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Douglas Coupland ↠ The Gum Thief text

read The Gum Thief doc Õ Hardcover Ì randarenewables Ø The first and only story of love and looming apocalypse set in the aisles of an office supply superstore In Douglas Coupland's ingenious new novel sort of a Clerks meets Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf we meet Roger a divorced middle aged aisles associate at StaplYears of sorting the red pens from the blue in aisle 6One day Bethany discovers Roger's notebook in the staff room When she opens it up she discovers that this old guy she's never considered as uite human is writing mock diary entries pretending to be her and spookily he is getting her rightThese two retail workers then strike up an extraordinary epistolary relationship Watch as their lives unfold alongside Roger's work in progress the oddly ti This unassuming book is a tour de force Filled with stories within stories and other postmodern devices that should be annoying the novel is eminently readable and surprising in its embrace of humanity and cynicism all at onceWithout mythologizing the uotidian ie making our scummy human life seem romantic and without dosing the whole enterprise with irony Coupland manages to make something at once depressing and redeeming For the first time in ages I actually stopped reading the book 10 pages before the end just because I wanted to savor itWe have great lead characters working depressingly but not gratuitiously in a Staples Great secondary characters such as Rant Man Great little observations such as why when the Italians use red green and white it looks deliciously Italian and when Americans do it it just looks like Christmas? We have lath and plaster prose finished with amazing sentences like this She stepped out into what had become a night so cold it made the stars vibrate We have a slice of bread being buttered from the bread's point of viewWe have characters who never actually interact with each other because the novel consists of letters between them We have a story within a story GLOVE POND which removes the dysfunction and misery of all the characters even further We have ultimately an admission that most real people are interesting than characters in novels which is why Coupland keeps zooming back from the action so in the end the characters are paradoxically real and even in their despair hopefulIt's as if Raymond Carver finally put down that bottle of scotch and tried to do something harder and succeeded As if Barack Obama said yes we can and 250 million people believed him As if the self important deconstructionist age ended and people started to put some things together again letter by letter Thanks Douglas Coupland for a terrific book

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Tled Glove Pond a Cheever era novella gone horribly horribly wrong Through a complex layering of narratives The Gum Thief reveals the comedy loneliness and strange comforts of contemporary lifeCoupland electrifies us on every page of this witty wise and unforgettable novel Love death and eternal friendship can all transpire where we least expect them and even after tragedy seems to have wiped your human slate clean stories can slowly rebuild you Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography cclapcentercom I am the original author of this essay as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegallyLike many writers of critical reviews I too sometimes think about the idea of one day penning an entire book long series of essays about a particular artist and of all the artists in history that now exist the one I'm perhaps most ualified at this point to write an entire critical book about would be Canadian author Douglas Coupland; I've read eight of his eleven novels now the majority of them multiple times along with a handful of his nonfiction books all the short pieces he's ever published and several hundred interviews with him that have been conducted over the last 17 years not to mention a memorable experience actually meeting him in the year 2000 In a nutshell while at a Chicago reading he became obsessed with the fact that I'm deaf in one ear and actually stopped his reading in the middle of it to ask me all these strange random uestions about it And in this I don't think I'm too terribly different than a large group of other people my age; after all it was Coupland who wrote 1991's Generation X the book that literally coined the term for the generation my generation the first book to teach all of us that it was okay to dream of a different world than the trippy hairy mess our aging hippie bosses had created that it is in fact a generational duty I mean sure that single book eventually led us to an entire decade of unnecessary body scarification Kevin Smith films and drag ueens hosting afternoon talk shows but that's not Coupland's fault for writing the novel that started it all Or is it? See that's the kind of essay I'd write if I ever wrote a book of essays about Coupland; and it'd be a cool book too I'm telling youThat's why I was looking forward to reading through his latest 2007's medium sized and easily digestible The Gum Thief; because the three novels of Coupland's that I haven't gotten to yet read frankly are the last three he's published 2003's Hey Nostradamus 2004's Eleanor Rigby and 2006's JPod not for any particular aesthetic reason but merely because I've been permanently broke throughout the 2000s so I've been happily anticipating getting caught up with his ouevre ever since opening CCLaP a little less than a year ago And indeed The Gum Thief finds Coupland in fine if not terribly exciting form just as is the case with the majority of his books; it'll take most people just a few days to get through it and it provides exactly a few days worth of entertainment a good matchup even while not exactly soaring to the heights of his absolute best work so in other words this is no Microserfs On the Coupland Scale of Weirdness this definitely tips in on the dark sad and bitter side; Life After God than Shampoo Planet an examination of the endless failures of life than of its few successes Because that's really the first thing to understand about Coupland if you want a chance of deeply getting and enjoying his work; that he lives in this sorta little literary bubble of his own where it's difficult to compare his plots and style and even way of working to any other writer except himself and his books against any other books but his own Coupland's world is a semi surreal place but not a fully surreal one a place where things just weird enough are always happening events very much informed by popular culture and that are conveyed to us through the smooth minimalist elegant personal style that Coupland's past as an ad agency copywriter has given him It is not unusual within a Coupland story for time to stop for apocalyptic events to take place without any of these things being the main point of the story itself; Coupland's main point is always to examine the humanity inherent in each situation even if it's a sometimes cold and irony laced humanity that often has problems communicating with each other and even if told in a much clever and meta way than most character dramas areThis is certainly the case with The Gum Thief; it is primarily the story of Roger a middle aged alcoholic who has just gone through a series of personal crises divorce death of a child loss of a job which now find him living in a basement studio apartment in a large anonymous city sneaking vodka into his new day job as a clerk at office supply store Staples just in order to make it through each soul crushing day Yeah welcome to Coupland's world chump Because that's the thing that's often forgotten about his work especially by his critics or not even mentioned in the first place; that when Coupland is in a bad mood he can be one of the most pathos infused writers of our generation painting portraits of human hopelessness and moral weakness that on the bleak scale fall just short of Russian epics about suicidal madmen in winter The Gum Thief isn't a pleasant book it isn't a pleasant book at all; it's a relentlessly grim and dour book in fact one that wallows in all the filth and garbage of the usual world hoping merely that the fates of the various losers we meet along the way are somehow just a little bit better by the end since good is too optimistic a fate to hope forBecause that's the other thing; as the story continues of course Roger ends up gathering a host of deeply flawed characters around him as well all because of a notebook he accidentally leaves in the store's breakroom one day in which he is writing new fictional character sketches based on his real co workers and half heartedly contemplating taking up the challenge again of becoming a published author It's because of this notebook and these fictional character studies that he then comes to the attention of co worker Bethany an overweight goth girl in her early twenties who unfortunately had a plethora of friends and relatives accidentally die around her during childhood This then has left Bethany unsure of herself sarcastic and bitter about life unable to trust or love the people around her; so in other words a perfect match and foil for Roger someone who starts leaving snotty rambling letters in his notebook that admonish him to never acknowledge them out loud to her while actually on the clock at the storeThis then leads us to the main crux of the novel which as usual with Coupland is a bit difficult to describe but enjoyable nonetheless For example partly this is about the growing complex relationship between Roger and Bethany the way that their unspoken correspondence very slowly helps push each other to a point of awareness and healing they weren't at before But also this is about the relationship between Roger and Bethany's mother DeeDee yet another emotionally scarred loser who it turns out had actually gone out with Roger on an dual alcoholic date in the past and who starts adding her own letters to the correspondence after finding out that Bethany and Roger have started conversing But then this is also the story of the new novel that Roger has been inspired by Bethany and DeeDee to sit down and finally write a dreadful comedy called Glove Pond that is a transparent ripoff of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf?; and it's not just the story of the novel itself large chunks of which are interspersed among the letters but also how the people around him react to the novel with to us it being pretty obvious that the novel is awful but with Bethany and DeeDee impressed because of neither being familiar with the Albee original And because of all this literary trickery of course the book ends up becoming something else as well a meta story that is a story about stories about stories about stories with there in actuality being hardly any real dialogue in The Gum Thief at all but rather an entire manuscript's worth of letters and emails and office memos and diary entries and novel excerpts and the likeNow to be fair there is also a fair dose here of all the things Coupland's critics complain about as well over reliance on pop culture references for one good example a glib irony worshipping writing style that is sure to turn a lot of people off right from the start And Lord don't even think about turning to a Coupland novel and expecting some sort of grand message but rather be ready for a small story about small people that ultimately only says small and uiet things; this is why Generation X became as cultishly huge as it did after all is because Coupland never set out to write a book about an entire generation in the first place but has admitted many times in interviews that he expected no one besides his own circle of friends to understand the point of the book at all This is the sort of attitude you need to have about Coupland going into his novels in order to truly appreciate them in a deep way; you need to see them as simple stories about specific people but who by extension are then telling big stories about all of us in an untold way And you need to go with Coupland down that road to get there need to keep thinking about his ideas after the book itself is done; when you do this he becomes much than a MTV friendly pop culture guru but actually a sophisticated chronicler of the human condition That's why I keep reading Coupland and keep enjoying Coupland; it's why I ultimately recommend The Gum Thief as well even though it will clearly never be thought of as one of Coupland's best

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The Gum ThiefThe first and only story of love and looming apocalypse set in the aisles of an office supply superstore In Douglas Coupland's ingenious new novel sort of a Clerks meets Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf we meet Roger a divorced middle aged aisles associate at Staples condemned to restocking reams of 20 lb bond paper for the rest of his life And Roger's co worker Bethany in her early twenties and at the end of her Goth phase who is looking at fifty If there ever was a time to write a review for The Gum Thief it’s in the middle of the night when your back hurts and the walls close in on you and your mind won’t stop rushing until you imagine a Buddhist monk opening a little door in your head peeking in and saying “No enlightenment for this one His mind won’t slow down In fact let me move away from him as fast as possible”This novel revolves around a loser everyman who after a series of family tragedies and dumbass decisions finds himself working at an office superstore amongst sullen ambitionless teenagers and uncompromising fluorescent lights He and a goth girl slightly too old for the goth thing begin a curious correspondence via notebook in which they chronicle their reactions to the store their pasts and the terrifying possibility that 1 their lives may never transcend the superstore’s aisles andor 2 even if their lives did transcend the superstore’s aisles their experience with the fragility of the tolerable elements of existence is so pervasive they might be damaged permanently These people are stuck and smart enough to realize the unstuck people are maybe just not perceptive enough to realize they’re only a couple steps away from stuck themselves So why get up in the morning?Well there’s Glove Pond the man’s novel that blossoms from the notebook exchange And there’s a trip to Europe for the girl that goes awry but transforms the girl in unexpected ways And there are both a lack of easy answers and a surprising testament to the power of human beings to carry each other through the deadening American retail landscapeYou know those people who say things like “You know you could get hurt and your insurance could run out and you could lose your job and your whole life could fall apart” They’re right But that doesn’t mean you hide under the covers and I love hiding the covers seriously for the rest of your lives because that’s not living either The Gum Thief is essentially about whether or not you should hide under the covers or leave the house every day The Gum Thief transcends hipster chatter and coheres in a manner that might escape uick or careless reading This is a smart tough novel that might look light and empty upon first glance just like that register drone where you buy your pens might not look like she actually has a life beyond distributing change and helping you find report covers I recommend it but maybe not combined with a Joy Division listening session or anything too harrowing I’m going to continue with his catalog this summer