One of my favourite things about the pandemic – because, yes, there are a few – was how in-person events pivoted to make attendance possible for everyone. Last fall, I attended so many writers and book festival events all over the continent and it was so enjoyable. I was exposed to books that I night not have been otherwise and I got to listen to so many brilliant writers talk about their projects, their methods and their experiences. It’s one of the things that I hope is not lost if we ever go back to a fully pre-COVID state. (Which, I mean, was it really that great that we even want to?!?)
After attending a few events that were part of the Vancouver Writer’s Festival, I decided to become a member. Beyond attending the events that I did, it was a way for me to show my appreciation and support the festival. One of the perks of being a member is that you get a copy of their Festival Reading Guide in the mail. Mine arrived just before we left for our trip to Calgary and I packed it up to come along for the ride. As I flipped through it, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was a new book by Douglas Coupland featured in its pages.
Binge: 60 Stories to Make Your Head Feel Different by Douglas Coupland
Imagine feeling 100% alive every moment of every minute of the day! Maybe that’s how animals live. Or trees, even. I sometimes stare at the plastic bag tree visible from my apartment window and marvel that both it and I are equally alive and that there’s no sliding scale of life. You’re either alive, or you’re not. Or you’re dead or you’re not.
Thirty years after Douglas Coupland broke the fiction mould and defined a generation with Generation X, he is back with Binge, 60 stories laced with his observational profundity about the way we live and his existential worry about how we should be living: the very things that have made him such an influential and bestselling writer. Not to mention that he can also be really funny.
Here the narrators vary from story to story as Doug catches what he calls “the voice of the people,” inspired by the way we write about ourselves and our experiences in online forums. The characters, of course, are Doug’s own: crackpots, cranks and sweetie-pies, dad dancers and perpetrators of carbecues. People in the grip of unconscionable urges; lonely people; dying people; silly people. If you love Doug’s fiction, this collection is like rain on the desert.
Douglas Coupland is a really important authour to me. Aside from the fact that we share the same birthday (and I will miss no opportunity to mention that) he introduced a whole new world of literature for me. When I look back on it, I believe that his work helped shape me into the reader that I am today.
Coupland was the first example I read who mixed contemporary life with a little out there, inexplicable, supernatural-ish action. It also helped that he is from the same area as me and often wrote about it.
The first time I remember waiting for a book to be published, going to the store to buy it on release day and reading it in one sitting was Girlfriend In a Coma in 1998. I can still picture the boyfriend’s parents’ couch where I planted myself and didn’t get up until I’d turned the final page.
So, you see, Coupland and I have a history of quick reads and Binge was no different. Even when I tried to pace myself, I was largely unsuccessful. It was a joy to experience the feeling of wanting to plow through all 265-ish pages, only now I wish I’d stretched it further. Binge is an appropriate title for this anthology.
Given that this is Coupland’s first book since 2013, I was delighted to get reacquainted with him work. It struck me that his writing has a very unique feeling to it, but when you look at it word for word, it’s really hard to pinpoint what exactly sets it apart from others. I’ve never been someone who wants to see too much behind the curtain so I’m happy to bask in the tone and the story.
Binge boasts sixty stories and, yes, it’s a fact that there are that many. What isn’t said, or even noted in any of the reviews that I’ve read, is that they are frequently overlapping. Characters featured in their own stand alone story reappear in one about someone else and so on and so on. The stories are interwoven, the themes overlap and multiply and that results in a completely enjoyable and thought-provoking reading experience
Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House Canada for the opportunity to read this book. It’s out on October 5th and is available for preorder now.