felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Happy (belated) Midsummer/Solstice/Litha to those who celebrate it, and happy first day of summer to those who don't.

I did my usual high-speed catch-up on LJ. Which is why some of you have spammed inboxes today :)

I keep meaning to review books I have in an ever-growing stack on my desk. One that really deserves more than the short shrift it's going to get is Douglas Coupland's Generation A. I believe this to be his best book. In fact it pretty much gathers together the best of his other work in one delicious, richly-written piece, and leaves the dross. So if you only ever read one Coupland, this is it.

It's a short, simple novel of a likely dystopian future - one where "Colony Collapse Disorder" has wiped out the bee population. Most flowers are dead. Most kinds of fruit are rare delicacies. As the novel progresses, the dystopia deepens, and even worse horrors are in the offing.

In the midst of this, five strangers are stung by the supposedly-extinct bee. They're isolated, studied, and strangely become friends. They wind up on Haida Gwaii, where they start to piece together the mystery of what happened to them, to figure out how they got there and where they're going.

After years of mid-quality and poor-quality efforts, Coupland's more than back in form with this one. He restricts his obsession with ripping plotlines from the headlines to just the bee extinction, so it doesn't feel like he's just cribbing Yahoo News to flesh out his books. The iciness and callousness of his later work isn't here. This one is sensitive, intelligent, and the themes and plot and character are all rich and engaging.

More than that I couldn't say without giving too much away. Except that it's highly recommended.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So I finished watching jPod this week, the Douglas Coupland's TV adaptation of his own book about a team of freakish genius video-game programmers assigned to the same team by computer error because their last names all started with "J." The show also focuses much more than the book on Ethan Jarlewski's freakish family, who are essentially the Brady Bunch as written by Quentin Tarantino.

Nine-tenths of the series is perfect dark comedy. The acting is excellent and breathes a lot of life into characters that were already excellent (though a little icy). And CBC censors nothing except brand names, so it's pretty astonishing what they can get away with.

There were flaws, though.

Yes, I'm complaining about homophobia again. And I'll keep complaining about it until it goes away. )

Also, I've finally updated my historical blog - only five months late! This one is about Roswell George Mills, the first openly gay man we know of in Canada (in the 1910s).
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So in the vein of reviewing books, I don't think I ever talked about The Gum Thief, by Douglas Coupland - though I finished it months ago.

I liked it. I was told it was his best book in years, and that's true, though it's really two books. The first is an epistolary novel about a washed-up middle-aged man and the daughter of an old high-school friend of his who both work at Staples. The other novel is the one the main character is writing - a story called Glove Pond, about the world's worst dinner party (the name is the first thing he Googled that came up with no real hits).

Review continues )

In other news, there's a lot to look forward to this month - starting with return from [livejournal.com profile] em_fish and [livejournal.com profile] sassysairs from Down Under, crossing both date line and seasonal divide to return home after the better part (or really, the worse part) of a year. I'm looking forward to seeing them again ^_^
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I've been quite silent this week. I'm working lots of extra hours, and have been on my feet a lot otherwise. There are currently five cats in my care, instead of the usual two. I had blisters for the first time in years. I marched in a second pride parade (Ottawa) this week with beblistered feet.

(Which was fun, in spite. The rain held off, and the crowd was better. And as [livejournal.com profile] montrealais points out, that one guy who's there every year with the big sign quoting Leviticus gets sadder and lonelier every year. I got to carry a flag.)

There was also a wonderful Pet Shop Boys concert. I was close enough to see Neil Tennant's white hair, but everyone was packed in so close in the pit that I dancing on tiptoes. But it was visually amazing. No one puts on a show like them -- amazing props, dancing, visuals. Of course, since most of my favourite musicians have the piano as their instrument of choice, dancing is a little impossible for them.

I haven't time for anything else, except writing. I'm trying to balance full-time writing with full-time work. I'm still on schedule for sending this monster of a novel out before the end of the month, which remains my goal.

(Though it means stuff like editing 19 pages - one-tenth of the novel - before I go to work, which I did this morning.)

Once I'm done the novel, I'll start sending it out to the big publishing houses first, and get to work on material for the CBC literary awards. I want to enter both their poetry and prose sections this year.

I've also been reading a lot as I move from place to place - Douglas Coupland, Émile Nelligan, Elsa Gidlow. But I'll have to save that for a future entry.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I've been on a bit of a reading binge this week. I've finished two books and I'm about to finish a third, which is rare since I'm a slow reader.

It's helped that they've been entertaining.

On that note, I just finished JPod by Douglas Coupland, a book set in the video game industry. On the level of pure entertainment, I think it's one of the funniest books ever written.

And it's got all the Coupland strengths -- brilliantly-crafted, well-defined quirky characters, easy prose, and highly original figurative language. Also, Coupland is one of the few novelists who can actually write an office environment well, probably because he's one of the few who's been there.

But I found as I got farther into it that I began recommending it to fewer and fewer people. The book has some serious flaws.

The first of these is the filler. Most of this is built around the games played around the office as part of their daily procrastination -- "Write a love letter to Ronald Mcdonald" or "Write an ad for yourself on eBay." Those two were funny. But when they play pick-out-the-one-non-prime-number-in-ten-pages-of-primes or find-the-one-wrong-digit-of-pi-calculated-to-ten-million-digits -- and actually reproduce those numbers -- I honestly wonder if he was just trying to up his page count.

The second is that his knowledge of organized crime seems to come entirely from TV news reports. Even I could tell that.

But the worst problem by far is the Mary-Suing. And yes, it still counts as being a Mary Sue if you insert yourself into your novel as a sociopathic monster, especially if you're an evil business genius, though I admit I laughed out loud when the narrator described the experience of looking into Coupland's "cold, dead eyes" as like looking into "a well of drowned toddlers."

Again, it's still worth the read, especially if you're looking for something easy and not too serious, and if you like video games. But I'm disappointed because he used to be so interesting. Coupland used to be finding soul and beauty into the the unlikeliest corners of the modern world. Now he's tipped over the ledge of postmodernism, and doesn't seem to care.

The world celebrated in JPod is the shallow and empty world Margaret Atwood's Crake destroys in Oryx and Crake. I kept expecting the characters to be popping BlyssPluss.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I finally finished One of the Boys last night, and moved on to the mountain o' manga I've borrowed and received as gifts.

I spent most of my Indigo/Chapters gift cards that I got for my birthday, and picked up yet another book of queer history, as well as Douglas Coupland's JPod. I used to read Coupland's books the second they came out, but I haven't been keeping up since Miss Wyoming.

Other than that, things have been quiet -- I've actually had a social life lately. After a week of writing slowly, I wrote 3500 words yesterday, and 3400 today.


felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)

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