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Arbie's Unoriginally Titled Book Blog

It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.

Currently reading

Station Zero
Philip Reeve
Progress: 220/282 pages
The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition
Ursula K. Le Guin, Charles Vess
Progress: 749/997 pages
The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry
Robert Chandler
The Uncertain Land and Other Poems
Patrick O'Brian
Progress: 8/160 pages
The Heptameron (Penguin Classics)
Marguerite de Navarre
Progress: 152/544 pages
The Poems and Plays of John Masefield
John Masefield
Progress: 78/534 pages
Poems Selected
Emily Dickinson, Ted Hughes
Progress: 4/50 pages
Selected Poems
U A Fanthorpe
Progress: 18/160 pages
The Penguin Book of Scottish Verse
Mick Imlah, Robert Crawford
Hainish Novels & Stories, Vol. 2
Ursula K. Le Guin
Progress: 133/789 pages
Hey Nostradamus! - Douglas Coupland Warning: Do not read this while depressed.

My primary coping mechanism whilst depressed is reading. But picking up a random work from the stack of 200 or so unread books isn't gonna do the job. The book has to be undemanding in terms effort to read and preferably plot-driven and gripping. James Blish was my go-to author in this circumstance for many years but I've read all his novels too many times in recent years. Ditto a number of other authors who I know would fit the bill. Which leads back to the unread pile and taking a bit of a risk. Hence Douglas Coupland who has only let me down once in half a dozen or so books and has always been fairly compelling. Now, across all the books I've read by Coupland, the general themes have remained constant; how to cope with a modern world that isolates people and offers no automatic purpose in life. The reason this hasn't become boring or tiresome is that he seems to come at the question from an at least slightly different angle each time, his answers aren't always the same (if he gives any in that particular book) and the general tone and mood varies too. So in Generation X we are offered, run away to Mexico, as a solution. In Microserfs, make virtual Lego (or is that Jpod?) or more seriously, work for yourself, not some giant inhuman corporation. In Miss Wyoming, running away doesn't work - so Generation X turns out not to have the right answer after all. And so on. Some of these are post-modern and ironic, even openly comic e.g. Generation X and Jpod. Others are more or less earnest, like Eleanor Rigby and Miss Wyoming. And here's the risk - some are really upbeat and others are not. This one also shows Coupland's great skill with first person voice character-creation.

So Hey Nostradamus! Starts with a school shooting massacre obviously intended to be reminiscent of the Columbine incident and then gallops off into a discussion of religion, redemption, despair, forgiveness and how parents can screw up their children. The plot is gripping but in retrospect completely preposterous and goes off in directions I would never have guessed. The protagonists have various fates and one is left to sift through the aftermath and try to figure out what, if anything, Coupland is saying about Christianity. It's no straightforward thumbs up or thumbs down. And the outcome for some people is optimistic, for others - well - don't read this book if you are depressed.