Is Worst. Person. Ever. one of the worst novels ever written? No, but Douglas Coupland’s 14th novel is without a doubt his worst.novel.ever. I say this from the point of view of a major Coupland fan in that I have read all his novels and even his half travel log’s/half love letter’s to the land of his birth; City of Glass and Souvenir of Canada Volumes 1 and 2. I even caught an exhibition of his art work in London in the Canadian embassy. Therefore, I was really looking forward to reading this but from the outset the novel’s antihero, Raymond Gunt, reminded me so much of someone Martin Amis would have have created in the 1980’s it was almost a pastiche.
The book began as a short story in McSweeney’s No 31, an attempt by Coupland to rejuvinate the “biji” which is a classic genre in Chinese literature that is like a notebook that contains anecdotes, random musings and philogical speculations. How and ever, what we are left with is an exercise in how to write the most grotesque characters and tie them together in what could be seen as a satirical look at a media obsessed, mass market generation of fame hungry reality stars.
The aforementioned Gunt is a Londener, a media geezer who is given the opportunity to work on a pacific island paradise filming the lateset incarnation of ‘Survivor”, full of botoxed and silicone filled beauties for him to bang. He is given the task of finding himself a personal assistant and chooses a homeless man who he came to fisty cuffs with one evening who turns out to be the human equivalent of catnip to the female species. The main bulk of the novel cover the many waylays and indignities he suffers on the journey to the island of Kiribati, each one featuring Gunt falling into unconsciousness or having a catastrophic fecal explosion. Yes. Really.
There is little to reward you for getting through the 350 pages, a book where each page has swearing, racism or mysogyny and usually all three rolled into one. As an experiment, it is a failed one. One can only hope that the author himself can see that and this is an anomoly to an otherwise fine literary career.
Categories: Book Reviews, Books
RE:”… Douglas Coupland’s 14th novel is without a doubt his worst.novel.ever.”
I really cannot agree with your assessment. Worst.Person.Ever. is the funniest of Coupland’s works that I have read yet, and that is saying something. It has been a long, long time since I have picked up a piece of fiction that I have been unable to put down; I read WPE in less than twenty four hours, and repeatedly woke up the household with my guffaws while doing it.
I mean honestly, what did you expect? True to the title the reality tv cameraman Raymond Gunt is an Englishman who, by any reasonable set of standards, is indeed despicable to the core, and unremarkably dishonest with himself about the fact; even moreso with anyone else who has the misfortune of having dealings with him. Like a Danny McBride character, or Adam Thrasher’s ‘SpaceMoose’, RG is incorrigibly self righteous, self interested, self absorbed, self serving, appallingly filthy minded, and obdurate in a self perpetuating cycle of abuse constructed by his own hands. Raymond sees everything as conspiring against Raymond, and it kind of is, but only because he so richly deserves it. What’s more he seems at least partially aware that this is the very reason for the universe being against him, and even hints at times that he understands that perhaps such animosity is justified, but he simply doesn’t (or is unable to) care. In fact he faults the world for any Karmic slights that occur against his person, regardless. No matter how awfully he behaves, he sees himself as ‘hard done by’ when the result doesn’t pan out in his favour. For Raymond cognitive dissonance is not something to be wary of, but rather an essential tool for modern day living. And who knows? He may have a point.
“Ever tried to get through the day without one or two juicy rationalizations?”-Jeff Goldblum
Despite Raymond Gunt being so thoroughly unlikable, he somehow manages to momentarily endear himself to the reader every once in awhile throughout the course of the tale of his lifelong debauch. But of course any of Raymond’s good works are invariably inadvertent or accidental; he can never be accused of paving his road to hell with good intentions. Alternating between being rotten in thought and grotesque in action, and having grotesque thoughts that he acts out like a rotter, you can’t help but feel that you might experience just a tiny bit of schadenfreude if/when he gets what is coming to him.
All told, Raymond Gunt reminds me of Vonnegut’s Kilgore Trout, only a much funnier, coarser, even less politically correct, innovatively vulgar West Londoner version.
How on earth anyone with a sense of humour could not find the following example of Raymond’s coarse creativity hilarious is beyond me:
-/.-./-.–/.-/-./-../–/.-/-.-/./–/./.-../—/.–/./.-./–/-.–/-. . ./.-../../-./-../. . ./-.–/—/..-/..-./..-/-.-./-.-/../-./–./.-/–/./.-./../-.-./.-/-./-.-./..-/-./-/. . . -Raymond Gunt
And yes, the margins of Worst.Person.Ever. are dashed and dotted with a fresh set of Mr.Coupland’s (pronounced K-ohp-lend, as the book jacket has informed me) usual collection of alarming factoids and disconcerting references to current events/historical record, which, as always, play to confirm the storyline and/or reinforce the humorously twisted personalities of his characters. I’ve never been certain whether these tidbits are chicken or the egg relative to the main text, but that’s a question I intend to ask Mr.Coupland if I ever have the pleasure of meeting him.
In WPE Mr.Coupland has put together what is by far one his best books, by introducing his worst character.