Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland
Holy shit, this is a good novel. How come nobody ever tells me about these things? Of course, books seem to find you just at the right moment, and this was exactly the time I should have been reading this novel about hope and the end of the world. I normally don’t like writers out of this generation: Rick Moody, David Foster Wallace, Michael Chabon. Writers who are too interested in expressing their cleverness and intelligence. So much wordplay, they have a way of writing around their subject.
I have the same problem with John Updike, a different generation entirely. He never writes a direct sentence, as if searching for what the hell he is talking about shows that the writing has great levels of meaning. Every time I read Updike I forget to read. It’s like listening to a book-on-tape--endless airlike droning, and then all of a sudden I think, Shit, I should be paying attention. By that time it’s too late.
Updike said that there’s books that every writer should read. This is bullshit. It has nothing to do with unique self-expression. John Grisham may have dutifully read his Canterbury Tales, it didn’t turn him into a brilliant writer. The Phd writers seem like the equivalent of a mansion--great sophistication may have gone into building it, but really it is garish and self-involved. Irony is a disaster for exploring the soul. I should be honest, I have not read everything by the above writers. I couldn’t get through Broom of the System, Bright and Risen Angels, Cavalier and Clay, a long list of Updike--which some people probably take as sacrilege. Not my religion.
Again, I’m getting off the subject. Douglas Coupland, Girlfriend in a Coma. I thought Douglas Coupland fit into this list of writers. He does write in that smug, superfluous, flashy way, but he is also not afraid to be sincere, even earnest, and this is a big distinction. I wasn’t a great fan of Generation X. Actually, I couldn’t get through it. All those sidebars seemed overly clever and affected. I was hoping for my generation’s On the Road, but it wasn’t. Although its hyper-irony was probably appropriate, what the generation needed was an antidote to the irony, not an expression of it. Girlfriend in a Coma is a better novel.
I have a very big problem of not being able to finish books, so when I do find a book that overtakes me, my faith and hope is restored. I have the theory that there is always one exactly right book that you should be reading at any one moment. Reading Girlfriend in a Coma was one of those moments. The problem with this theory is that I pick up books and put them down if it doesn’t stick. Often I feel like there’s something else I should be reading. When it sticks, though, it’s a beautiful experience.
Michael Talbot at the end of his book "Mysticism and the New Physics" talks about having intuition when it comes to discovering new books. He talks of walking into a--I think it’s a library--with the idea that he would somehow intuit the materials he was looking for--low and behold he leads himself to an article in a random magazine which takes him on a new lifelong path.
Now I get far out. My new tactic for finding a book is to go to the library and peruse the shelves and see where my mind takes me. Some books just shine out at me and I pick them up--Girlfriend was one. Some other books that have been very important to me--such as The Creating Consciousness, Science as the Language of God--have mysteriously called out to me. In a library, with row after row of seemingly anonymous books, this is really saying something. If this is true--if books really do find people at the right moment--there’s reason for hope.
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