Girlfriend in a Coma

No my girlfriend. I don’t have one. I’m married. Although I wouldn’t mind slipping into a coma for a little while these day (but perhaps more on that at a later date)

I’m talking about the novel by Douglas Coupland, not the song by The Smiths, although I dig that song…

….and I suspect strongly that that is where Coupland copped the titled from.

Anyhoo…I’ve been reading Girlfriend in a Coma


when I can manage to muster the energy to read these days (again, I’m not getting into that right now) and I’m really digging it. It’s the kind of novel I wished I could even come close to writing.

Anyway… just wanted to share a great bit from the book, an extended quote that just hits it dead on for me. But first a brief synopsis. GFinaC is about a girl, Karen, who falls into a coma at age 17 or so after a night of partying. Turns out she’s pregnant with her bf Richard’s baby when she does and gives birth while comatose. She comes out of the coma about 17 years later. And all of her friends back from wherever their lives had taken them in the intervening years. Everyone is curious to know what Karen thinks/feels about the world she’s woken up to. She went into her coma about 1980 and wakes up in 1997. Here’s an extended response:

“Okay. You know what, Hamilton [one of her circle of friends]? There’s a hardness I’m seeing in modern people. Those little moments of goofiness that used to make the day pass seem to have gone. Life’s so serious now. Maybe it’s just because I”m with an older gang now…. I mean, nobody even has hobbies these days. Not that I can see. Husbands and wives both work. Kids are farmed out to schools and video games. Nobody seems to be able to endure simply being by themselves either — but at the same time they’re isolated. People work much more, only to go home and surf the Internet and send email rather than calling or writing a note or visiting each other. They work, watch TV, and sleep. I see these things. The whole world is only about work: work work work get get get … racing ahead … getting sacked from work … going online … knowing computer languages … winning contracts. I mean, it’s just not what I would have imagined the world might be if you’d asked me seventeen years ago. People are frazzled and angry, desperate about money, and, at best, indifferent to t he future.”

I can’t argue with that. Can anyone else? Come on, tell me. I want to hear how this is not the fucking case?

And Karen’s friend, Hamilton, replies to this by saying:

“I think I know what you mean… If you look at the world as a whole, we have to admit life’s good here where we live. But in an evil Twilight Zone kind of way there’s nothing else to choose. In the old days there was always a bohemia or a creative underworld to join if the mainstream life wasn’t your bag — or a life of crime, or even religion. And now there’s on the system. All other options have evaporated. For most people it’s the System or what…death? There’s nothing. There’s no way out now.”

Bleak to be sure, but it sure seems dead on to me. Maybe I’m just cynic. But just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean nobodies after you.

What’s really troubling, for me anyway, is that this book was pubbed in 1998. Its a decade later, after 8 years of W/Cheney, with two wars in progress and two huge skyscrapers wiped from the face of NYC skyline, and the worse economic crisis in decades breathing right down our necks like a fucking hungry lion.

But hey, we got President Obama now, and hope and a promise of change and….

…and it’s amazing how easily hope can be deflated, is all I’m saying. For now anyway….

END NOTE: Douglas Coupland often gets tagged as a Generation X writer and pop culture writer and of course he is these things, but he’s definitely more than that. Anyone who can’t see that is being purposely obtuse, or they’re just fucking ignorant.


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