"Right from the get-go we’re deep in Coupland country with The Gum Thief: the über-now pop culture references, the casual, deliciously snide vernacular, the loopy, neurotic characters you can’t help but love, and of course, the late-night conversational tone of Coupland himself, whose writing reads like a phone call from an old friend. No one else quite captures the dystopian malaise of our post-postmodernist consumer-junkie culture quite like he does. Call it CoMo: Coupland Modernism. In this, his 11th novel, Coupland introduces us to Roger Thorpe, a divorced, middle-aged 'sales associate' at Staples, plodding through his forties while avoiding the latest office furniture shipment and drinking himself into oblivion. Enter Bethany, goth girl and Staples co-worker, who strikes up an unusual and touching correspondence with Roger, their lives unfolding alongside Roger’s abysmal novella-in-progress, Glove Pond. The novel-within-the-novel is a delightful device – reading bad writing has never been more fun. Or funny. Through the letters Roger and Bethany share, Coupland presents the deadening banality of the contemporary moment. How we drive from parking lot to parking lot, trapped in one big-box store after another, waiting in line for The End of the World. Like Coupland’s other novels, there’s a feeling of pre-apocalyptic anxiety in the lives of Roger and Bethany. And yet, as in Generation X, it is through their shared friendship, and their stories, that Roger and Bethany transcend the meaninglessness of their lives."—Christine Walde, Quill & Quire
"The Gum Thief is classic Douglas Coupland. His characters are young and disaffected—they have opted out of modern life because, well, if modern life is cloning, carbon footprints and ‘Sno-Kone cellulite’, what kind of moron would opt in? ‘Just because you've been born and made it through high school doesn't mean society can't still abort you,’ says Bethany, the teen-goth, contemplating the rejects in her workplace. But don't think that this is a novel about how modern life is rubbish, and we're all going to cop out and play MySpace instead. It is much more hopeful, more touching and more Couplandesque than that. When Bethany writes those words, it is actually Roger—her middle-aged dropout colleague—writing in her voice. This is a novel so postmodern that it has disappeared up its own irony and come out on the other side. In anyone else's hands, it could read like an environmental treatise by Al Gore translated by a teenage dirtbag after 17 vodka Red Bulls. But Coupland's skill is in his love of the ridiculous, like a schoolboy whose words make him giggle . . . The last chapter, a critique of Roger's book by a patronising creative-writing teacher, is a nice touch. Its tone, he says, is too ‘smug’. Coupland's novel is anything but."—Katy Guest, The Independent (UK)"Coupland is dark and cutting about our fluorescent-lit times, but there's also a real underlayer of gratitude here, for the hand that can reach down and unite with you in the darkness."—Entertainment Weekly"Relentlessly contemporary Coupland helped explode the Gen-X mind-set, and now follows his specimens as they stumble into their inevitable midlife crisis. Roger, a forty-something alcoholic washup and aisle-jockey at Staples ponders the unlikelihood of escaping one's pitiable little life. Another soul trapped in the sterile confines is Bethany, a goth girl with her own private disaster of a life. The two form an unlikely friendship in this cleverly crafted, bitterly funny epistolary novel, while at the same time Roger works on his own novel, a Cheever-like exercise wherein bitter couples lob witty insults at each other while drowning in Scotch and failure . . . Chronicling life's crises that don't only happen in the middle, Coupland . . . is almost always very clever—rather than heartfelt as his creations slowly tick off the things that they will never become."—Ian Chipman, Booklist"Bethany, transitioning from goth teen to adult, and Roger, flailing in his forties, have washed up at Staples, a modern circle of hell where employees mindlessly rearrange office paraphernalia. In their world, security footage of the staff stealing gum is a popular download, but real communication rarely happens. Unwilling to acknowledge their mismatched friendship publicly, Roger and Bethany covertly trade mocking self-references and smirky notes about vapid coworkers. Roger shares his novel-in-progress, Glove Pond, which resembles Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf recast with characters that echo Roger's acquaintances . . . As growing trust allows Roger and Bethany to reveal the deaths, desertions, and depression that have waylaid them, the odd pair finds the motivation to begin taking action again. The pace mounts, and the story gains emotional weight."—Neil Hollands, Library Journal"Two misfits find common ground and a unique, surreal friendship via unspoken words . . . In the two years since his wife's (nonfatal) cancer was diagnosed, Roger Thorpe has devolved into a dejected, hard-drinking, divorced father and the oldest employee by a fair margin at Staples. A frustrated novelist to boot, Roger considers himself lost, continually haunted by dreams of missed opportunities and a long ago car accident that claimed four friends. His younger, disgruntled goth co-worker, Bethany Twain, one day discovers Roger's diary—filled with mock re-imaginings of her thoughts and feelings—in the break room. She lays down a supreme challenge for them both to write diary entries to each other, but neither is allowed to acknowledge the other around the store. Through exchanged hopes and dreams, customer stories, world views and cautionary revelations (time speeds up in a terrifying manner in your mid-thirties), the pair become intimately acquainted before things unravel for both. Running parallel to the epistolary narrative are chapters from Roger's novel, Glove Pond, which begins having much in common with the larger narrative it's enclosed in . . . the story is humorous, frenetic, focused and curiously affecting."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Douglas Coupland is a novelist who also works in visual arts and theater. His novels include Eleanor Rigby, Generation X, All Families Are Psychotic, Hey Nostradamus!, and JPod. He lives and works in Vancouver, Canada.