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Life, eh? What a let down...
on 19 April 2010
This is the 8th book of Coupland's I've read and I wouldn't have read this many if I didn't think he was a great writer doing wonderful things with the novel. He's been on a roll recently starting with "Eleanor Rigby" up to his latest "Generation A" so I was interested enough to go back to those I've not read, his early books.
"Life After God" is a collection of short stories written in blocks of 2 or 3 paragraphs per page, large font, with a single child-like illustration accompanying it. The stories are plotless and meandering. One concerns a man in a hotel talking with his neighbours and then setting free some goldfish into a reservoir. Another features a mother who's left her husband and is talking to the child about her plans for their future and their present journey. Another features aimless thirty-somethings, unhappy with who they became, wondering what to do, trying to change, etc.
I'll say that the final story above hooked me. I've had similar conversations with friends I was close with who I've met at a wedding of a mutual friend or who I've met up with at a bar for a drink, and we've talked about who we were, who we are, and where we hope we're going. It's called growing up. It's called life. The overall message seems to be "life isn't what I thought it would be" and I get that, I think we all feel that. But as a book? It just drags.
Coupland's written about the vapidity of modern life and the aimlessness of the individual and the human condition exceptionally well, better than many writers around now and easily the equal of classic writers of the past. "Life After God" though is a misfire. It's got the ideas and the scenes of a book like "Eleanor Rigby" and "Generation A" minus the humour and the plot. As such, it's one of his least interesting works and at best feels like a self-indulgent experiment and a half drunk conversation with someone you vaguely liked once.