Having come back to this book that I haven't read in ages , its interesting to realise the thing I thought was just the coolest when I was about 17 is maybe not as cool any more! (oh so true for lots of things!)
I like the 'vibe' of the book, I generally sympathise with the feelings it encapsulates and the desire to just chuck it all in and run away to the desert (or camping near Loch Lomond or wherever...) and not to be a blind consumer. But coming back to it, the stories they tell to each other seem a bit cheesy.
Having said that, I'm not reading 'Life after God' by the same author, its very similar (the same sort of idea, but plus relationship and child, so far) but I much prefer Generation X.
I suppose I'm not in generation X anyway, I don't know what we are now...what do you reckon? Post generation X...
Bill is wise,
Bill is kind,
Bill is benevolent.
Bill, be my friend... please!
The premise of Microserfs is that if you work in a large corporation like Microsoft, you can work as hard as you can, you can put as much effort in than is humanly possible but you'll never be a rich and powerful as Bill (Gates).
Dan is a small cog in the Microsoft machine, he tests computer code looking for bugs, he's reasonably paid and likes his job because it's all he has. He's surrounded by people exactly like himself. They all proudly proclaim themselves to be geeks. They are well educated and their whole life is work.
Large corporations like Microsoft collect all of these twenty-something people together, put them in a stifling atmosphere and let them fade away into their work. The geeks know people have lives, but can never figure out exactly what that means. Some people try to fake having a life, like buying golf clubs or a kayak, but never use them.
For me Microserfs was ultimately about how people feel lost in the modern world, as though they have been cast adrift. Then they have the choice of drifting along, going with the flow, wondering if there is more. Or grasping and clutching at thin air in the off chance that there is something better to be had.
I read this after JPod, another Coupland book that was billed as an updated version of Microserfs, the parallels are clear and I definitely related to JPod a lot more. Microserfs had dated a bit, but the humanity remains at it's core as does it's sarcastic humour, which really appeals to me.
Overall I found this book to be quite uplifting. Like most of the characters in this book, I'm early to mid-twenties, searching for a way to break the Work/sleep rhythm that seems to override my life. Uncertainty is everywhere and answers are elusive. The strength of this book is that almost everybody has felt this detachment in their own lives, no matter how dated the setting is Microserfs will uplift anyone who feels lost, searching for a life... whatever that is.
Having read most of his recent books, I have gone back to some of Douglas Coupland's earlier works. Shampoo Planet covers familiar subjects - consumerism, complex family relationships and the future. There are some brilliant lines - let's just hope we accidentally build god - and the ending is a fantastic set piece combining the mundane and the bizarre, where the animal menagerie from the flat above gradually falls through a hole in the ceiling (made by the indoor carp pond).
I could just leave it at that instead of blathering on because it sums things up nicely.
Firstly this is a different Douglas Coupland novel. It isn't "technology based" like his better known books (at least to me) such as Microserfs and most recently JPod. This is a study of loneliness, and what makes life worth living for someone who feels that everything has passed them by.
The story is told through Liz, a chubby, red-haired, self proclaimed spinster. She stumbles through her life resentful of it's emptiness, until one day the phone rings and events collide to introduce her to the grown-up son she's never met.
Douglas Coupland has created a character in Liz that I wish I could befriend. She is part of a Couplandish dysfunctional family. Written with charm, warmth and biting cynicism. The story unfolds gently, the reader discovers the characters while the characters discover one another.
I've said it here before, Coupland is still the only author to make me laugh and cry within the same sentence. The story isn't laden with morality, isn't loaded with lessons it's a story about people. One of the defining things about Coupland's writing, for me, is that he's brave enough to let you draw your own conclusions from what he writes. It's not all neatly tied up, you might not get the whole story but you get to experience a small part of, what seems to me, a vivid depiction of life and the beauty that is there if you're prepared to look.
This book feels so personal because it tackles a universal theme. Everyone has experienced loneliness in their life-time. Everyone can relate to Liz. You might find yourself pitying her, you might like to wish her happiness, she and her family might really annoy you in parts but Coupland lets you understand his characters so well.
This is probably the most accessible Coupland book I've read so far, it's appeal is wider than his other titles. I've loved them all apart from - Life after God - it was too experimental in it's format, for me, but I still enjoyed his voice which soaks into every letter of his books, a voice which I'm increasingly growing to love.
This book is about friendship and that rare occasion when you become friends with someone you never really noticed before, by complete accident.
Bethany is a stroppy goth. Roger is a forty-something alcoholic, no-hoper.
One day Bethany discovers a diary/novel in the canteen where they both work (A Staples, a large office supplies superstore). At first she is outraged about the things he has written about her, but then she begins to reply.
Their story is told through correspondence, while Rogers book is also included in excerpts as he uses Bethany as a sounding board for it.
I really enjoyed this one, Coupland's characterisation is always top notch. He creates people that are damaged but you're still able to relate to them.
It was refreshing to read a Coupland book featuring written correspondences. He's known for his more technically based stories, but I just found something fulfilling it the format (format is a crap word, but I can't think of a better one).
Overall, Coupland does what he does best, tells a story about universal apathy but manages to show you hope in the little details.
I love getting to know his characters, and have missed a few after finishing a book. This title didn't have such a strong impact on me but was very enjoyable.