Sunday, September 7, 2008

Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland

"Hey Nostradamus! Did you predict that once we found the Promised Land we'd all start offing each other? And did you predict that once we found the Promised Land, it would be the final Promised Land, and there'd never be another one again?"

Douglas Coupland was recommend to me by one of my bookworm friends several months ago. I was told to read JPod but because it was not at the library when I went to find a beach book to take with me to Wilmington, so I ended up grabbing the only book they had by Coupland, which was was Hey Nostradamus!

Hey Nostradamus! is a book in four parts. Each section of the book has a different narrator, but all of our narrators are connected through the high school shooting that kills our first narrator, Cheryl. At the time of her death Cheryl is newly (secretly) married to one of our other narrators, Jason. The majority of the book after her section deals with Jason later on in life and how the shooting changed his relationship with his family and cut him off from the rest of the world after having the trauma of being wrongly accused of involvement in the incident added to the grief that came from losing his wife. The last two narrators are the woman he ends up with romantically in his late twenties and his estranged father.

This book examines Christianity and people struggling with their faith in a way that makes religion out to be a negative and detrimental thing. For example, Jason comes from a strict Christian household and will not have sex before marriage, which is the main motivation for the young couple flying to the States from Canada with fake IDs to get married in Las Vegas. While it’s evident that Jason cares for Cheryl, their marriage is still centered around lust and has very little to do with love. This is just one of the many scenarios in which Coupland’s characters are obeying what they know of religious doctrines but doing so for the wrong reasons. Beyond that, most of the secondary characters in the novels are pious flakes that harass Jason into falling from faith. They’re all in a group called Youth Alive that parodies familiar groups like Young Life for young believers. Jason's father, Reg, is a cold hearted man that uses the Bible to bully people into submitting to his wants and beliefs in a way that's manipulative and abusive... and clearly not indicative of the way someone that had Christian love in their heart would treat the people around them.

There were other reasons that I did not like this novel as much as I could have despite the potential that made me hopeful in the first chapter. There are so many strange, seemingly irrelevant plot twists (tipped off psychics, drugged up adventures where neither the narrator or reader know what’s going on, a mysterious Russian hit man that comes out of nowhere, and a disappearance…) that the novel never ties itself together enough for the novel to be anything other than frustrating. At the end, I had no sense of closure.

I would not have finished it, but when my friend and her boyfriend kept wandering off at the beach and leaving me with their mutual friend Jamie that I hadn’t met until we got there, we decided to kill time by passing it back and forth so that we could read it out loud together. When we decided that we might want to see one another again after the trip was over we used finishing the book as an excuse to meet at a coffee shop near my house several times. I have Coupland to thank for the relationship that I’m in, but other than that, I’m not a huge fan.

Coupland is also a sculptor and a blogger for the New York Times.


Christopher said...

WOMAN AT PARTY: Here's a picture of my son. He's a doctor!

DOUGLAS COUPLAND: Ha! I'm an acclaimed novelist, a sculptor, AND I blog for the New York Times. BURN.

Nihil Novum said...

I've only read Eleanor Rigby and the first part of generation X, and haven't been too impressed with Coupland.