This could mean one of two things. Either it got towed or my dad took it. He does that sometimes when he needs it, just bikes over with a spare key and takes it. When he does this, I receive a text from him: “I took the car” always without the period at the end. Only, today was different. I didn’t have my phone.
My backpack seemed to get significantly heavier, making my shoulders and back ache as I realized the only way to get home now would be to walk. In addition to the backpack, a camera was slung over my neck with no film inside it, just a useless black box with a mirror inside. I grudgingly walked in anger for ten minutes, couldn’t believe that I was stuck in this predicament. I felt stranded. Looking back, I guess this was extremely spoiled of me. Back when I couldn’t drive, I had to walk home a lot, but I always had company.
I promise I am getting to the point of this entry which will contain some excerpts. Suddenly, I realized I could use this time to read. Yes, walk and read simultaneously. I’d seen someone do it downtown. She already looked kind of goofy doing it, and the fact that her foot was in a cast didn’t help because it made her gait slow and clumsy as she limped down the street.
I had two books in my backpack: Grapes of Wrath – convoluted text, annoying dialogue, thick, with sharp corners on the edges of the cover. And Life After God – small, easy to carry, pages move fast because of the size, and the corners had the plastic covering that all library books have. I took the latter out and started walking while reading, self-consciously at first.
But then I got into this element and I barely looked up the entire way home except when crossing streets. I didn’t care who saw me, I was completely engrossed in the narrator’s musings and ramblings and stories about his life and the lives of others. I have chosen a few to type here:
Excerpt #3:
I am reminiscing here. Forgive me. My mood is everywhere today, like the weather. The sky is doing four things at once – raining, hailing, sunning and, it would seem further up on the Grouse Mountain, snowing. It just doesn’t know what to do.

And here is why my mind is all over the place: your mother left me a week ago and she took you with her.
She phones me from her mother’s house and we talk every day. This is better than nothing, She says she has fallen out of love with me. She says she is confused. She says she feels lost, sort of like the way she felt when she was younger.

I told her that everybody feels lost when they’re young.

But she says there’s a difference. She tells me that at least when she was younger she felt lost in her own special way. Now she just feels lost like everyone else.

I asked her if she was unhappy; she says it is not a question of happiness. She says she remembers another thing about when she was young – she remembers when the world was full of wonder – when life was a strand of magic moments strung together, a succession of mysteries revealed, leaving her feeling as though she was in a trance. She remembers back when all it took to make her feel like she was a part of the stars was to simply talk about things like death and life and the universe. She doesn’t know how to reclaim that sense of magic anymore.

I told her to wait – that maybe this is about something else.

She says she doesn’t want us to become dreadful people who do dreadful things to each other because there will be no one to forgive us. She tries to use a brave, cheerful voice with me, but it never lasts long. She says she can’t live in a marriage without romantic love.

I tried to joke with her. I told her that in the beginning of all relationships, you’re out there bungee jumping every weekend but after six months you’re renting videos and buying corn chips just like everyone else – and the next day you can’t even remember what video you rented. (137-139)

Excerpt #4:
The phone rings. It’s her. I tell her a thought I have had. I tell her how strange it is that we’re trapped inside our bodies for seventy-odd years and never once in all that time can we just, say, park our bodies in a cave for even a five-minute break and float free from fears I had years ago. I tell her that I thought that intimacy with another soul was the closest I could ever come to leaving my body.

She says to me, but were we ever intimate? How intimate were we really? Sure, there were the ordinary familiarity-type things – our bodies, our bodily discharges and stains and seepages, an encyclopedic knowledge of each other’s family grudges, knowledge of each other’s early school yard slights, our dietary peccadilloes, our TV remote control channel-changing styles.
And yet…

And yet?

And yet in the end did we ever really give each other completely to the other? Do either of us even know how to really share ourselves? Imagine the house is on fire and I reach to save that one thing – what is it? Do you know? Imagine that I am drowning and I reach within myself to save that one memory which is me – what is it? Do you know? What things would either of us reach for? Neither of us know. After all these years we just wouldn’t know. (144-146)

Excerpt #5:
Why is it so hard to quickly sum up all of those things that we have learned while being alive here on Earth? Why can’t I just tell you, “In ten minutes you are going to be hit by a bus, and so in those ten minutes you must quickly itemize what you have learned from being alive.

Chances are that you would have a blank list. And even if you gave the matter great concentration, you would probably still have a blank list. And yet we know in our hearts that we learn the greatest and most profound things by breathing, by seeing, by feeling, by falling in and out and in and out of love. (153)
-Life After God by Douglas Coupland

I know I have a different cover, I like this one more.

I know I have a different cover, I like this one more.

Boy, I’m glad I didn’t return this to the library.
And yes, sure enough I checked my phone when I got home and there the text presented itself, perfectly innocent. “I took the car” and then another text “Respond”
I laughed, but at the same time was really happy, almost thankful I didn’t have my phone. Otherwise the book might be back on the shelves in the Palo Alto Mitchell Park library, unread by me.