Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland; Blue Rider Press, 201 pages ($26.95). It’s always good to catch up with Douglas Coupland. In 1991, he contributed a phrase to languages throughout the West by entitling a novel “Generation X: Tales From an Accelerated Culture.” As the world started naming accelerating demographic agglomerates “Generation Y,” “The Millennials,” and “The Aughts,” Coupland’s perspicacity in identifying his own generation seemed progressively smaller. None of which lessened the talent to amuse that the Canadian writer – also a furniture and fashion designer, visual artist and screenwriter (“Everything’s Gone Green,” a development project based on his novel “All Families Are Psychotic”) – brings to every project.
We have here in a novel with a characteristically pungent title the tale of Raymond Gunt, a man foul of mouth and wretched of personality – a B-unit cameraman whom the author cheerfully notes is “a living, walking, talking, hot steaming pile of pure Id.” In the current Age of Rant, aided and abetted by an Internet always famished for omnidirectional obloquy, Gunt is a man who can almost always claim to be “a decent chap who always does the right thing” while always being the exact opposite. The Brits, especially, have been rejoicing in such antisocial monstrosities between covers ever since the ’50s. Here, for instance, is a fellow who describes his ex-wife Fiona as a “dreadful, dreadful, dreadful person. She is monstrous. She is an Atomic Bomb of pain. If you puncture her skin, a million baby spiders will explode from her body and devour you alive” all of which is as entertaining as so much Internet spleen is but is also an indication of a writer whose ventings can’t be too far from what’s seen in his mirror.
Coupland tells us that the book began “as an attempt in McSweeney’s 29 to reinvigorate the biji, a genre in classical Chinese literature. Biji roughly translates as ‘notebook’ and can contain anecdotes, quotations, random musings, philological speculations, literary criticism and anything the author deems worth recording.” Piles of hot, steaming vituperation, close with a sudden narrative drive-by from “Some Like It Hot.” Outrageous and entertaining.
– Jeff Simon