Thursday, August 28, 2003

Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland
a review

I often don't have mixed opinions about books, songs, or movies. I tend to be binary and to fall along the lines of the gay movie critics with their little tape-on, pissant cowboy hats on the great demised comedy show In Living Color, re: "Loved it!", "Hated it!" So maybe when I really want to praise something, I don't have a lot more room from which to really crow from the rooftops. Which is a drag, because Douglas Coupland's Hey Nostradamus! is a spectacular novel, and I can't seem to hunt down enough hyperbole with which to harangue the heavens about it.

Hey Nostradamus! is structured like The Sound and the Fury with four parts narrated from the point of view of a different character, though without the annoying stream of consciousness narrative(and thank God that fad is dead), or the cruel joke of a retarded boy who lives on the edge of a golf course and pines for his missing sister who was named "Caddy," resulting in these heartbreaking moments where the boy keeps wandering to the course to find his sister, since he hears her name being called. (Evidently Faulkner was kind of a sick fuck, eh? Maybe Vonnegut or John Irving could've pulled off the dark humor, but presented in confusing stream of consciousness it's not tragically funny; it's just icky.)

The events surround a high school massacre like the Columbine shootings. (I recall being at work that day, only a mile or so from the school, and the news of the events sweeping the company. It was a lot like the terrorist attacks of 9-11; everyone just stopped what they were doing and tuned into the news.) The first section, called "1988: Cheryl", is sorta The Lovely Bones-esque, in that Cheryl is narrating from the great beyond after her death. Like Seibold, Coupland manages to balance it beautifully, so that it's believable and poignant, rather than just kinda silly.

That said, I didn't expect Coupland to be such a gifted stylist and have such a unique voice. Finding a great new author (and Coupland is someone I'd been intending to read for years, always forgetting about him when I was in a bookstore or library), is like that exhilaration you feel after a fantastic first or second date, when you know you've found someone to bring home to mom.

Check out this excerpt:
"In the end, I think relationships that survive in this world are the ones where the two people can finish each other's sentences. Forget drama and torrid sex and the clash of opposites. Give me banter any day of the week."

Just three sentences, but look at the ground they cover, beautifully, economically. The whole novel is that kind of stuff, front to back. If the bestseller's lists reflected quality, this would shoot to number one and stay near the top for a year.

Oh, and it's got this nifty little attached ribbon for a book mark. Publishers should think of adding that more often. What a convenience!

Coupland has a website, but it's kinda thin, and has too much Macromedia Flash stuff on it. (Note to web developers: A little Flash is OK, but basing the site on it annoys nearly everyone.)

If you're looking for a moving tale authored by a master, check out Hey Nostradamus!

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