Sunday, 28 October 2007

The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland

The Gum Thief
Douglas Coupland

YOU CAN always rely on Douglas Coupland. The Canadian who wrote Generation X, Microserfs and a host of hits can be trusted to produce a warming story of paisanos battling the odds to become a success.

Not this time.

His paisanos this time are the serfs of Staples, the office supply giant. But this is a deeply depressed book.

Roger, our hero, is an unrecovering alcoholic, with a tragedy in his past and a novel in his notebook.

He's writing a Thin-Man-esque - at least in theory - dialogue of wit and wisdom, and he's been working on it for years.

Bethany, his colleague in Staples, is a young Goth. One day she discovers that Roger is also writing her into his notebooks - he's keeping a diary that pretends to be hers, and it's eerily accurate. Roger's a literary stalker.

A series of first-person narratives take off from these roots - but as a reader, I found myself muttering "If you're so clever, why amn't I interested?"

Coupland is playing with words and images and misery in his novel; there's not much story in evidence, though.

I was dying to love this book, but I couldn't. It's full of wry, ironic, incisive postmodern insights. Just not a lot happening.

But don't take my word for it - after all, my judgment isn't infallible; I hated Scorsese's Taxi Driver, still do. Maybe it's a masterpiece.

xxx stars

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