Border’s Liquidation Sale

Went over to the Borders over on Woodward in Birmingham today to check out the sales earlier today, and I have to say I was a bit disappointed. I’d been hearing that books were discounted up to 40%, but the only thing I saw discounted at 40% was the greeting cards. Most of the books were only discounted by 10 %, which was cool for the majority of the fiction, the genre I’m most interested in, because usually most of the fiction is NOT discounted at all. However, pre-liquidation, new books were often discounted at much 30% but not now. Seemed a bit of a jip, I guess.

Despite my disappointment, I did buy a book,  a novel by Douglas Coupland entitled Player One: What is to Become of Us. This novel was pubbed in 2010 but seeing it in the bookstore today was the first I’d heard of it. And there was only one copy so I guess I count myself somewhat lucky. Otherwise I might never have learned of it.

It was kind of depressing. I couldn’t help wondering how this was going to effect the publishing industry — opportunities for writers, especially new, as yet unpublished writers, of which I am one. I suppose that even though I don’t do much writing (of fiction that is) these days I still hold this hope that one day I’ll get my shit together and put together publishable book. For some reason, the closing of Borders seems to make that less likely than ever, although why precisely I couldn’t say.

Of course, even if the likelihood of getting a book published has diminished, that doesn’t mean one can’t continue to write. That’s what I found myself thinking today while wandering the store. It made me think that maybe it’s time to start just throwing up my fiction here on my blog. Why not? So that’s what I’m considering.

In the past, I never wanted to do that. For some reason I thought it would hinder my chances of getting a story a bit of novel pubbed, that  publications weren’t going to want to pub a story that had already been thrown up on the web, although I’ve no hard evidence that this is true. Is it? I don’t know.

So I’m thinking that that’ll be  goal for this week, to try and get a story up here on my blog. See what happens. Probably nothing. But I don’t see how it could hurt. Do you?

 

 

Advertisement

Coupland cleans house

Check out this blog post about Douglas Coupland donating his papers to the University of British Columbia.

Among the more interesting items to me is the first draft of Coupland’s breakout novel, “Generation X,” and a manuscript for an unpublished novel entitled “1991” but which was later retitled “The Day the Muzak Died,” which I thinks is much more interesting. Oh yeah, also a Generation X comic strip.

I am sure that Coupland’s papers will be one of the more eccentric and interesting collections that exist.

Coupland Interview: GenX v. GenA

My friend John hipped me to this interview with Doulgas Coupland, in which the author discusses his most recent novel, Generation A, particularly in contrast to Generation X. Appropriate that John should be the one to tell me about it, since he was the person who introduced me to Douglas Coupland’s via Generation X.

It’s a CBC Radio interview, which I tend to like because they tend to be more indepth, free-ranging and meandering, which with someone like Coupland you definitely want. He may be able to do sound bites well, but listening to him free-associate and just talk is very interesting indeed.

The associated introductory text with this video tags it as a sequel to Generation X. I recently read Generation A and don’t think of it as so much a sequeal, at least not in the strict sense, as an akin book, if that makes sense. Also, I don’t think it is one of Coupland’s stronger book. However, I reminded that I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about The Gum Thief when I first read, but upon rereading it I liked it much better. So perhaps I should withhold final judgement until I get a chance to read Generation A again.

King or Coupland?

Which do I read first?

Stephen King’s new novel, Under the Dome?

or

Douglas Coupland‘s new novel, Generation A?

How to choose? How to choose?

The King novel is over a 1,00o pages but I don’t really find that very daunting. In fact, I’m quiet undaunted by it, very much eager to read it. Perhaps because the plot is similar to The Simpon’s Movie — small town in Maine gets trapped under invisible forcefield dome and chaos and conflict ensue. Also reminds me a little of The Stand, my favorite King book. Perhaps because they are both, in their ways, about societal collapse, a theme that has intersted me, well, ever since I can remember really. I’ve always suspected that has, at least in part, something to do with growing up under the threat of nuclear annihilation via a conflict between Russia and the United States. That and seeing Night of the Living Dead when I was pretty young.

Of course, King is a Boomer but I think his work has been important to Generation X. It has been to me anyway. Maybe he’s of significant to Boomers, I don’t really know and don’t really care. It’s arguable whether his work is “serious” or can be labeled “Literature.” In fact there was a time when I refused to even consider the possibility that he was anything but a pulp horror writer, a good one to be sure but nothing more legit than that. But I’ve since fallen off that high horse. There’s stuff of King’s that I like and King stuff  that I don’t like. Salem’s Lot, The Shining, The Stand, Misery — I like. Tommyknockers, Dolores Claiborne, Duma Key — not so much.

Still, my anticipation for the Coupland novel has been greater and existed longer. Not just because it is Coupland, although unlike with King I will read anything Coupland produces. Speaking of which, some of the reviews I’ve read about Generation A have been mixed at best, which is why I stopped reading them. In any case, I like the set up of Generation A, which is also in a way about societal collapse. All the bees have died, or so it seems.

I’ve begun Under the Dome so for now I will stick with it. But I’m willing to chuck it if it ceases to tickle my fancy. As I’ve gotten older (41 and counting) I’ve lost my patience for books that don’t “do it for me.” I’m not wasting the time.

Also, Coupland’s from Canada and I’m an American dammit. And there’s nothing more American than Stephen King-eque carange not to mention odd phrases like “happy crappy.”

More Brit GenX TV

I hadn’t realized before but hulu does that amazon thing where they suggest other shows you might like based on whatever show you happen to be watching. Same way amazon does with books, although I have to say I often find amazon’s suggestions suspect, at least for my taste. Anyhoo… one of the suggestions associated with Green Wing, a show that I’m still watching obsessively, is Spaced,  a half-hour comedy. (Do the call them sit-coms in England?) And I figured, oy, why not give it a go, then.

[this is where the video of the first episode of Spaced via hulu.com would appear if I could just get it to work – dammit!]

Glad I did.

Spaced is about two twenty-something Londoners. Tim (Simon Pegg aka Shaun from Shaun of the Dead) and Daisy (Jessica Stevenson, who has a bit role in Shaun as Yvonne) who both suddenly find themselves in need of new lodgings and decide to pose a professional couple so that they can rent a nice flat, clearly an allusion to the 70s sit-com Three’s Company.

The show is chock-full of pop culture references, especially TV and movies. And, a la Scrubs, it employs fantasy sequences to great effect (or is it affect?). Also like Scrubs it is a single-camera show, but I don’t know how unique that is to British TV.

Other GenX-ieties  include: Tim is a skateboarding graphic artist who wants to work for a comic book company but is currently working part-time at a comic book shop; while Daisy is a journalist who is on the dole.

Simon Pegg does much of the writing and the director is Edgar Wright, who collaborated with Pegg to make Shaun of the Dead. Also, Nick Frost, who plays Shaun’s best friend Ed in the romantic-comedy-zombie flick plays Tim’s best friend, Mike, who is described as a “weapons expert.” Much of what appears in Shaun of the Dead was first portrayed in Spaced. Some of it practically verbatim.

Another treat for me is that the character of Brian, the quirky, twitchy, semi-reclusive artist who lives upstairs from Tim and Daisy, who is played by Mark Heap, the actor that portrays the wonderfully pompous Dr. Alan Staythem in Green Wing.  Clearly Heap has a talent for infusing his characters with all kind of interesting traits and foibles that make them a little creepy and endearing at the same time, no small accomplishment.

At this point I can’t say which show I like better. It’s difficult to decided. Green Wing has way more swearing and sexual references. But Spaced has loads more pop culture stuff. In the end it hardly matters. What I can say is that I’d like to own both shows on DVD. I think Spaced is available for Region 1 where as Green Wing still is not.

In any case, both shows are more than valid GenX vehicles. Spaced is about younger GenXers, of the kind featured in Douglas Coupland’s novel, Generation X. While Green Wing is about older GenXers who have matriculated into the workforce.

And both shows are funny and sarcastic and surreal and ultimately very touching and human.

X men and aging

The generation not the comic book heroes. Sorry…

Mindlessly surfing the web — well, not exactly I was doing my  irregular (why does that seem like such a GenX word?)* search for GenX authors/Literature that I may not yet be aware of — I came across this article by Douglas Coupland on aging. Figures — one can’t spit within the search results for anything Genertion X without hitting Douglas Coupland.

Anyhoo… I’ve always found this to be a curiuos subject because most of the time people mistake my age, often thinking that I am younger, sometimes much younger. This was particularly so in my late-twenties and early-thirties. By my late-thirties not so much. But since I’ve hit forty people are more often than not surprised when I tell them my age. Of course, this no doubt has as much to do with my juvenile personality than anything else.

It seems to me that Coupland’s attitude toward aging is indicative of the GenX attitude in general. That is, he doesn’t really mind aging so much because he understands that everyone else is aging right along with him. Sure, no one like aging but it is a fact of life and you either come to terms with it or spend your time foolishly wasting time and money trying to deny it, which seem more typical of Boomers. After all, they’re the ones that coined the phrase 60 is the new 40 blah blah blah. And they’re still doing it. I’ve heard 70 is the new 60. Please…

I’ve often thougth that GenXers will make not necessarily better but more graceful seniors than Boomers. For many of us it will be like a second go-around with our twenties — no job or only part time work in the service sector, lots of time on our hands to spend in places like Denny’s and the mall, and engaging in long, meandering cafeine-fueled conversations that are immensely interesting to us but to outsiders seemingly pretty dotty.

I predict that our music and clothes will be cool no matter what our age. And we sure as shit aren’t going to try and relive Lollapalooza; we’ll just let those younger than use have their turn. In case you’re not getting the hint Baby Boom your fucking Woodstock reunion was lame!

Anyway, the article is way more interesting than my blather, so check it!

*perhaps under different circumstances Generation X could have been dubbed the Irregular Genartion….or not.

Escape….

A few years ago it dawned on me that everybody past a certain age — regardless of how they look on the outside — pretty much constantly dreams of being able to escape from their lives.

Thus opens Douglas Coupland’s novel, The Gum Thief, which I read on my recent trip to NYC (perhaps I’ll muster the enthusiasm to post more about the trip at a later date, though I wouldn’t hold your breath). It was the second time I’d read this book and of course I enjoyed it the first time around but for this time I was reading it with a different POV, because I was thinking about a previous post of mine, in which I rambled about this notion or impulse or whatever you want to call it to simply walk away from one’s life, about escaping who you are, where you are, what you are, even if you don’t know exactly why. The Gum Thief is steeped in this theme, a theme which I find very intriguing to say the least, especially within the context of Generation X. I keep wondering if the idea or impulse or even action of escaping one’s life is most particular to Generation X.

I suppose it’s something I’ve always thought about but is seemed to crystalize in a way when I learned of Dan Chaon’s new novel, Await Your Reply. I’ve been a fan of Chaon’s work since I discovered his first short story collection, Fitting Ends, when I was in grad school, getting my MFA in creative writing. I’ve yet to read this new novel but I eagerly look fwd to doing so because Chaon is an exceptional writer and because this novel explores that very idea of walking away from one’s life and because he is also a Generation X writer, a designation that he not only accepts but embraces (see his comment to my previous blog post).

In any case, ever since learning of Chaon’s new novel and what it is about, I’ve been noticing this theme in many places. Not only in Coupland’s novel but also in other GenX literature, such as the move Grosse Pointe Blank, which revolves around a character who upon graduating high school walked away from his life for 10 years before returning.

Admittedly I have more than just an academic interst in this sort of  subject matter.  When I left my home town of Warren, Michigan, to go away to college, I saw it as something of an escape. I recall tooling around my neighborhood the day before I left for school, filled with this romantic notion that I would never be coming back, not permanently anyway. Of course, I was a lot younger then. Like Martin Blank, I returned to my Michigan home, but 12 years later not 10, although I did attend my 10 year class reunion, but not as a hitman…unfortunately. Unlike Martin Blank, I di not then make a quick get away again, this time with love of my life. Still, the love of my life and I are planning are escape from Michigan, hopefully soon, but that’s another subject.

In any case, my fascintion with this idea continues. I will be on the look out for more examples and plan to detail them here as they arise. Anyone out there have any suggestion, in the form or books, movies, tv shows, etc, please pass them along.

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

gfcoma_

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.

Neverland begets Desperate Characters

This morning I was listening to slat.com’s book club discussion panel. The book under discussion was Netherland, a novel that I began reading several weeks ago but never finished. I’d meant to return to it but, as with so  many books, that never came to pass. I was drawn to it originally based on the NY Times Book Review review that I read.

The three people on the book club panel loved the book. They gushed over it, in fact, one suggesting that it might be better understood 50 years from now. Sometimes I wonder if people will be reading at all in 50 years, much less reading novels that had been written 50 years ago. I remember liking the book, what I read of it anyway, but something about the tone seemed to put me off. I don’t know. It almost seemed kind of whiney. And when the book club panel read portions of the book, I didn’t hear the grandness in the prose that they did, although I thought it was well written. In anycase, I can’t not now recall what book I wanted to read instead.

An interesting dichotomy that formed in the discussion involved the two women seeming to focus on the novel as one about a marriage and how it worked and didn’t work, and why marriage fail or succeed, in addition to the novel being set in context with the events of 9/11. While the one man pointed out that the novel was also a sports novel, because it was very much about the game of cricket, which the narrator seems to throw himself into after his wife leaves him.

It made me think about the kinds of stories that I like. If a book is good it doesn’t really matter to me what it is about, but I do tend to prefer stories about youth and youth culture, the lives of people as the struggle toward and into adulthood. Domestic novels, as they are often called, don’t attract me nearly as much. I do  not shun them but if that is what a book is mainly about I’m less inclined to start it at all. There needs to be something else going on in the story.

For example, White Noise by Don Dellilo, which I am currently reading is about a married couple and their children/step-children. In fact, I think for the male narrator this is his 4th marraige, which is a particular kind of dynamic that I like least of all in domestic novels. It just seems to me that there has been an obessive attention to the lives of divorced Boomers, for the most part. Although I am a big fan of Updike who seems to write almost exclusively about that sort of thing. But then he is an amazing writer. White noise is also something Jonathan Franzen calls a systems novel, which he did in an essay in his collection of essays, How to be Alone, which esentiall means that is, at least in part, about the working of the culture or society and what is at play, forces that effect our lives, perhaps in a controlling way, perhaps an ominious way. I like that.

But I’d prefer to read Mary Gaitskill or Douglas Coupland than say, Ann Tyler or Jane Smiley.

Something else I noted during the course of the book club discussion was how the guy on the panel referred at least twice to zombies — being in a zombie-like state, people acting like zombies, etc. This of course stood out for me becaues I have an active interest in zombie stories, movies, etc. Zombies, I think, are to this particualy time, since 2000, what Vampires were to the 80s and 90s. Ann Rice and all that. There seems to be a cultural relevance to the mythology of zombies, the imagery, the nature thereof, etc. I don’t think it is a coincedence that there has been of late an upsurge in zombie movies and books. For my money, The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, which won The Pulitzer for fiction and was actually, surprisingly to me, an Oprah book, is at a certain level a zombie novel. In any case, I found the reference intersting.

There was also a reference to a novel that caught my attention. The two women both referred to Desperate Characters by Paula Fox, which was pub’d in 1970 and is set in Brooklyn, New York. Not surprisingly it is a story about a couple, a marriage, and the women both thought it was amazing where the guy had never heard of it. I was intrigued and turns out the library where I work has a copy. So I nabbed. Hopefully, I’ll get around to reading it. It seems to be Fox’s most popular work and was made into a movie in 1971.

At the outset it doesn’t seem like my kind of book, but I’m going to try and give it a try. It’s slim.