Douglas Coupland's geek tour


From the Toronto Star (September 21, 1995)

by Philip Marchand

Authors have long complained about the rigors of the traditional book tour. Douglas Coupland, Vancouver-based author of Generation X, Shampoo Planet, Life After God and now Microserfs, had decided to do something about it.

To publicize Microserfs, his most recent novel about life among software writers and computer geeks, Coupland is making one major appearance in Toronto. Tonight at 8 at Convocation Hall at the University of Toronto, Coupland appears with a video entitled Douglas Coupland: Close Personal Friend.

Coupland will introduce the video, read from works in progress, and also field questions from the audience.

The video's purpose is to communicate some of Coupland's most recent reflections on personal identity, and by extension, to give viewers an idea of what Microserfs is all about.

It makes an interesting contrast to some of the film clips of prominent 20th century authors that will be shown in the forthcoming International Festival of Authors at Harbourfront. In a film clip of Arthur Conan Doyle, for example, Doyle simply sits, faces the camera, and talks for about five minutes.

Even just five minutes of some old guy talking is too boring for a viewer raised on colour television. Coupland's video by contrast, is tailored for the generation of the 30-second attention span. It has a driving rock soundtrack and a flurry of images, including numerous segments where Coupland appears in a gray suit, circa 1962 - in some shots, only his mouth and his knuckles are visible - and utters three of four sentences at a go.

His first sentence is "I suppose I wonder where do you stop being you as an individual and where do you become simply a member of your species?

Other reflections: " Suddenly we have to articulate what life is and it's almost absurd, yet necessary at the same time. Suddenly in the last ten or fifteen years people have just stopped having lives. People who used to have lives now don't.

"First you have to get superbasic. You have to think about time. you have to consider the way you perceive time's flow... People just aren't getting their year's worth of year anymore.

Publicity material accompanying the film mentions that the target audience is "15- to 40-year-olds." Those over 40 may be overcome with nostalgia about the films they saw in the 60s that first introduced them to all these jump cuts and groovy flashes of imagery, including scantily clad bodies.

Tickets to tonight's presentation are $8, $5 for students and seniors, available at 978-8668.