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  • Sunday, July 24, 2005

    Girlfriend in a Coma

    I really like Douglas Coupland's "Girlfriend in a Coma". This is my kind of apocalyptic story. Most of the story does not sound like a sci-fi, it could have taken place in our own neighbourhoods. I think I like it the best so far because we get to know the characters first. The story line leads us into the life and adventures of a group of high school students who like most teenagers are going through the trial and tribulations of teen life. With a large twist, one of the teens overdoses on Vallium and vodka and slips into a coma, for seventeen years. She wakes up and all of a sudden she is a mother and all of her friends have aged both physically and mentally, while she is still mentally 17. This is the begining of the sci-fi part. Until the realization of the "sleepers" or "leakers" the lives of these teens, now adults, are pretty realistic.
    Most of the other apocalyptic books and films starts with the apocalyptic event, or the event has already happened, "Girlfriend in a Coma" takes us through the lives of the characters first, ending the book with the apocalyptic event followed by a choice the characters have to make. I like this structure better. I guess with the films that have started after the apocalyptic event I always wonder what happened to cause the event, because most of them do not go into detail about how or what happened to cause the event, or what took place prior to the event. With "Girlfriend in a Coma" we get the before during and after... a complete story.
    Sort of, the ending of this book did leave me looking for the next chapter. A disappointing ending, in my oppinion, leaving us (well me anyway) hanging wondering what just happened. Don't get me wrong, I like the ending he provided, I like the fact that they get a second chance, I guess it was the way he went about it that confused me. Like Richard, I did not want Karen to go back into a coma, but I did not like the thought of letting them live on a dead earth either. Sooo... a chance to start over, even if means my closest friend, or girlfriend, remains in a coma... I am glad I did not have to make that choice. In this case I enjoyed being the reader and did not want to be one of the characters.

    I found several different covers for this book from all around the world, including the one I am reading, which is shown above.

    Saturday, July 23, 2005

    Book covers from around the world

    Sweden Germany


    The Real Karen

    Friday, July 22, 2005

    Douglas Coupland Biography


    Douglas Coupland was born on December the 30th, 1961. The first four years he lived in Germany on a Canadian NATO base in Baden-Sollingen (former West Germany). His parents are: Doctor Douglas Charles Thomas and C. Janet Coupland. He is the third son out of four in the family. Douglas once said in an interview about his family that: I come from an unemotional, undemonstrative family . . .

    The family returned to Vancouver in Canada when he was four years old (1965). He was raised there and both he and his parents still reside there. His parents still live in the same house they moved into when they returned to Canada from Germany. During his childhood, there was no sign of a religious upbringing - you could say, he grew up without a God. A funny thing he once said in an interview is, that sleep was very important to the family. He claims that he and other family members often missed class, simply because of the need to sleep!

    Here is his High School Yearbook Entry. It is from 1979, when Douglas Coupland graduated from Sentinel Secondary School in West Vancouver. It was published in the "Olympian":
    "Well-known for his Mustang and his sense of humour, Doug says that Sentinel was O.K. but he's glad to get out. Plans for the future include travel, wealth and owning a Shelby, while the prospect of university also lies ahead. Algebra 12 was Doug's worst memory of Sentinel, while walkabout and winning the school elections in grade 10 were among his favourite. To the undergrads Doug leaves the final Coupland and the advice 'Universities aren't concerned about high school transcripts.'"

    After graduating, Coupland attended the Emily Carr College of Art and Design in Vancouver in 1984. He traveled to Hawaii, Milan and Sapporo in Japan. In Japan he completed a two-year course in Japanese business science in 1986. After he came back home to Canada he enjoyed early, but somehow limited, success as a young sculptor. He managed to get a small solo-show at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

    Coupland's first big break came after he'd send the editor of a minor local paper, Malcolm Parry, a postcard. Parry was amused by what Coupland had written, while he was living in Japan, and he asked him to write a piece on a noted L.A. art dealer for the magazine. Douglas Coupland called the gig a Bottom-of-the-food-chain-piece with our office cubicles were like veal fattening pens. There was just no dignity...Douglas Coupland's first interest in Generation X came to life in 1988, when he wrote an article for Vancouver magazine. With the cartoonist Paul Rivoche, Coupland continued the project. The two creative minds did a comic strip for Vista (Toronto) which at that point was a short-lived magazine published by auto-parts magnate Frank Stronach. Not long after the small strip was finished, St. Martin's Press in New York asked him to write a guide to Generation X.Now Coupland moved to Palm Springs, in California (USA), and there he wrote his first and highly acclaimed novel, Generation X.

    He has always resisted being called the spokes' person for his generation. As he at several points has said I speak for myself, not for a generation. I never have. Now he lives in several places, including L. A., Scotland and Milan, and he says that he divides his time fairly between those parts of the world.

    He has won two Canadian National Awards for Excellence in Industrial Design. It is said about him, that he refuses to own furniture, collects only meteorites, art objects and letters, which he keeps locked up in a vault in Vancouver.Until today he has release six books, the last real novel was (Girlfriend in a Coma ) in 1998.Two of the books (Life After God and Polaroids From the Dead) are not really novels but just compilations of short stories and anecdotes, some of them are said to have been taken from his own life.

    When you read Coupland's stories, you find many references to English music from the eighties. Coupland claims to be a big fan of music from that area and bands like OMD, The Smiths and New Order are among his favorites.

    Written by Erik Mortensen

    More Douglas Coupland

    Coupland was born to Dr. Douglas Charles Thomas and C. Janet Coupland on a Canadian NATO air-force base in Baden Söllingen Germany. Douglas was the third child in his family; the rest of his siblings were all male. His family moved back to Canada four years later, where he was raised and still lives.

    Trained as a sculptor, he worked in
    Europe and Japan before returning to his hometown, where he began to write on youth and popular culture for local magazines. This led him to the subject of his breakthrough novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (1991), which was critically praised for capturing the zeitgeist of his peer group, for whom its title provided a convenient label. Although society later guestimated “generation x", the generation, as being born up to and including the early 1970s, Douglas' range was close enough to approximate the label. Without knowing it, he had literally provided one of the names for his whole generation.

    His next novel, Shampoo Planet, had a more conventional structure than its predecessor but many similarities, including a detailed eye for the mores and minutiae of the lives of its young protagonists, including
    video games, hippie parents and an obsession with grooming products. Microserfs (1995) is centred on high-tech life in (A major port of entry and the largest city in Washington; located in west central Washington on the protected waters of Puget Sound with the snow-capped peaks of the Cascade Range and Mount Ranier visible to the south and east; an aerospace and computer c) Seattle, (A state in northwestern United States on the Pacific) Washington, and (A university town in California) Palo Alto. California, contrasting the corporate culture of Microsoft with pre-dot-com bubble start-up companies.

    “Girlfriend in a Coma” (with a title from, and many knowing nods within the text to, (Click link for more info and facts about The Smiths)
    The Smiths) showed a willingness to tackle broader themes and featured some of his most mature writing — poet and critic Tom Paulin described his use of language as "fresh, like wet paint". Like the earlier novels, however, it was criticised as poorly structured. While his books are rich in humour, observation and carefully drawn vignettes, Coupland's critics noted a tendency for the plot development to be lost amongst these. The apocalyptic ending of Girlfriend..., which seems forced and out of step with the remainder, is often held up as a case in point. In this context, Miss Wyoming is possibly his most rounded and satisfying novel.

    Sofia Coppola’s company acquired the film rights to Generation X in 2001, although, like many novels, this does not necessarily guarantee one will be made. In fact, the one-year option on the property has long expired, leaving this and many other Coupland film projects in limbo. As of 2005, many of the film projects are still awaiting crystalization. Coupland mentioned in a 2005 interview with (Click link for more info and facts about The Advocate)
    The Advocate that the adaptation of his All Families Are Psychotic by (Click link for more info and facts about Dreamworks Pictures) Dreamworks Pictures appears to have the most chance of becoming a film. In the same interview he also (Click link for more info and facts about came out) came out as gay to the general public


    The Smith's

    The group was formed in early 1982 by Manchester residents Morrissey (b. Steven Patrick Morrissey May 22, 1959) and Johnny Marr (b. John Martin Maher, October 31, 1963). The pair began to write songs based around Marr's guitar playing and lyrics by Morrissey, an occasional and none-too-successful music journalist. When they formed the band, Morrissey dropped his first name and Maher changed his surname to Marr to avoid confusion with the Buzzcocks drummer of the same name.

    Mike Joyce was recruited as drummer after a short audition; the sound engineer of the studio where they recorded their first demos, Dale Hibbert, played bass. Hibbert was replaced after two gigs, however, by Andy Rourke, a friend of Marr's. Signing to Rough Trade Records, they released their first single "Hand in Glove" on 13 May 1983. The record, like many of their later singles, was championed by DJ John Peel but failed to chart.

    The follow-ups, "This Charming Man" and "What Difference Does It Make", fared better and, aided by much praise from the music press, began to pick up a fanatical following. Morrissey's lyrics, superficially depressing, were often full of mordant humour ("one of the few bands capable of making me laugh out loud", said Peel) and his lovelorn tales of alienation found an audience amongst a disaffected section of youth culture, bored by the ubiquitous synthesizer new romantic bands that dominated the charts.

    The debut album
    By February 1984 their fanbase was sufficiently large to launch the band's long-awaited, self-titled debut album to No. 2 in the UK chart. Despite its strong chart performance, The Smiths lacked some of the pop energy of the earlier singles, and suffered from being a little one-paced. Its mood was also unremittingly bleak, exemplified by such track titles as "Still Ill" and "Suffer Little Children"; the latter referring to the Moors Murders that had stunned Manchester in the 1960s.

    Also evident was Morrissey's studied references to literature and popular culture icons. His frequent acknowledgement of his many idols (James Dean and Oscar Wilde particularly) in interviews, along with some more subtle reference (the song-title "Pretty Girls Make Graves", for example, is taken from Jack Kerouac) encouraged a literary bent amongst fans, who already had a tendency towards bookishness. "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" caused some controversy over its content, supposedly suggestive of pedophilia. In addition, "Suffer Little Children" caused an uproar after a grandfather of one of the children murdered heard it on a pub jukebox. In spite of the uproar, the song is in fact entirely sympathetic to the children's plight and led to Morrissey establishing a friendship with Ann West, the mother of victim Lesley Anne West, who is mentioned by name in the song.

    1984 also saw the release of the Smiths' most well-known song (in the U.S.), "How Soon Is Now?" as a B-side to the single "William, it was Really Nothing".

    Meat is Murder
    With their profile further raised by a hit version of "Hand in Glove" by Sandie Shaw (another Morrissey idol), who was supported by the band, barefoot, on the Top of the Pops show, and a critically feted album of session material (Hatful of Hollow, released in November 1984) the band returned to the studio to record their sophomore effort, Meat Is Murder. This album was more strident and political than its predecessor, including the vegetarian proselytising of the title track and the light-hearted republicanism of "Nowhere Fast." Musically, the band were more adventurous, with Marr adding rockabilly riffs to "Rusholme Ruffians" and playing funk on "Barbarism Begins at Home."

    The Queen is Dead
    The album's lone single "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore" was an odd choice, as its aloof mood, backwards guitar, and lack of any consistent hook made it their second -and final- failed single, barely cracking the top 50. Meat Is Murder was also the band's only album to reach #1 on the UK charts.

    During 1985 and 1986 the band completed exhausting tours of the UK and the US while recording the next studio record, The Queen Is Dead, released in June 1986. A typical mixture of the mordantly bleak ("Never Had No-one Ever", which seemed to play up to stereotypes of the band), the dryly humorous ("Frankly, Mr Shankly") and a number of songs that synthesised both of these sides ("There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" and "Cemetry Gates") the record reached No. 2 in the UK chart, and is now generally thought of as their best work. Meanwhile, Rourke was fired from the band in early 1986 due to ongoing problems with heroin. He received notice of his dismissal via a Post-it note stuck to his car windscreen, it read "Andy - you have left The Smiths. Goodbye and good luck, Morrissey."[1] He was temporarily replaced on bass by Craig Gannon but reinstated after a fortnight. Gannon was retained and switched to rhythm guitar. This five-piece recorded the singles "Panic" and "Ask" and toured the United Kingdom; after the tour ended in October 1986, Gannon was fired.

    Strangeways, Here We Come
    1987 started off well for the band, with the compilation The World Won't Listen (the title being Morrissey's play on his frustration with the band's lack of recognition from mainstream record buyers and radio stations) reaching #2 on the UK charts. In addition the singles "Shoplifters of the World Unite" (Morrissey's favourite Smiths song) and "Sheila Take A Bow" were released early in the year to chart success.

    However, personal differences within the band, and the increasingly strained relationship between Morrissey and Marr, saw them on the verge of splitting and by the time that year's Strangeways, Here We Come (named after Strangeways Prison Manchester) was released, the band had ceased to exist. The breakdown in the relationship has been attributed to Morrissey becoming annoyed at Marr's work with other artists, and Marr becoming frustrated by Morrissey's musical inflexibility. Marr in particular hated Morrissey's obsession with covering 1960s pop artists such as Twinkle and Cilla Black. Referring to the songs recorded in the band's last session together, Marr said, "I wrote 'I Keep Mine Hidden,' but 'Work Is A Four Letter Word' I hated. That was the last straw, really. I didn't form a group to perform Cilla Black songs."[2]

    Stangeways... also peaked at No. 2 in the UK but was only a minor US hit, although the track "Paint a Vulgar Picture" proved somewhat prophetic in foretelling how the songs would be "reissued and repackaged" in seemingly innumerable compilations. The infamous 30 second video for "Girlfriend In a Coma" garnered video rotation on MTV in America, and was the band's last touch of fame States-wise. The album received a luke-warm reception from critics, but both Morrissey and Marr name it their favourite Smiths album.

    Post Smiths
    Following the group's demise Morrissey immediately began work on a solo effort, collaborating with Strangeways... producer Stephen Street and fellow Mancunian Vini Reilly, guitarist for The Durutti Column. The resulting album, Viva Hate (a reference to the end of the Smiths) was released six months later, reaching #1 in the UK charts. Morrissey continues to perform and record as a solo artist, see the article on him for a more in-depth look at his post-Smiths years.

    Johnny Marr returned to the music scene with New Order's Bernard Sumner and the supergroup Electronic in 1989. The single "Getting Away With It" (featuring Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant) reached #12 on the UK charts, and the album that followed, Electronic reached #2 on the UK charts and went on to sell over a million copies worldwide. He went on to do two more albums with Electronic, as well as session work for bands including (but not limited to) The Pet Shop Boys and Black Grape. In 2000, following the demise of Electronic he started another band, Johnny Marr and the Healers to a moderate degree of success.

    Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce have continued working together, with session work for Morrissey (1988-1989) and Sinéad O'Connor. In addition Rourke performs with Badly Drawn Boy and is launching a band with fellow bassists Peter Hook (New Order, Monaco) and Mani (The Stone Roses, Primal Scream) titled "Freebass".

    The Smiths were reunited in court in 1996 to settle a royalties claim by Joyce against Morrissey and Marr, who claimed the lion's share of the Smiths earnings from recordings and delegated only 10 percent each to Joyce and Rourke. The court found in favor of Joyce, and ordered that he be paid over £1m in back pay and receive 25% henceforth. Rourke had long since settled for a smaller sum to pay off debts and continues to receive 10%.

    Though not an international commercial success at the time (only two singles "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" and "Sheila Take a Bow" made No. 10 in the UK chart, none charted in the US), The Smiths generated a growing cult following throughout the last two decades of the twentieth century. They received increased acknowledgement in the 1990s and the re-released "This Charming Man" reached No. 8. The band released a total of four studio albums and at least as many compilations in less than five years, as well as numerous singles. In 2002, they were voted 'most inspirational band' by NME magazine.

    A Smiths reunion will almost certainly never happen. Both Johnny Marr and Morrissey have repeatedly said in interviews that there is no way a reformation will ever take place. The chances have been further diminished with the 1996 court case, which has been a sticking point with Morrissey for a number of years, with him frequently mentioning it bitterly in interviews. He even wrote a song about it on his 1997 album, Maladjusted, titled "Sorrow Will Come in the End". Included were the lyrics "Don't close your eyes / Don't EVER close your eyes / A man who slits throats / Has time on his hands / And I'm gonna get you." The song was omitted from the UK version of the album, after Morrissey's record company feared libel action.


    HarperCollins on Douglas Coupland

    Douglas Coupland is something of a phenomenon. If he still qualifies as a cult author (and these days his readership is larger and more diverse than ever) then he's the biggest-selling cult author of them all. With Microserfs he honed in on the hothouse world of software development and geek culture in the scramble for love and success in a brave new world; in Girlfriend In A Coma he turned his attention away from the surfaces of modern life to the dynamics of modern relationships. And now in Miss Wyoming he takes a witty, genuinely funny look at who we are, how we can change, and how we can make a difference.

    Sunday, July 17, 2005

    DG by Juliet Waters

    Hyped as his "most complex and mature book yet," the P.R. that arrives with Girlfriend in a Coma still makes a point of stressing how accessible his work is to "audiences of every age." It also includes a letter for the media in which Coupland tells us of his deep depression in 1996, his travel and media phobia. "Polaroids From the Dead came out in summer 1996 and I don't think I even did one phone call of press for it. I wouldn't have been able to. You remember," he writes us before signing off: "Speak soon. XO. Doug."

    It's a testament to his significance as a writer that I would still read his new book after this unctuous letter. And though my original mission was to disbelieve the hype, I'll concede that Girlfriend is better than anything Coupland has ever written. Perhaps because there isn't a single 20-something in this book. The central characters are either in their mid-30s or mid-teens. But still I'm left with the sense that Coupland is straddling the fence when it comes to deciding who this story is really being written for.

    Technically, it's his most sophisticated novel. No more footnotes, marginalia, quirky photographs or fragile line drawings of his socks. No more embryonic essays masquerading as fiction, details masquerading as meaning, or unfocused digressive story lines masquerading as plot.
    This is an actual novel with insight and characterization and placed all nicely balanced for a good hundred and something pages. And for once this story is firmly rooted in the generation Coupland knows best. The novel revolves around a gang of high school friends who graduate in '79, in those dazed and confused years of house wrecking parties, penis-sized lip gloss tubes and Charlie perfume.

    Coupland manages to offset sickly sweet nostalgia with a mellow darkness created by the foreshadowing of future tragedy. In the midst of much too much happiness and coolness, one of the friends, Karen Ann McNeil, starts to have visions of a future that's "not a good place. It's cruel. I saw it last night. We were all there: we were older. 'Meaning' had vanished. And yet we didn't know it."

    A day later, after mixing too many diet pills with Valium, Karen lapses into a 17-year-long coma. Turns out she's pregnant with her boyfriend Richard's baby. So when Karen awakes from her coma on Nov. 1, 1997, she is mentally the same age as her daughter, Megan.

    But at the point when Karen awakes, the plot starts to become increasingly bizarre. What could have been an interesting satire of preserved adolescence starts to become a mangled pseudo-spiritual morality tale: part X-Files, part Back to the Future, part The Day After, part It's a Wonderful Life, part the episode of Dallas where the whole season was just a dream.

    Coupland seems to be struggling for an ending that will resurrect a search for ultimate fulfillment as an antidote to the vacuous cultural malaise that he has become so adept at describing. Something that he describes as our deepest need, to "radically alter ourselves." This may and probably should be the deepest need of teenagers and 20-something adults. But for most adults in their 30s, it's usually replaced by an equally deep need to realistically commit themselves to a more stable identity. Unfortunately, Girlfriend in a Coma unplugs itself from reality long before it touches on anything approaching a mature vision of the world.


    DG by Andrew Leonard

    Maybe it's unfair to condemn Douglas Coupland for populating his novels with characters whose lives are flat and pallid. Ever since his first, now classic, pop novel, "Generation X," Coupland's worldview has been predicated on the notion that contemporary existence -- suburbia, in particular -- has emotionally and spiritually crippled an entire demographic swathe. So if the characters in "Girlfriend in a Coma" strike the reader as remarkably unengaging, that's OK, because that's how they are supposed to be.

    But that thesis doesn't hold up. "Girlfriend in a Coma" is another glum Coupland novel that never musters the strength to get satisfyingly morose. Even the word "bleak" is too strong a word to describe the Coupland mind-set. His characters complain about a "future" where everyone works too hard and has forgotten how to be goofy, where people have "devolved" and lost the ability to discover any meaning in life. Once again, Coupland proves that, while the slackers whose mentality he nailed to the wall in "Generation X" have grown up and gotten on with their lives, Coupland hasn't.

    In more imaginative hands, Coupland's main gimmick might offer some promise. Karen McNeil, a 17-year-old girl, goes into a coma in 1979 and wakes up in 1997 -- mental faculties intact. The juxtaposition of fin-de-siècle Vancouver with the increasingly mythic era of the late '70s could have been fun, or at the very least insightful. Instead, it becomes just another vehicle for Coupland to declaim about what a drag the future has turned out to be. We get a few jokes about how great the pasta is in the 1990s -- not to mention the availability of blue nail polish and new hygiene products -- but mostly, the future is a place where "there's a hardness in modern people" and everyone takes great pride in how "efficient" they've become.

    But there is no real clash of sensibilities, no real exploration of what has or hasn't changed in the last 20 years. Ultimately, this Rip Van Winkle gambit is just a gimmick, nothing more than a lazy narrative trick. Karen's high school friends, who have variously managed to become heroin addicts, recovering alcoholics and production assistants on a thinly disguised "X-Files" TV show without changing in any perceivable way from their teenage selves, adopt Karen back into their midst, and continue their incessant whining.

    And then the walls cave in. In the last third of the novel Coupland delivers a plot twist so ludicrous in conception and so incompetently executed that it beggars description. Luckily, to outline it in detail would be akin to giving away a key plot point, so I won't do it. Suffice to say, only Coupland could take "the end of the world as we know it" and make it irrelevant and boring. SALON March 27, 1998

    Tuesday, July 12, 2005

    Oryx & Crake

    Let's see, I really did not enjoy this story at all, and to be truthful, I couldn't even finish it. The only part I liked because it made me laugh was the names of all the new animals and the combination words. The attitude of the character Snowman/Jimmy towards women made me angry. Although I do agree with her underlying statement of how progress, if abused, could be the end of line for humankind. I guess I believe she could have made the same statement in a different kind of story. One not so. . . bleak. . .R rated. . . dramatic. . . maybe one with more science fiction to it and not so much. . . reality bites.

    Monday, July 04, 2005


    Okay while I have a few minutes to myself, I can blog about the short story "Ordeal". I didn't really care for this story. I found it rather boring therefore making it hard to read. Eventhough I didn't care for the plot of the story, personally I found the character of Dario to be a bit of a strong-willed, stubborn, brat. First he has this goal to be one of the soldiers, to live on the outside of the city, and to fight for survival to prove he is a man. But when he is unable to kill Andrew, he realizes that being a soldier may not be what he really wants anyway. He really just wants to live outside the city and be free from the people with the purple life fluid. He wants to be an individual and not "live" like the others, where everything is the same, no one fails no one owns anyting better than anyone else. No one has any fun or adventure, Dario wanted to join the soldiers for the sense of adventure they offered. My favorite part of this story was right at the end, the part where there were no more words left on the page.