For me, reading a book by Douglas Coupland is a guilty pleasure, like reading James Michener or John Grisham—substantial enough to be worthwhile, yet trashy enough that I turn the cover inward as I walk down the street with it. The backdrop of his latest endeavour, Hey Nostradamus! (Random House), is a shooting in a high school, an incident so grimly fascinating that the characters are overshadowed by it.
Is this Coupland’s point? His language is clear; his story is modern and universal; his writing is just far enough afield of the naturalistic approach to remind you that you’re reading fiction, but also to make you wonder if you know who he’s writing about. He jumps back and forth between narrators and time periods, a device that keeps you reading even as it disguises the fact that parts of the book are not that interesting. But in this book as in others, Coupland delves often into themes of religion, especially young people’s disaffection with organized religion and the emergence of a different kind of spirituality—compelling ideas that I never get tired of.
Coupland is prolific and versatile, and his narratives are engaging. The fact that his stories and his style aren’t perfect is actually inspiring. He’ll continue to be my guilty pleasure.