Do You Think These Lyrics Are Heartless?

I'm currently about 150 pages into Girlfriend in Coma. Given my love of Coupland, and my love of Morrissey, you'd think I'd have hit this one sooner. I have to say, I'm completely creeped out when I'm reading it. Far more so than when reading Winterwood or any horror genre stuff. I'm not sure if it's because Coupland is hitting some deep-seeded fears in my brain (vegetative states, Armageddon), or because he's just that good. While I haven't loved everything he's written, there are books of his that can completely alter my mood, and tinge everything around me. Eleanor Rigby made me quiet, and small, and vaguely depressed, like I was walking through mist all the time. It didn't get great reviews, but I feel it's one of his finest. All Families are Psychotic, on the other hand, had me thinking "Franzen did it better." And let's not even get into the absurdity of the China sequence in JPod. Far too meta, and you know how I feel about meta*! But Girlfriend is Coupland at his mood-altering best. I can't put the thing down, till my eyes close by themselves to sleep. At the same time, I'm repelled, knowing something pretty awful is coming. It may not sound like it, given my one-line reviews, but I have a deep, deep respect for Coupland, and a love of his writing, even when it's pissing me off.

I also love Penguin, the publishing house. When used book shopping, I'll always take a look at the orange spines first. It's how I discovered A.S. Byatt. The orange spine has always had such a calming effect on me. So you can imagine how excited I was to learn that Coupland had an exhibit up, using Penguin covers. I went to the Distillery District on Sunday to check it out, and was completely blown away. One of the things I love about Coupland, is his ease with, and reverence for, pop culture, and the sly references to it (Girlfriend has Smiths' lyrics all through it, but if you didn't know The Smiths, you'd have no idea). While it's interesting to look close up at the covers, and the words attached to them, the exhibit works best from ten feet away. I stood in the middle of that room, and turned slowly. A helpful gallery person came up to talk to me, and I asked what the pieces were going for. "$800 for a single, $1550 for the diptych." Most things had been sold, but there was one diptych left, and it read, vertically, "Dazzle Ships." The gallery person didn't know the reference. But I did. And it was still available. I really did wrestle with this. Three things I love, all together. In the end though, I'd have to go into debt to do it, and my miserly Capricorn nature stopped me. But I'll dream about it, and cry here and there. If only, if only, if only.



*Funny that the review of Girlfriend in a Coma I link to above says: "Mr. Coupland has become the first popular mainstream author in America to publicly declare that postmodernism is dead." Though one wonders how good a review this can be, when they get the author's nationality wrong. C'mon, 99% of his writing is set in Vancouver! This is not difficult.

5 comments:

Steven W. Beattie said...

Glad you're enjoying Girlfriend. Coupland typically frustrates the shit out of me, for e.g. I think it has quite a lot to do with his pop culture obsession, which feels more rabidly self-conscious to me than anything. He's at his best when he manages to exercise a little restraint.

Panic said...

I was really frustrated with J-Pod as well! For me, the pop culture references are part of the charm. They make you feel like you're in some special club, where only the cool kids get the "we can go for a walk where it's quiet and dry" reference. Though, admittedly, I have a real fetish for popular culture, and an amazing ability to recall the lyrics of songs I don't even like. Ah well.

ktnflag said...

You know how much I revere Coupland, so JPod was a huge disappointment for me. I was expecting a Microserfs redux; instead I got a book that was, ironically, packed so full of pop culture references that it rang completely hollow. (I was also surprised that none of the characters kept or even mentioned a blog! To me that was even more unrealistic than Coupland himself popping up as a deus ex machina toward the end.)

Panic said...

Speaking of, how did you like Eleanor?

ktnflag said...

I enjoyed it because you sent it to me :-), but I don't think I was in the right frame of mind for it at the time. It'll get re-read - all my books do - hopefully at a time when I can be properly receptive to it.