Sunday, February 5

Eleanor Rigby

Eleanor Rigby Coupland

I’ve always found Douglas Coupland’s works as somewhat antiseptic. Generation X was a “tale for an accelerated culture” and everyone was searching for meaning in their McJobs, nobody really cared for personal hygiene and wore clothes for days on end--oh wait, that was Keannu Reeves in his grunge phase. In Life After God, people went for really long drives and then why they did that was sort of lost on me after. They read like proofs to a theorem: mainly, that life was meaningless and we live in an absurd universe; but well, is it bad to hope for a little meaning even for a few precious seconds?

Reading Eleanor Rigby right after Bergdorf Blondes is like jumping into a cold shower after a long hot soak in the tub. Right on the verge of falling asleep, Coupland wakes you up. But not in the way that Chuck Palahniuk wakes you up with a punch in the gut. Liz Dunn could have been Bridget Jones. She’s thirty-seven when we first meet her, overweight, works a dead end job, with a really bland condo. She’s “never been married, righthanded and [her] hair is deep red and willfully curly.” When we first meet her, she’s out there in the parking lot of a video store, with stacks of Bambi, Terms of Endearment, How Green Was My Valley in her arms. She’s going to get her wisdom teeth extracted and she doesn’t have anyone to even drive her to the dentist’s. Then she sees the Hale-Bopp comet. Right in the middle of her marathon, she gets a phone call: a young man was admitted into the hospital and her name and number was inscribed in the medical alert bracelet. Had Helen Fielding written this book, that young man would have been the love of her life and would change her forever. In a skewed way he was and he did, but in a completely unexpected way.

Eleanor Rigby is the first Coupland book that actually makes you want to care for the protagonist. She’s confessed that she’s been lonely all her life, in the way that solitude can make you want bash your head against the walls of your really clean and bland condo. You really want her to be happy and there’s a vague suggestion that maybe she would be. In Coupland’s world, the universe gifts you with your own special meteorite, and then later it’ll get you arrested in an airport. So you can never really be too sure your meteorite is nothing but a ticking bomb. With Coupland, you can never be too sure.

Many thanks for Bluekessa for lending me the book.

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