Sunday, July 25, 2004

Sunday Book Recommendations

(Editor's note: I am hoping to make this a weekly feature of musclehead.)

69 Things to Do with a Dead Princess is a work of post-modern fiction by Stewart Home. A note of caution here- if you do not like pomo fiction or works by authors like George Bataille or Lautreamont, then you may not like this book. If, however, you are willing to suspend your notions of what a novel ought to be, in terms of form and linearity, then you are in for a treat. Home intersperses rock circles, a mannequin and fetishistic sex. And there are times when you are not sure who the narrator is, or even if any of these characters exist, except for in your own imagination. Think of this novel as a David Lynch movie- part dream sequence, part intellectual challenge, and no obeyance to linear storytelling.

Hey Nostradamus is Douglas Coupland's newest novel. I have to admit to not having been a fan of Coupland. I never quite understood the cult-like following he had among my GenX peers. I tried to read Microserfs on more than one occasion and never could get past page fifty or so. Then, last year I picked up All Families are Psychotic and became hooked. With Hey Nostradamus Coupland again shows his mastery of the modern world and the psyches of its inhabitants.

This is the story of a high school shooting spree and four lives that were effected by it. All of the four main characters is given a turn at narration. The book begins with Cheryl Anway, one of the victims of the massacre. Then the book progresses to her widower, Jason, who tells his tale eleven years after the event. Coupland also includes narration by Heather, who tries to love the remains of Jason, and of Reg, his overbearing religious father.

The book really is not about the massacre that took place in the high school cafeteria, but rather a meditation on how life events shape us and how religion, in its excesses, divides us as humans. Each of the four narrators deal with religion and spirituality in different ways. And despite their somewhat brief sketches, the reader becomes close to and involved in their stories. This is a pitch perfect narrative of modern times and how we all struggle with god and life's meaning.


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