“Art for everyone, even for useless people!”: Douglas Coupland’s Worst. Person. Ever.

worst-personFulfilling the promise made in the title, Douglas Coupland’s latest novel does, indeed, introduce you to the worst person ever.

Meet Raymond Gunt.

He is the sort of person who rips a skintag from the shoulder of the woman riding the bus in front of him and becomes offended at her reaction.

He is the sort of person who says, “I’m obviously a sensitive man who enjoys the fine things in life: food, wine, and art – yay art! Art everywhere! Art for everyone, even for useless people!”

He is the sort of person who would rather eat a handful of nuts to set off a severe allergic reaction rather than deal with certain social situations.

An example of Raymond Gunt’s spectacular narrative:

“Honolulu was a total donkeyfuck, starting with the ridiculous amount of respect paid to that repulsive corpse Bradley, as if dying on a plane is some big accomplishment. Thirty minutes were wasted while medics came to retrieve his husk, and there weren’t even any snacks or drinks while we waited at the gate for them to do their thing.”

This man Bradley, by the way, is an overweight man whom Gunt was stuck sitting beside on his plane and insulted until he had a heart attack and died.

This is pretty typical of Raymond Gunt.

50 pages into the book, I came to the conclusion that the novel is Coupland’s worst.

100 pages into the novel, however, I reconsidered.

Coupland shows off a remarkable talent in this novel, which is to truly and deeply plant the reader in the main character’s head. The fact that he created such a thoroughly loathsome character—and still manages to pull the reader head-first into that perspective—is impressive to say the least. Gunt is so purely, so thoroughly, so hilariously mean-spirited and foul that it’s impossible to find a single redeeming feature. It’s shocking. It’s appalling. And frankly, it’s remarkable.

In typical Coupland style, the book ends almost as an afterthought; even though I should know better, I was expecting a plot point that would neatly wrap the book up, or at least explain what Coupland was trying to accomplish. No such luck: it’s hardly spoiling the book to tell you that Gunt stays nasty right to the end.

You can find a copy of your own over at Abe Books (your favourite global conglomerate of independent bookstores), or you can read my original review over at The Cascade (and check out some of their other book reviews while you’re there, if you’re so inclined).

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