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League of Inveterate Poets

The out-of-context contextuality of a foolish sage

Unexpected Reading List in The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland

By on July 31, 2011

I’m somewhat amused that on pp. 92-93 of Douglas Coupland’s novel The Gum Thief, Coupland has a character who is an extremely boring and self-absorbed novelist rattle off a recommended reading list that is really quite excellent. Just added all of the suggestions to my “to read” list on Goodreads.

Here’s the passage, with links to the recommended novels:

Kyle was saying, “I guess I’d have to say that I have trouble believing in the future, and I think the past is largely an embarrassment. In general, I don’t trust people. There’s very little to believe in, and all I’ve ever been able to believe in are a few cherished books by a few people who I suspect feel life is as fleeting and ghastly and cruel as I do. I think Truman Capote’s Answered Prayers documents this sensibility as it occurred in a variety of long-vanished, almost mythically privileged cliques. I adminre Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album, and pretty much everything by Kurt Vonnegut testifies to the wretchedness of life, with an occasional sunbeam sent along to brighten things up.”

“I guess I like work that examines unexpected crisis points in modernism. Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio examines the collision between rural and industrial life in the early twentieth century. Bret Ellis’s Less Than Zero chronicles the implosion of secular middle-class values in pre-digital California. Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club is a brilliant assault on a consumer culture, while everything J. G. Ballard has written can’t but make us rethink the path  our world is taking–particularly Running Wild, a book that makes me wonder if the only hope for our world is to spawn children who have mutated so far beyond our present selves that anything we have to offer them as a survival tool is pointless and quaint.”

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