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.