Monday, January 31, 2005

Douglas Coupland Live in Guelph!

Tuesday, Jan 30/05
So, I don't know what it is that kept me from writing about this for a couple weeks. Well, I do, I'm just too biased and self-serving to admit it. Douglas Coupland explained that for lazy people like myself, there are certain things that we just cannot do. One thing that I can never seem to do is keep my room clean, another is that although I want to get something I really need done, I just can't. Yeah, I'm a procrastinator.

An example of this is that although I went to see the daring, the whimsical, the brilliant writer Douglas Coupland more than a week ago, I just couldn't get around to blogging about the event. It was brimming up in my brain, it was seething to get out, and I was always thinking about it, I just didn’t do anything about it. I just wanted it to be perfect. Then the idea of blogging about it cooled, and then it festered, and now I'm forcing myself to let it out. To ensure success, I followed Mr.Coupland’s advice.

He gave a simple solution for doing things that you just can't do: do them at half speed. Say you just can't seem to clean up those kleenexes you blew your nose with. The rubbish bin is right beside the desk, but you just leave it there because cleaning that one single item gets by in virtue of it not being any less tidy than any of the other things that clutter the room. Well: reach out slowly, grasp, move your arm over to the disposal unit, release, recoil, rest at ease. You can surprise yourself by how simple the world seems when you start with the basics.

So with the blogging thing: I suppose if I had tried to do this at full speed, I would have either done it last week or failed to do it altogether because the initiative of beginning to do that which I needed to do would have shocked my body too much and paralized me in utter fear. Now I just hope the ideas aren't stale, that I can report his presence in as entertaining a way as it was. Just to make sure that the second half of this blog is as fresh again, and so that I'm not overwhelmed by a deadline or distorted out of haste, I'll wait a day and then write the rest of this tomorrow.

It will start with: So, I entred the United Church in which he was speaking and sat up on the balcony, to the left, looking down on the man. The first thing that struck me as seemingly strange is that he looked older than I remembered. I should have expected this before I came. Although books don't really age, authors are real people prone to the effects of time like the rest of us.

Jan 31/05 –The Real Meat
Everyone should get a taste of Douglas Coupland. They'll go away from reading him smacking their lips and making people wonder why they're grinning. He's so random, so funny, his plots are weird in a realistic kind of way that adds insight to life. Just take the premise for Miss Wyoming. A beauty pageant princess is the only survivor of a plane crash that she simply walks away from. In All Families Are Psychotic, a genius thalidomide baby that is a successful NASA astronaut is the first to conceive a baby in space. Among other things, father and sun get into illegal trade with their piece of the Royal Family, they black mail each other, meet Wades lively girlfriend whose name is Shw, they find a prostitute who is immune to AIDS who heals victims with blood. transfusions and they cooperate successfully to save themselves and their psychotic family.

This meeting was scheduled to release Douglas Coupland’s new book Eleanor Rigby, and talk about his upcoming book Jpod.

Coupland was willing to be himself inasfar as he didn’t offend anyone. The theme of the night was “painkillers.” I guess that since he’s always typing and writing, he had quite a case of carpel tunnel syndrome. He was drugged on codeine and he apologized because he felt that he might be desecrating the church that we were in because he “swears like a pirate.” Codeine was his social lubricant. It helped him get through the questioning period because he explained that he doesn’t talk so much on a day-to-day basis. And so that he didn’t have to sign books, he brought his stamp. He gave us this waiver about swearing at the beginning, but I was too into his talk to notice him saying “fuck” more than once. It’s a good thing, or else I would have started giggling and turning red and shrinking from the high ceiling of the Gothic styled church. More realistically, I would have said “Fuck G-d! Douglas Coupland is here in Guelph! Are you getting this down?” His delicate tendon condition gives him trouble when he’s trying to play piano. For him, playing the Charlie Brown Christmas theme is an “atheletic” exercise.

After he explained the thing about doing things at 50% speed: “if you find yourself speeding just slow it down…see…writing my checks…one more random thing” it led right into a random thought, where he said the word “fuck” the one time. He suggested a brilliant thing that I’m sure everyone can relate to. My computer used to freeze, to get attacked by pop-ups, and generally try to mess with me. At those times, he says, it would be really convenient to have a “fuck off” button. The computer could be a jerk as much as it wants as long as it listens when you tell it to fuck off. You could also get more detailed and sophisticated with shift + fuckoff button = “fuck off and die” and so on. He said something else about a button, that when accidentally pressed disallows you from sending emails for two years. Yes, computers WOULD have a button like that!

Douglas Coupland is not just a really smart guy. He’s also a really interesting and down-to-earth individual. He gave some words of wisdom to us under-thirty-year olds and told us a bit about going through his 20’s “medically lonely.” It scares him that there are people out there, really young people, who are determined to be writers. I suppose it is people like me who are still naïve to life in a sense. We want to shape it and arrange it and put it on display, but we haven’t built up a lot of content to know what the patterns mean. I guess there’s nothing wrong with this and how do you know where to draw the line is what I ask myself. He thought he was depressed most of his youth, until, when he was 30, he realized that being 26 is the “absolute worst year of your life.” So he tells me this and I’m 23. I don’t want to believe it. I’d like to be a good writer right now, but to be a novelist, and he didn’t say it quite like this but I agree with him: why not wait until I’ve had the real shit hit the fan? When I’m 26, I’ll write my first novel, unless I get ahead of myself.

Liz Dunn is the main character of Eleanor Rigby. She’s named after a real friend, someone who helped Coupland write Microserfs. In the book, all I know is that she “weighs as much as a ritz cracker.” With Coupland, he admitted he gets ideas for his characters from characteristics of real people, but it may only be one aspect of the person, like, for example, their dangerous driving, while the rest of the character is completely different. Names like Ed show up in the book because Douglas doesn’t want to type long names, hence, Liz. Douglas read some passages from Eleanor Rigby and then quickly turned back to the audience because it made him think of something else.

“What’s the deal with lava?” (Another one of Douglas’ rants coming on) “4 billion years, it’s still not cool yet????????” In Douglas Coupland’s books, his characters are interested in comets and astronomy because they get a kind of cosmic consciousness from looking up at the stars. In Eleanor Rigby, the setting is during the noticeable presence of Hale Bop in our orbit. As Liz lies on the beach staring at the sky, Hale Bop looks like “felt, cut with kindergarden scissors but it never looked natural.” It’s not like a moon or a sun that we just get used to. She’s reminded of how Coyote in Coyote and Roadrunner once attracted things across a desert with a giant magnet.

Douglas Coupland seems to revel in stringing along his readers, sometimes self-reflexively saying things like: “the moon is on probation…waxing, waning, for godsake make up your mind!” His world seems to change and contradict our impressions of it right before our eyes. He critiques the writer who smothers their characters with obsessive attention to detail because the result is that “out come our heros, as bland as channel six news.” Is the news so boring?

Wondering about life and death, Douglas Coupland asks whether it matters if you know where you’re going after you die. We never think of the fact that we don’t know where we came from before birth, or perhaps, we don’t want to think about it. “Why should I care?”

Somewhere in his talk, he stops mid-sentence and says: “k, it’s a church confession time.” I come out of my reverie and remember that we’re in a church. He admits it. He watches The Swan. You know, the show where they take people who are desperate just to change their outer appearance, and they all end up crying and saying that plastic surgery has changed their lives after they’ve seen themselves in the mirror. Well, he watches it because it provides him with something to talk about with his dad. Apparently, they sit at the dinner table and discuss whether or not contestants have “swan spirit.” Can they be made over to look like porn stars? “Doug” he says to himself, “you’re in a church.”

The highlight of his readings came from his upcoming book JPod. Bri is the main character of Jpod, which is the name of a cubicle. He’s 26 and lonely. He just wants a call. Mark, who’s in HR encourages him to write but Ronald is having a detrimental effect on those around him.

It included 6 fictional love letters to Ronald McDonald from various characters searching for that special someone. Jpod explores corporate ID in a new way. Someone brings in supersize McD’s fries and puts it in the drawer of their office desk but the boss smells “the taint” and quickly shuns him for his actions. Rationalizations put forth during the discussion between characters as to why McD’s tastes the way it does, are possibly because of Ronald’s loneliness, his age (although how does he always look so young?) and other clown factors. They begin to speculate that he must drink, because all clowns need to drink “to blot out the terrifying children.” Douglas summons up an image of Ronald McDonald drinking scotch just as the burgler comes in with the orange drink. Do you remember enjoying that ghastly stuff that was so orange it was well, really damn orange? Imagine what it looks like on the inside.

So, now that I’ve finished this blog, I know that Douglas Coupland, though eccentric, expresses many truisms. (And when I say eccentric, I mean from its Greek root, which is “to the core” or of the core, being his inner self). I didn’t mean to give anything away about the novel that will ruin it, but I don’t think I have, because I still need to read them myself! If they are as addictive as Girlfriend in a Coma or All Families Are Psychotic then I’ll finish them in no time. Check him out. Also, check out the pictures for God Hates Japan. You’ll smack yourself for not doing so earlier.

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