Coupland’s jaw-dropping micro-fiction is a feast for the senses




Even from the outside, Douglas Coupland Binge: 60 short stories to make your brain feel different is intriguing. The book cover features the iconic 1984 image of Courteney Cox dancing on stage with Bruce Springsteen (of his Dancing in the dark video). It feels like a special nod to Gen X, who will immediately know the image, and even though Springsteen isn’t visible, we know he’s…right there. For Coupland devotees, this sense of knowing but not seeing is a certain pop culture reward in and of itself.

And so begins the frenzy experience, Coupland’s first new work of fiction since 2013. The Canadian writer turns 60 at the end of 2021. As frenzy contains 60 micro-stories, it’s easy to assume that these tales could be a birthday present for himself, as well as a present for readers who have followed his work since Generation X: Tales for Accelerated Culture was published 30 years ago.

Douglas Coupland

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Random House Canada

Douglas Coupland

Coupland did more than name a demographic. He has published 14 novels, two collections of short stories and eight non-fiction books. He has written and acted for England’s Royal Shakespeare Company, is a columnist for the Financial Times of London and a frequent contributor to New York Times. Coupland is also a visual artist and designer, Fellow of the Royal Canadian Academy, Officer of the Order of Canada, Officer of the Order of British Columbia, and recipient of the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence.

The sum of these parts always explodes in fascinating ways that keep Coupland connoisseurs on their intellectual toes. Even if you’re up-to-date on news, trends, and technology, the author stays ahead of the curve, overturning convention and presenting ideas in unexpected ways that challenge assumptions and habits.

frenzy, like much of his previous work, is a puzzle. From the book jacket: “Imagine feeling 100% alive every moment of every minute of the day! Maybe that’s how animals live. Or even trees. I sometimes stare at the tree to plastic bags visible from my apartment window and I marvel that he and I are equally alive and that there is no sliding scale of life.” If that kind of existential angst triggers your synapses, you’ll find frenzy be unmanageable.


Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press files</p>
<p>Fans of Douglas Coupland (seen here in 2017) will be delighted to know that he continues his trend of subverting convention, presenting ideas in ways that challenge assumptions and habits. </p>
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<p>Darryl Dyck Files/The Canadian Press</p>
<p>Fans of Douglas Coupland (seen here in 2017) will be delighted to know that he continues his tendency to turn convention on its ear, presenting ideas in ways that challenge assumptions and habits.</p>
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<p>Given the collection of short stories, it takes deft literary skill to create enough interest in the fleeting characters to inhabit our brains or hearts for a few minutes.  Some characters are weird and kind and grow inside us.  A few of these special people appear in several stories.  But Coupland also features some truly vile individuals: narcissists and people with no moral compass — so much so that some stories make it hard to discern where the tragedy ends and the (dark) comedy begins.  You just want the pain to stop.			</p>
<p>In the era of influencer marketing, it is also interesting that Coupland included several mentions of certain brands such as Starbucks, Thule and Rubbermaid.			</p>
<p>Throughout stories of doom, wonder and longing, Coupland’s voice is smarter than ever, creating a specific sense of place.  In history <em>vegan</em>he describes the smell of a convenience store: “I find the characteristic smell of the store more than repulsive, like snow tires and water from hot dogs melting together, but I went inside anyway to see the remaining shards of the magazine industry die on the shelves.”			</p>
<p>Some stories feature obscure terminology that can induce a quick Google search because a word can hit you in the “well, that’s new” section of your cerebral cortex.  Feeling naïve is rare at a certain age of adult experience, so it’s fair to say that <em>frenzy</em> indeed made this reader’s brain look different.			</p>
<p>Deborah Bowers is a marketing and communications professional and member of Generation X.			</p>
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