The Gum Thief
2007, hardcover from the library
I can't remember whether Shampoo Planet or Generation X was the first book I read by Douglas Coupland. Whichever one it was I was in high school and I remember thinking how he wrote in a way that was relevant to my life at the time. While I found a similar relevance in The Stranger and The Catcher in the Rye, it was the way Coupland caught the details of daily life, like macaroni and cheese, that resonated in an exciting way. I've read most of his books, though more recently I no longer eagerly anticipated his next novel. That is until after reading The Gum Thief. Filled with snippets of life in 2007 and truisms on par with Jenny Holzer's I can't wait now for his next book. This letter driven books turns and turns again within itself in a brilliant manner while also celebrating the tangible letter and the postal system.
While not giving too much away, there's a statement at the end of the book that I think echoes what I most like about Douglas Coupland's writing. The person says, "I don't need or want art that tells me about my daily life. I want art that tells me about somebody- anybody- else but me." Art should have purpose, it should change the way you see and think about and perceive the world, and by focusing on daily life, Douglas Coupland does just that, once again.
14 cards for this book- some of the highlights:
p. 1- 1st sentence
p. 2- age in your head- 34
p. 7- "God made the originals, and cloning is only making photocopies."
p. 9 the colour of crows and wearing black
p. 17- jobs- marker test sheets- Alter ego day
p. 22- hitchikers and signs (reminds me of The Cheese Monkeys)
p. 24- "(Question: Who buys coffee at an office supply store?)"
p. 29- white teeth
p. 47-48 "In particular we discussed all of the ugly houses and apartment buildings that had been built here in the city in our lifetime." (had assumed they would be demolished) "Imagine all of our dumb, ugly, contractor-built little houses standing there long after we're gone. ... All they'll ever do is draw attention to ou narrowness of ambition and vision."
p. 48-49- chronology of Roger's life- Halloween candy, collating function
p. 51- plural for Kleenex and babies and silence
p. 54- growing old an invention
p. 55- dreams. snails
p. 57- course in real life- "Falling out of love happens as quickly as falling in."
p. 58- "If someone's big in your life, you dream about them." and dreaming about dead people.
"I don't think anyone ever gets over anything in life. They merely get used to it."
p. 71- "...pretend you're an anthropologist..."
p. 73- cd of songs containing the world moon (if DC had said Antartica then I would be certain he was spying on me)
"The end is near."
p. 76-77- what happens to the things from office supply superstores- "To Kyle, the office superstore was a slow-motion end of the world in progress."
p. 77- novel in second-hand store
p. 79- making lipstick
p. 85 "Or maybe memories are like karoke...on stage...that you didn't know even hald the lyrics to your all-time favourite song...someone else on stage...do you realize that what you liked most about your favourite song was precisely your ignorance of its full meaning- and you read more into it than maybe existed in the first place. I think it's better to not know the lyrics to your life."
p. 87- wishes, North Korea, 1990s
p. 92- trouble believing in the future- books
p. 93- Winesburg, Ohio
p. 96-97 Alzheimer's
p. 99 China
p. 116- makeup
p. 118-119 "Dreams Can Come True" sticker
p. 126- beauty- "...beauty isn't only about the traits you possess, it's also about the traits you don't possess."
p. 132- "the voice that narrates a book in your head when you're reading."
p. 157- Things-I-Used-To-Do-List
p. 168-169- cancer
p. 170- "But then I don't even know if record stores still exist. Do they? Maybe that's where my plan went wrong."
p. 175- Hampstead being where Wallace and Gromit would live
p. 176- Punch and Judy- wifebeating (it's like he was spying on my when I learned this at the DIA)
p. 179- paper and pen
p. 186- "Imagine growing younger instead of older." (brings to mind Bob Dylan's My Back Pages)
p. 187- dreams and getting out of bed
p. 188- Groundhog Day (almost getting scary here)
p. 192- "... but I don't think you see things properly when you're with someone else." and comments about Christmas lights
p. 192-193 digital camera and life
p. 202 KitKats
p. 203- Chunnel
p. 204-205- Cherry tree petals- "Write me- but I don't know where I'll be, so there's no address to give you. Isn't that all of life compressed into a sentence."
p. 216- "It feels like we're working inside a photocopier."
p. 233- Christmas
p. 256- knowing who you are
p. 260- forming a club
p. 265- people in books
p. 266- bright orange 25 ft. long extension cord and 2 kinds of walks in life.
p. 273 grade