Monday, January 31, 2005

Douglas Coupland

On Friday I saw Douglas Coupland do a reading in San Francisco at "A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books." It had probably been nearly 7 years since I'd seen Coupland; so I was anxious to see what he was up to. He "warmed up" the crowd by asking Simpsons trivia questions in exchange for prizes of Little Debbie's snacks. He then dove into some readings from his new book "Eleanor Rigby," with occasional detours for random tangents that popped into his head. He also read some bits from his new work, which will be a sequel to "Microserfs." From that he entertained us with fake love letters to Ronald McDonald from tortured tech workers.

What I like about Doug Coupland is the way he is able to weave in pop cultural details into his story-telling, in such a way that the time and place is instantly recognizable. That's why "Generation X" resonated so well with people when it was first captured a time and place in the late 1980s/early 1990s when black laminate furniture and irony were ubiquitous.

Another thing I'd forgotten about Coupland is his desire to connect with his audience at readings. He did that initially by inviting audience participation (answer a trivia question to win Banana Little Debbies snacks) and continued that during the book signing. It took him probably 90 minutes to make it through the line of folks waiting to have their books signed. The main reason is that he actually had a conversation with each person in line, so that the signing was a more personal experience. He talked to my group of 4 about left-handedness and even asked us to stand in a circle to do a leftie "party trick." It was sweet and my friend Kim was thrilled to get a hug from Doug as he bonded with her over their southpaw connection.

The guy behind us in line entertained himself by putting a rubber band over his head, which looked really painful and dangerous. I wish I'd stuck around to see what he talked to Coupland about...