Friday, 5 September 2014

Life After God by Douglas Coupland Review

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 has 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 (he says, not at all condescendingly). 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 at times. But as a book? It becomes quite tedious to read over and over. 

Coupland's written about the vapidity of modern life, the contemporary individual and the human condition exceptionally well, better than many writers around now, and he’s easily the equal of classic writers who’ve also done this in the past. Life After God though is a misfire. It's got the ideas and the scenes of his other books, Eleanor Rigby and Generation A, minus the humour and plot. As such, it's one of his least interesting works and at best feels like a self-indulgent experiment or a half drunk conversation with someone you vaguely liked once.

Life After God

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