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Douglas Coupland, Copyright: D. Coupland

Douglas Coupland
born: 12-30-1961
in: Baden-Sollingen (Germany)


1991 .|. Generation X -
      Tales for an Accelerated Culture
1993 .|. Shampoo Planet .|. Bookworm's Comment
1995 .|. Life after God
1996 .|. Microserfs Sample Chapter from Harper Collins .|. Bookworm's Comment
1997 .|. Polaroids from the Dead Sample Chapter from Harper Collins
1998 .|. Lara's Book -
      Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider Phenomenon
1998 .|. Disco 2000 (Contributor)
1999 .|. Girlfriend in a Coma Excerpt from Harper Collins .|. Bookworm's Comment
1999 .|. States (with Christopher Griffith)
1999 .|. Miss Wyoming Excerpt from Random House .|. Bookworm's Comment
2000 .|. City of Glass  
2001 .|. All Families are psychotic First Chapter at the New York Times (registration necessary) .|. Bookworm's Comment
2001 .|. God hates Japan
     (with Michael Howatson)
2002 .|. Souvenir of Canada
2002 .|. Pierre Huyghe: Encounters
     aka. School Spirit
2003 .|. Hive of Dreams: Contemporary Science
     Fiction from the Pacific Northwest
2003 .|. Hey Nostradamus!  
2004 .|. Souvenir of Canada 2  
2004 .|. Super City  
2005 .|. Eleanor Rigby  
2005 .|. Terry  
2006 .|. JPod .|. January Magazine
2007 .|. The Gum Thief .|. Bookreporter.com
2009 .|. Generation A First Chapter at the New York Times (registration necessary) .|. Bookreporter.com

Shampoo Planet
"Shampoo Planet" (Scribner, Paperback, 1st edition, 2002, read: June 2005)
"Tyler Johnson is an apocalyptic entrepreneur in the making. His memories begin with Ronald Reagan. With his neat girlfriend, smart jokes and shampoo collection, he works at the nuclear power plant where his hippie parents used to demonstrate, plotting his fortune. But fortune has other plans - the return of a Paris summer fling, one of the 'low-ambition Euro-teens', who takes Tyler on the road to the shimmering dreams of L.A."

A family story which is not as good as e.g. "All Families are psychotic" (the novel which Coupland will write eight years later). Maybe its unfair to compare both books. Every author develops his craft and talent and if you look at those two stories you will immediately recognize the positive development Coupland has gone through.
The main character Tyler comes from an original Hippie family. Raised without his father he lives with his mother Jasmine and his sister Daisy in the quite depressing city of Lancaster. With his friends he meets in restaurants or at the run-down Ridgecrest Mall and he doesn't really know what he wants. On a long trip to Europe after graduation he meets the French girl Stephanie and when she unexpectedly visits him in Lancaster the first thing that is over is his year-long relationship with his girlfriend Anna-Louise.
The characters remain strangely superficial and uninteresting. Despite detailed descriptions I was not able to distinguish between Tyler's unique friends. That Tyler has a faible for Shampoo reminds foremost of Patrick Bateman from 'American Psycho' instead of giving Tyler some personality. A book about the shallowness of the 90s? It looks that way. Unfortunately not a 'must read' of Coupland's bibliography.
[Dorothée Büttgen, July 05]

"Microserfs" (Flamingo, Paperback, 1995, read: September 03)
"At computer giant Microsoft, Dan, Susan, Abe, Todd and Bug are struggling to get a life in a high-speed high-tech environment. The job may be super cool, the pay may be astronomical, but they're heading nowhere, and however hard they work, however many shares they earn, they're never going to be as rich as Bill. And besides, with all the hours they're putting in, their best relationships are on e-mail. Something's got to give ..."

I haven't found out yet if I think this book is so funny because I've been to the Yahoo! headquarter in Sunnyvale, CA just before reading it and because so much of what is talked about in the book sounds so familiar now? Or if it is funny even when you have no idea what's going on in the online business? Whoever has something to say about that please drop me an email, I'm really interested in knowing!

But anyways, the first part of the book is about a group of young people who work in Silicon Valley at Microsoft. At the hight of the internet-hype they live only for their jobs because after all its really cool to work for Bill. As long as the story is set in the Microsoft universe its really funny, being about a group of strange individuals who work in the online business and the funny goodies they receive from their company. Something you can still find, even though to a lesser extent, today.
Unfortunately the story looses some of its excitement when the friends decide to turn their back on Bill and start something on their own. Afterwards the story is only about the single strange persons and without the Microsoft backdrop they loose some of their color. But the novel stays entertaining and the question to stop reading doesn't really come up.

A definite must for everyone in the business (even though I think I'm the last one who hasn't read it) and for everyone who wants to take a look behind the unbelievable (but true) curtains of the Silicon valley hype.
[Dorothée Büttgen, November 03]

Girlfriend in a Coma
"Girlfriend in a Coma" (Flamingo, Paperback, 1998, read: September 99)
"What did Karen see that December night? What pictures of tomorrow could so disturb her that she would flee into a refuge of bottomless sleep? Why would she leave me? Knock knock. Who's there? It's me, Karen. No joke. No punchline -- c'est moi. Will you come out? Or will you let me in?"

There are not many more hints on the bookcover regarding the story. But it sounded interesting enough to give a chance to this unknown book. And it was worth it.
The main characters are six friends almost finished with High School in Canada. Actually there are seven friends but one of them, Jared, is already dead and appearing only as a ghost. On the evening when Karen looses her virginity she hands a letter to her friend Richard. He has to give it back to her the next morning unopened unless something mysterious happens. Then she falls into a coma for 17 years. In the letter she describes her visions of the future, which maybe she wasn't allowed to see. And she asks Richard to wait for her. In the next 17 years live goes on for the rest of the friends ... graduation, partys, jobs, drugs, alcohol etc. And Richard becomes the father of a daughter who is born by Karen during her coma.
When Karen awakens 17 years later this gives a lot of opportunity to comment on the development of the world and the people in almost two decades form the point of view of an 'outsider'. Are we so technology- and time-posessed? Are people much more superficial than in the 70s? And Karens visions go on. She has seen the end of the world, just as it happens in reality a few weeks later. Only the six frends, and Jared the ghost, survive.
I think this shows how unusual and twisted the story is. But it is also exciting and realistic. The six friends are normal people like you and me and they talk that way. But they have an unusual destiny in front of them, because it's their turn to leave behind their cosy but superficial live to save the world. And, of course, the have some difficulities with that.
[Dorothée Büttgen, October 99]

Miss Wyoming
"Miss Wyoming" (Vintage Contemporaries, Paperback, 1st edition, 1999, read: March 02)
"Susan Colgate - beauty queen, child star, "good daughter" on the long-running network series Meet the Blooms, rock 'n' roll wife - has vanished. Again. The first time was big news: Her plane crashed over Seneca, Ohio, and she was presumed dead by her adoring public. But Susan had in fact walked away unscathed, the only survivor, and entered a new, less fabulous life.
John Johnson, Hollywood producer - everyone admires his blockbusters Bel Air PI and Mega Force - has been careening through a mid-life crisis that included his own disappearing act from society. But a near-death experience brings him to a realization: Once he has Susan Colgate in his life, all will be right with the world. Which is why he will stop at nothing to find her."

Boy meets girl, boy loves girl, boy looses girl, boy finds girl, happy ending. It's not that simple. The story of Susan and John is muuuuuch more complicated even though it ends the same way.
The main characters are two "oh so poor" more or less successful Hollywood-Americans with problems only this particular species can have. Over twisted paths they meet and it's only due to the incredible stubbornness of John that they get together in the end. The storyline jumps all the time between Susan now, Susan's past, John now and John's past until all four storylines meet at one point. Most of all it's their baggage from the past that determines their way.
The novel is a fast read, it's funny and one has the feeling of knowing these characters because they are such a cliché. Almost everyone has prejudices against american TV-actresses and movie-producers. And that's exactly what Coupland likes to play with in a rather cynical way.
[Dorothée Büttgen, July 02]

All Families are psychotic
"All Families are Psychotic" (Flamingo, Paperback, 1st edition, 2002, read: October 02)
"In a cheap motel an hour from Cape Canaveral, Janet Drummond takes her medication, and does a rapid tally of the whereabouts of her children. Wade has spent the night in jail; suicidal Bryan is due to arrive at any moment with his vowel-free grilfriend, Shw; and then there is Sarah, 'a bolt of lightning frozen in midflash' - here in Orlando to be the star of Friday's shuttle mission. With Janet's ex-husband and his trophy wife also in town, Janet spends a moment contemplating her family, and where it all went wrong. Or did it?"

The titel makes it very clear: this is the story of a totally crazy family. But they can't do anything about it.
The mother, Janet, has been dropped for a trophy-wife; when her ex-husband finds out that his oldest son Wade has once slept with his new wife he tries to kill Wade; the bullet goes right through Wades body and gets stuck in Janet who is infected with HIV because of it; the daughter Sarah has made the only real career of the family, becoming an astronaut; but she was born with only one hand because her mother took a wrong medication during pregnancy. And this is just a small part of all the stuff this ordinary American family encounters. While they all come to Houston to watch Sarahs first take-off into space the situation escalates. If one wants to see it that way. Because the Drummonds are not startled that easily anymore.

Just as with "Miss Wyoming" Coupland caricatures the unplumbed depths of ordinary America. Behind every facade there are depths which aren't that surprising anymore once you have a closer look. The characters are really lovable and take their fate and what it deals them with a kind of stoic calm. They have seen everything, done everything ... what more is there to come to surprise them? Right: nothing at all. The reader is an amused observer, happy to not be in their skin and anxious to know how the story goes on. And maybe one can use a little bit of the Drummonds stoic calm in one's own life.
Exciting, funny, absurd, recommended!
[Dorothée Büttgen, November 02]

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