The Gum Thief
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.