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3.8 out of 5 stars34
3.8 out of 5 stars
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I'm a great admirer of Douglas Coupland's gifts: his memorable use of simile, his empathy with his characters, and his gift for revealing love and beauty in the most unpromising of locations. Here, he turns his eye to a satirical treatment of fame, beauty contests, making movies and fandom with the tale of washed-out film director John Johnson's pursuit of ex-child beauty queen / soap opera star Susan Colgate. This takes quite a while (the whole book, even) because there's a lot of doubling back to show you how they became the damaged people they are. Some of this exposition is done quite explicitly (including toe-curling scenes of each of them eating out of garbage cans), but it's all done - I think - to reinforce the redemption that comes into their lives with the discovery of true love.

Unfortunately, by the time that turned up, I could feel my attention wandering (at one point, I realized that I was unsure about the difference between some of the minor characters, which isn't a good sign). To be fair, there are some good moments: Coupland gives you an insight into the life of the semi-famous that's valuable in a celebrity-obsessed culture, and he hasn't lost his gift for turning a phrase: for example, at one point, Susan highlights the Catholic guilt of her would-be (married) lover with "Excuse *me*, Larry. Pope on line three", which made me smile. This gift allows him to deftly summarise a setting with just a few words, e.g. (p183) "They were breakfasting in the Alpine Room of the Denver Marriott. It was seven-fifteen Tuesday morning, at an orientation meeting and 'Prayer Wake-Up with Turkey Sausage - Turkey, the Low-fat Pork Substitute'".
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on 6 February 2000
Although Couplands writing is as easy as ever, and although his flow of observations and modern day observations is as acute as in his previous books - this novel never really goes anywhere (maybe having tried for the big idea in "Girlfriend in a Coma" and failing to find it, Coupland set his sights a little lower this time). The characters are only a little more than stereotypes, and although their backgrounds are sketched in for clues as to motivation, there is no real sense of the pain that must have driven them. The plot is entertaining, but relies on coincidence - which is fine if the ultimate purpose is worth it...but what is the conclusion of the book? There is no trancendance that lets you buy into the coincidences (say in the way a Keislowski film does). Read it and see if it matches the sleek style that the writer can produce without seemingly trying. There was a great deal in the plot (the disappearing heroine, the family reunnion, the omnipresence of tv, the superhuman data-mining sidekick...) and its resolution that reminded me of Thomas Pynchon's "Vineland", and it leads like a less fantastical gloss on that book; all shiny surface and no real depth.But even so, still a thousand times better than the vast majority of meaningless self-concious writing that is around.
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on 30 June 2011
Miss Wyoming isn't Coupland's best book, but it still is worth a read.

The idea that both main characters "disappeared" on the down turn of their careers is a good one, and provides a nice connection between them. I found myself more interested in Susan Colgate's life and feel that it may have been a better (though entirely different) book if she was the only narrator.

Other people have said how they found themselves not knowing who some of the secondary characters were towards the middle of the book, something which I agree with. This is probably because the story follow 4 threads. Both main characters have two timelines each and it isn't always clear which line you are following as the author switches between past and present mid chapter on occasions, a clever concept that isn't always successful.

If you haven't read a Douglas Coupland book before, try "Girlfriend in a Coma" or "All families are Psychotic" before reading this one.
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on 22 April 2000
Douglas Coupland is one of America's best writers at the moment, and Miss Wyoming sees him moving on from ultra-zeitgeisty novels to something with a wider resonance. Again Coupland's theme is the search for meaning in people's lives in the face of relentlessly shallow popular culture. As with Girlfriend in a Coma there is a surreal magical edge to the story which leads us to suspend our literal sense of what 'is' and enjoy the story.
Coupland has yet to write a bad novel, however this is not his best. That is probably because his characters are more difficult to identify with because they are the sort of people who star in movies and soaps on Channel 5. I think most people have more in common with the nerds and losers in Microserfs and Generation X!
Like his other novels, Miss Wyoming is funny and perceptive and surprisingly emotional, and I am really looking forward to Coupland's next one!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 30 November 2001
Nobody is better than Douglas Coupland at exploring the melancholy of the modern soul. Bret Easton Ellis has a similar view of the emptiness and restlessness of contemporary life, but whereas for Ellis's characters the result is narcissism and dehumanisation, Coupland spins bittersweet tales of learning to live with it, love with it, and be content, if not exactly happy.
To Coupland devotees, 'Miss Wyoming' is very much more of the same. Susan Colgate, her very name redolent of the empty, whiter-than-white magic of branding, is almost a parody of synthetic, commercialised modern existence. A woman whose very self-identity is indistinct from her vainglorious junk-media persona. Nonetheless her thoughts and wants are everywoman, albeit writ large and in flourescent colours. 'Miss Wyoming' is the story of how almost by accident she stumbles to happiness and finds real feeling under the plastic schlock that has passed for her past. The themes it explores filter back into experiences with which the reader identifies at every step.
It's not a great novel. In particular, it seems at times unable to decide whether or not it has, or needs, a plot. But it is a good novel - not Coupland's best, but still a well-written tale of emptiness and indistinct longing which nonetheless becomes sweet, charming, and even life-affirming towards its conclusion.
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on 24 July 2000
I have read and enjoyed all of Coupland's work, but I've always had to make sure I was in a positive frame of mind before starting (because I knew I'd be depressed by the end). I think this is the first Coupland I've read that hasn't had me gnashing my teeth at the pointlessness of it all in the final couple of pages. It was also nice to see that he hadn't depended on flights of fancy to remove his plot from confusion. I kept on expecting an ending akin to 'Coma' where all the protagonists were flown off in a space ship to the Disappeared Celebrity mother planet or something. So I was pleasantly surprised when that didn't happen. Anyway, buy it, read it, and then make all your friends who haven't read any Coupland start with this one.
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on 9 November 2000
Miss Wyoming is about double-sided people. They all have 'qualities' which equally attract and repel. Essentially its a boy chases girl story only the running is done over a combination of an obstacle race and a mystery. Like with some of Coupland's more outrageous stories you have to be able to suspend disbelief and agree to go along with the 'what if' of the plot. It taught me a lot about how people interact, why they act the way they do and how to rise above others - but not too far. I like to think of it as the only self-improvement book I own and I didn't have to go to the embarrassing section of the bookshop to get it.
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on 25 February 2000
Short changed. The outside back cover description of the plot gave rather too much away. Consequently, expectations went unfulfilled. The development of Colgate reached deeper than that of Johnson creating an imbalance between the two main protagonists and their mutual development was disappointingly stunted.However the story is reasonably entertaining, the non-linear narrative style makes for a more interesting read and the author's trademark style is very evident. I felt somewhat shortchanged but perhaps I was expecting too much. It's Coupland but not as we know it.
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on 12 March 2000
In Miss Wyoming Coupland has continued to distance himself from a purely zeitgeber driven novel like Gen X as he did to a much greater degree in Life After God. This feels much more coherent than L.A.G. but lacks the spark of his last novel Girlfriend in a Coma (and I didn't spot any artfully plagarised lyrics this time - did I miss something?). Averagely funny, averagely inventive and using (thankfully) only averagely exclusive language (will JonBenet-and-a-half be a reference point for many?). Pretty average really. He can and will do much better.
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on 22 March 2001
Coupland has moved away from his Generation X settings with this one and perhaps that explains why it is not up to his usual standards.
Its an interesting read, but hampered by an overly complex structure and a plot that seems to drift aimllessly.
The book seems to be principaly about the desire to reinvent oneself and how difficult that is. However it take a long time to make its points. Its not a long book but it could have been much shorter.
The characters & dialogue are engaging but untilimately it seems to go nowhere.
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Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture
Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture by Douglas Coupland (Paperback - 7 Nov. 1996)

Generation A
Generation A by Douglas Coupland (Paperback - 2 Sept. 2010)

Microserfs by Douglas Coupland (Paperback - 15 Mar. 2004)

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