Monday, March 30, 2009

Hey Nostradamus by Douglas Coupland

hey1Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland 244 Pages 2003 5/5 How have I gone this long without reading any Douglas Coupland? Ever feel like there's a writer out there that's just been waiting for you to discover him/her? That's how I felt with this book. Absolutely amazing. Coupland's writing is just amazing...beautiful, in fact. I instantly put everything he's written on my wishlist after reading this one. Hey Nostradamus! is the story of a high school shooting and how it affects the lives of those immediately involved and the people surrounding them. The story is beautifully told from four points of view that span years. Coupland expertly tackles the concepts of death, religion, fate, violence and regret. To review this book, I've paired up with Nymeth. See, I read this as part of the "Try Something New Mini-Challenge" that Nymeth is hosting as part of the Dewey's Books Reading Challenge. My "something new" is a new author to me, Douglas Coupland...but he won't remain new for long...I can see him quickly becoming an old favorite. She read What it Takes to Pull Me Through and you can read her thoughts on it here. Here are the questions she asked me about this book and my answers. What did you think of Douglas Coupland's use of different points of view? I thought it was absolutely perfect for the story. I like the way that he not only used different points of view, but spread them out over years to show us the long term effects of the school shooting and how traumatic events effect people's lives. The immediacy of Cheryl's point of view during the school shooting was a little disturbing, but disturbing in a good way...a powerful way. I liked the way that each point of view was told differently as well...Cheryl's point of view told after her death, Jason's point of view told as a letter of sorts, Heather's point of view told during the immediate events surrounding her, and Reg's point of view told as a letter to his son. It was just perfect. I also liked following the progression of the characters through various eyes of the characters. Very effective! Who was your favourite of the four narrators? Why? Hmmm, this is a tough one, but I think it's between Jason and Heather. Though I think I liked Reg's language more than any of the others. I loved Cheryl's narration, but I loved it in the way that it terrified me. I loved Reg's narration too, but it had more of a resolution type feeling since it was the end of the novel. Not much action, but it was very bittersweet. Jason and Heather both told a wonderful story though. I found Jason's narration to be constantly haunted by the school shootings of his childhood, but almost to the point of him not even noticing how much of an effect they had had on him. His section reminded me a lot of the book Less Than Zero by Brett Easton Ellis which I love. Heather's narration was haunting too as she chased the ghost of Jason after he has disappeard. That desperation and love for him shone through in everything that she said. How do you feel about the way Coupland handled the theme of school shootings? He handled it in what I would assume to be an honest manner. It was terrifying, earth-shattering, life changing, long lasting. The chapter in which the shootings actually happened had me near tears. He painted a picture that was so vivid that it was hard to continue reading at times. The shootings obviously affected Jason's life strongly and I think that would hold true to anyone that experienced a traumatic event such as this. What was your favourite thing about the book? Least favourite? My absolute favorite thing about the book was the writing. I can't say enough about this man's writing's just exquisite. I also loved the honesty of the characters. We weren't meant to love every character in this book, but we always loved reading about them (at least I did). Take Reg for example...he drove me nuts with his religious grandiosity and his stubbornness, but I always enjoyed the scenes that he was in. I honestly can't think of anything that I really disliked about this book...really, I can't. Share a favourite scene/moment from the book. There were so many scenes that I loved in this book that it's hard to even single one out. One that stands out though, is Heather putting all of Jason's belongings in ziplock bags to preserve their scent and their essence after he's disappeared. She puts his wallet, his shirt, his underwear...everything into a bag and spends time smelling them and disturbing as this may sound, it's really not. I think Coupland captures here something we've all experienced. Doing anything we can to hold onto what we've lost..what we've loved. There are certain smells that bring me back to beloved memories to this day. And there are events in my life that I would preserve in a plastic bag if I could. I truly related to this scene. There's also a scene when Jason goes into his father, Reg's, apartment to gather some of his belongings while his father is in the hospital. He sees a picture of his father with another woman and I think it showed for a second that Reg was human despite his strict religious beliefs that caused the estrangement between father and son. I'll leave you with the very first paragraph of the novel to show you how beautiful Coupland's writing is. In a way, this fits into a favorite scene because it hooked me straight from the beginning:
I believe that what separates humanity from everything else in this world - spaghetti, binder paper, deep-sea creatures, edelweiss and Mount McKinley - is that humanity alone has the capacity at any given moment to commit all possible sins. Even those of us who try to live a good and true life remain as far away from grace as the Hillside Strangler or any demon who ever tried to poison the village well. What happened that morning only confirms this.
Other Views and Opinions: The Written World Things Mean A Lot Ace and Hoser Blook Stray Talk

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