WORST. PERSON. EVER.
- Douglas Coupland -
I first heard about this book through an interview Coupland did on CBC radio, click here to listen. He described Raymond Gunt, the protagonist of this fine novel, as the most foul mouthed person you could ever image. And, it turns out he may be right. The book's storyline, about a cameraman who travels to a remote Pacific Island to help in the taping of a Survivor style show is not the highlight. Instead the entire point of this book was to come up with a character who is the worst person ever. Coupland did a wonderful job too. Gunt was out of this world terrible, but, believable at the same time. He kind of reminded me of that distant relative you may have, the one that shows up at the extended family picnic smoking non stop (around the kids), drinking beer after beer (not his), and commenting on the lazy foreign welfare bums that live in the apartment above him (or some similar inappropriate topic). But, the comment in the interview that really piqued my interest was when Coupland admitted that he sincerely hoped his parents would never read this book. Now, that says something doesn't it? What was in this book that was so terrible that the author was reluctant to throw a copy over to his parents for a once over?
Well, I can type out a quote from the first few paragraphs to give you an idea of what might be lurking in the book..."the universe delivered unto me a searing hot kebab of vasectomy leftovers drizzled in donkey jizz". Now, would that be the line Coupland didn't want his parents to read? Maybe. Or it could be the rest of the 300 odd pages littered with this crafty rubbishy language. I have to give credit to the variety and originality of the foul mouthed descriptions Coupland comes up with for the usual body parts and their functions. Not my area of expertise, but, to see someone really master it is very entertaining. And, if you are worried about being turned off by the language, well once you hit the F word and C word and D word for the twentieth time it loses a bit of its shock value and you find yourself desensitized (scary, how quickly that can happen) and enjoying the latest crude word mash-up.
Similar to the language Gunt spews out, his actions are just as socially unacceptable. He is a self centred, sex crazed, lazy, rude, obnoxious wad, who hates children (probably kittens too) and picks on the homeless. He is one of those people who provides no good in the world and only takes, takes, ruins, destroys, eats the last chocolate, belches, and takes some more. There is not much to like in this guy. Which in a strange way makes him likeable. Reading reviews on this book I noticed over and over that people felt pity for this character, and in turn 'liked' him. I did not like his personality, but, I did like his character. I found it very entertaining to watch this train wreck of a personality crash its way through the novel. It was fun watching his almost formulaic life - Gunt enters a new scenarios, he finds someway to offend, eats macadamia nuts and has a black out. You just know, that with each scene, Gunt is going to come up with some terrible way to offend the world, be it with his foul mouth or by discussing bestiality. His only redeeming quality was his harsh, well deserved, criticism of American food.
A bit embarrassing on my part that I find this entertaining, but, I prefer to look at it this way - as a literary work. Coupland does an amazing job of satirizing the pop cultural exploits of shows like Springer and Survivor (at the same time!). So, if anyone asks, I don't actually laugh at the trailer trash level comedy, I laugh at the satire.
I was lucky to have heard the interview with Coupland and have some idea of what I was getting into when I started this book. Judging by the reviews I have looked over, there were a lot of readers out there not expecting something so filthy. A lot of witty reviews called the book 'Worst. Book. Ever.' or something similar. I will agree with some of the negative reviewers that when I finished the book I was not a better person, unless you count the increased vocabulary in the cuss words dept. However, I did not feel it was a waste of time. It was not exactly time well spent. It was more like, time spent and I don't regret it. There Coupland, put that quote on the dust cover of your book. This was definitely something I have never read before, and would probably not go out of my way to find again, but, it was an adventure for sure. It is always nice to get out of your comfort zone sometimes and see how the other half lives (and swears). Worst. Person. Ever. is one of those unforgettable books you'll have a hard time describing...and forgetting.
RATING : READ