Douglas Coupland – Eleanor Rigby

I always look forward to Douglas Coupland books.

In typical style, Eleanor Rigby is buzzing with ideas; Liz is a grown-up Coupland character (someone who would have received less sympathy in earlier novels). She’s comfortably well off and uncomfortably friendless (all the lonely people etc). Her son reappears in her life for a brief period and unfolds a chain of events, including comets, Austrian dentists, farmers’ visions, Frankfurt airport and the ability to sing backwards.

At university we used to fill in questionnaires. The results determined your attitude to project work with the aim of forming capable groups. For example, if you were creative you hooked up with someone who could be bothered to write the report up. Coupland is an ideas man, but he certainly isn’t a completer / finisher. So many themes are developed: relationships with God, the passing of time, rewriting history, the backwards & the forwards. Some burn, others fizzle. His books are almost structured like thrillers, but with less tangible concepts. And missing the chapter which knots them into a satisfying whole.

As with previous novels the dialogue is snappy: “He had a complexion that said, I like vodka.” “My mother was lost to Cognac.” The sort of things you wish to say at dinner parties but only characters in Coupland books actually do.

At first I thought the text might be full of Beatles songs. The same way as Girlfriend in a Coma was splattered with Smiths references. Must have been hard to resist, but perhaps too obvious (or too costly?)

I always look forward to Douglas Coupland books and I’m always disappointed by the endings.