Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Remediating Coupland's The Gum Thief

So a week and a half ago I finished Douglas Coupland's new novel, The Gum Thief. I learned to appreciate Coupland early on in grad school when I read Microserfs, a mind-1990s book the chronicles the adventures of a group of programmers who break away from Microsoft and try to start their own company and end up forming a new form of family. I liked it immensely.

Last year I read JPod and found it to be far inferior--basically a retelling of Microserfs but with characters who were largely unsympathetic and a postmodern deus ex machina that has the author showing up in postindustrial factories around China. Parts of it were funny, but the charm (are grad students allowed to like charm?) of the first book didn't exist anywhere in its retread.

So my expectations for The Gum Thief weren't as high as they might have been last year. While the novel was definitely better than JPod, I still didn't like it as much as Microserfs. That's okay--my second book isn't sold nearly as charming as my first, after all. The novel is a series of interlocking narratives/novellas/epistolary passages exchanged between people working at Staples. It's perhaps a long poem to the frustrations (there...now I sound like an English student) of middle age and quarter life in the big box world of retailing. I'd read it again, but it's not high on my list.

Today, however, I discovered on YouTube that there are a series of videos that accompany the novel and its different narratives. In this hypertextual medium you can obviously enter the narrative as you will, but if you were to follow the path of the print book, you would likely begin by viewing a video about Roger, the dominant voice in the book. This project was commissioned by Coupland's Canadian publisher, Random House. One assumes that Coupland himself must have had something to do with this, but one can't determine the extent.

In any case, call me a pitiful millenial, but I think that these videos spark a lot more interest in me about the book as they could encourage different processes of reading and interpretation. And they invite responses in kind, which could be a fun project for a class or students.

1 comment:

Wayne said...

Now we have to discuss how best to engage students. How about reviving the old (about 6 years to be exact) term "infotainment?" Perhaps now they call it addressing different learning styles. Either way, I would agree that it includes some aspects of image, motion, sound and text.