Thursday, September 10, 2009

Still disturbed by Les Wiseman’s review of Douglas Coupland’s latest book, Generation A, in last Saturday’s Victoria Times-Colonist (and syndicated elsewhere in that paper's parent network).

Although not a fan of Coupland’s production (books, art objects, affectations or insights), I am fanatical when it comes to assessing a work on the terms it sets out for itself, something Wiseman can’t bring himself to do.

Wiseman’s inability to assess Coupland’s book on its terms is stated at the outset, where he talks of his preference for “crime stuff [note the informality], so plot, plot twists and surprise endings are important to me.” If ever there was a case of intellectual subjectivitis, this is it.

So Wiseman can’t help himself, and he spends much of his review complaining that because the book doesn’t go anywhere (“no story,” “plot threads left dangling,” “lack of resolution,”), “it is simply not for baby boomers” (like him -- but also Coupland, who was born in 1961), those who “grew up on a different style of storytelling that informs our perceptions of what completes a story, what comprises an ending and what is the point.”

A rather large generalization, especially when one considers that Melville’s The Confidence Man was already 88 years old when the first baby boomer was born (Joyce’s Ulysses was 23).

Or maybe Wiseman is referring to comic books, which, as he notes in his “full disclosure” sidebar, was how Coupland’s Generation X first arrived -- in the pages of Vancouver Magazine, where Wiseman, like a character in another Melville tale, was a scrivener.

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