I was lucky enough to attend a conversation/lecture at Ryerson on Wednesday*, featuring one of my favourite authors, Douglas Coupland. As a part of Ryerson's Retail Week, Coupland was there with the co-founders of Roots, talking about his clothing line. It was an interesting talk, despite the chatty undergrads who were resentfully attending. I do work in the consumer goods sector, after all, so it wasn't as if everything they discussed was irrelevant to my interests. The Roots guys talked about Canadian manufacturing, cost measures, and design and company directions. Of course, I was more interested in the book signing afterwards, with Coupland. Anyone who knows me, or reads this blog, or is Steven W Beattie, knows how much I love Coupland. It's not a blind love; there are things I haven't liked, but overall he's one of the few authors who have me excitedly anticipating a new book as soon as I hear rumour of one.
We were sitting, during the lecture, with a television personality that we know. TV, as I'll call him, went right up to Coupland after the lecture and started a conversation. My boyfriend joined in. We began walking towards the book signing table. I grinned like an idiot. Then my boyfriend introduced me. I shook Coupland's hand and sort of stammered and said “I'm sorry I'm totally starstruck right now. I get this way around authors; I almost barfed on Margaret Atwood.” Expect I think that probably sounded like a Twitter hashtag, with all the spaces removed. He sort of chuckled and said, “Oh, she's a pussycat.” Easy for you to say, man!
One of the things I've noted, time and time again, about Coupland's work is his ability to convey loneliness and isolation in perfect, heartbreaking detail. In Player One one of the main characters contemplates a life alone:
He comforted himself with the belief that a quiet life of loneliness could be its own Great Experience.Still, it's tough being alone in a room full of people. As Coupland went to get sorted for the book signing, TV told us that he noticed that no one was talking to the author, despite the number of people heading to the table with books. “I've been there,” he said. “When people know who you are, they think they can't talk to you, so you wind up standing alone and awkward a lot.” That's why he engaged, and brought us in. People, as Martin Gore wrote, are people, and unless you're Margaret Atwood, chances are you would actually enjoy conversation with your adoring public.
I can't say enough nice things about the man, by the way. He signed my book “To Panic” with only a slight eyebrow raise. He stood there while Boyfriend took a tonne of pictures that I kept ruining with an expression I can only describe as “surprised duck-face.” He joked around with us a bit, in his sort of deadpan way. He was a regular — albeit super nice — person, for which I'm grateful. Because I was a super dork. It must take a lot of patience and heart to deal with the public repeatedly, and yet sit alone often.
<3 Motherfuckin' three.
*Thank you so much, E!