The Douglas Coupland Interview

Nathaniel G. Moore:

The cover of Binge is a timestamp for some culture junkies out there.

Douglas Coupland

It was a highly curated image.

NGM:

What has been your experience with feedback from the young Bruce Springsteen fan in the midst of dancing with the boss? It was very intimate because, as someone born in the mid-1970s, I knew immediately where and who it was. Out of its context as a music video – the image becomes so much more tantalizing. Any thoughts?

DC

I had to reach out to Courtney through a few mutual friends to make sure it was okay to use the image. What I’ve noticed about that specific video [Dancing in the Dark, 1984] is that every single person who ever watched it (which is pretty much everyone) thinks that they are the only person on Earth who knows that it’s Courtney Cox dancing in it. It’s this massive unacknowledged shared memory, and I thought it would be interesting to foreground this.

NGM:

With the stories in Binge being shorter – and plenty of them to sink into – do you see their order as absolute or do you envision readers being able to flip anywhere and be content?

DC:

Random is fine by me, although there are a few stories that follow a loose sequence of events.

NGM:

The format of Binge is reflective, in a way, of our cultural viewing habits.

DC

Yes. The project began a few months before Covid and then Covid put a brick on the gas pedal. What makes something, anything, bingeable? What’s in the secret sauce? I came up with my own recipe, but I wanted to recreate in fiction what is happening in most peoples’ heads right now in real life.

NGM:

Reading and books are finding themselves not so much adapting to this trend, because consuming things have always been in high fashion – but perhaps the concept of a story and what makes a story work is changing.

DC:

Yes and no. Dialog will always be mandatory no matter what happens to fiction, as will people being truthful in written words in a way that they are nowhere else. The big shift in the past 20 years has been the way we’ve redefined honesty.

NGM

Do you think that the stories being told now have to do more to compete with what seems to be a golden age of storytelling in podcasts or streaming series?

DC:

Years ago, I was unwillingly dragged into writing a biography of Marshall McLuhan, which ended up being one of the most fortunate things I’ve ever done. That man was amazing. One of his predictions (his family hates it when you say predictions, but they were, and he was always right) was that when a new medium obsolesces an older medium, it allows the older medium to become an art form. That’s what happened with TV once the internet eclipsed TV. It started with the Sopranos, but now it’s an embarrassing trove of nightly riches. People now discuss binged series the exact same way they once described a Cheever novel.

NGM

In the the story ‘Gaga’, it’s almost like you purposefully steered the narrative away from the singer Lady Gaga. Do you recall any conscious decisions of what you were not going to go for in these stories?

DC

I went into a lot of “ungoable” places in the book, sometimes with a deliberately cringe-inducing effect, but that’s the nature of our world. The Queen and Nicole Kidman are not that different from you or me or anyone randomly chosen from the internet anywhere on earth at any time of day when we all look at a plastic sex toy and try to figure out its relationship to our own bodies. Yes: even the Queen.

NGM

Writing, in a way, is like art curation. When you write, are you visualizing a reality that doesn’t exist – or are you trying to add your own creations to a world that already exists in your mind?

DC

I like to create a more interesting version of this thing called the real world which I am forced to inhabit with every awakeness cycle.

NGM

A line from the story ‘Liz Claiborne Sheets’ (about a Canadian border patrol worker) stood out to me as the perfect tagline for life in the new world we live in. “On top of the wear and tear of all that lying, we’re also bored out of our minds.” Are humans bored?

DC

We’re not bored but we are easily bored.

NGM

Can we trust that the world and its governments are really telling us the whole truth?

DC

Good God, no. Most of the time I think they don’t even know the truth. If this whole covid mess taught us anything, it’s that our politicians all got C+’s in science in high school.

NGM

You turned 60 a few days ago – what did you celebrate?

DC

Last week I got blind-sided by a surprise party — 25 days before my birthday — which is what made it such a surprise. Has anyone ever thrown a surprise party for you? When they do a good job (and they did) it is absolutely terrifying yet fun at the same time. I can see why people die of heart attacks when everyone shouts Surprise! I had PTSD for 48 hours afterwards. My actual birthday is now inconsequential.



DOUGLAS COUPLAND is a Canadian writer, visual artist and designer. His first novel is the 1991 international bestseller Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, still celebrated for its biting humour and cultural relevancy thirty years since its initial publication. He has published fourteen novels, two collections of short stories, eight nonfiction books. He has written and performed for England’s Royal Shakespeare Company, is a columnist for The Financial Times of London and a frequent contributor to The New York Times. In 2000 Coupland amplified his visual art production and has recently had two separate museum retrospectives, Everything is Anything is Anywhere is Everywhere at the Vancouver Art Gallery, The Royal Ontario Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, and Bit Rot at Rotterdam’s Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, and Munich’s Villa Stücke. In 2015 and 2016 Coupland was artist in residence in the Paris Google Cultural Institute. In May 2018, his exhibition on ecology, Vortex, opened at the Vancouver Aquarium. Coupland is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy, an Officer of the Order of Canada, an Officer of the Order of British Columbia, a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and a recipient of the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence.

Binge is published by Penguin Random House Canada.

  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 272 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1039000525
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1039000520

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