Monday, September 15, 2008

Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland - Canadian book #3

Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland
Copyright 2004
249 pages

Back by popular demand (not really, but a couple of people really liked it so I'm going back to the prior version of this post, white-coated tranquilizer-carrying mental health experts be damned): the original version of my Eleanor Rigby review -- it's long and rambling and scary. Sorry, it just is. Huge apologies about the triple repeat - I didn't mean to save the post to draft form, the second and third time. Some days . . . Anyway, here you go:

Every now and then, I get totally sick of myself and the typical blog format, so I have to change things a bit. Therefore, I'm going for the self-interview routine, today. You can always rely on Bookfool to add a little "bizarre" to your day.

Me: First of all, I must know why you chose to read Eleanor Rigby. It's relevant.

Myself: Great question. Relevant to what?

Me: I was kidding, actually. I'm not sure anything you do is really relevant. But, for some reason "relevance" reminds me of acid rain and the freedom of children to play till dusk without checking in with the parentals, since the seventies and how things have changed since then seemed to be an underlying theme in this book.

You might ask, what was a twelve-year-old girl doing alone in a semi-remote place near a big city? Simple answer: it was the seventies. Past a certain age, children just did their thing, with little concern shown by their parents for what, where, when or with whom. Chase and Hunter probably have chips embedded in their tailbones linked up to a Microsoft death-satellite that informs William and Nancy where they are at all times. But back then?

"Mom, is it okay if I hitchhike to the biker bar?"

"Sure, dear."

I loved those seventies remarks. Very witty. You asked me why I read Eleanor Rigby and I'm going to tell you, right now, before my Mountain Dew loses its fizz. I really enjoyed Douglas Coupland's Girlfriend in a Coma in 2006 (this link leads to my review) and immediately added everything Coupland's ever written to my wish list. After nearly two years, I still hadn't managed to acquire a copy of Eleanor Rigby the cheap way (Paperback Swap), so I sucked it up and bought one. Actually, I was in Oklahoma and saw a copy on a table. Ding-ding went the little bells. Canadian!! Creak went the gears. Book you've wanted for two years!!! I knocked over three old ladies in my hurry to check out. Kidding. But, I was excited.

Me: Wow, you sure can prattle on.

Myself: Sorry, it's a chemical problem, as in: "Chatty runs in your blood." Here's another great quote:
I felt like a prisoner of conscience. My pillow was the size of a Chiclet, the mattress as thick as a saltine cracker. I curled myself into a ball and cried quietly, doing that thing that only young people can do, namely, feeling sorry for myself. Once you're past thirty, you lose that ability; instead of feeling sorry for yourself, you turn bitter.

Me: What's the deal with the floating mattress?

Myself: I'm not sure why the mattress on the cover is floating (unless it has to do with the farmers -- just read the book), but that particular item is significant. Wait, would you ask me what the book is about, first?

Me: Sure. What's the book about?

Myself: Loneliness, of course. You know the Beatles song, "Eleanor Rigby", right?

Me: Right. "All the lonely people." Death, misery, people going to hell.

Myself: It's not quite that dreary, though. The story is about a woman named Liz Dunn. Liz is overweight, plain, and leads a dull life working a dull job and then going home to her lonely, sterile condo. She's friendless and loveless, although her family (brother, sister, parent) adds some color to the story. Then, one day she gets a call from the hospital. A young man is unconscious in the ER and her name and number are on his emergency bracelet. Since Liz has no friends, she thinks a mistake has been made. But, then she realizes who that young man is . . . and her life changes.
Me: Are you being deliberately vague?

Myself: A little. Wouldn't want to give anything away. Let's just say the young fellow lights up her life for a time. He changes everything; she's no longer lonely. He eventually ends up selling mattresses, hence the cover image. But, then Liz becomes lonely, again. However, all roads lead to Rome . . . or, at least Vienna. She ends up in Vienna, toward the end of the book, and there's an exciting bizarre scene involving a deadly meteorite and airport security and there is a connection to Rome, actually. Then, believe it or not, the trip overseas leads to an almost happily-ever-after ending. It's all rather convoluted but in a good way.

Me: Would you call the book "quirky" or "off-beat"?

Myself: I would, if it didn't sound like I removed those two words from a can.

Me: If you could meet Douglas Coupland, what would you want to do? Hear him read from one of his books? Go hiking or canoeing or drink coffee together? Pummel him with questions? Think Canadian.

Myself: I'm not into readings, although I really, really enjoyed hearing Douglas Adams read from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. So, let me think . . . I'd want to meet him on his home turf, naturally, because he lives in Vancouver and Vancouver is way at the top of my wish list of Canadian places to see. I'd let him choose what to do, but I'd have to ask him to wear his favorite toque (or carry it) because I require an excuse to say "toque" repeatedly. I'd be glad to go canoeing or hiking, browse bookstores, drink coffee, eat Canadian bacon, look at art or play Scrabble with him. Whatever. I'm not so big at pummeling with questions; I tend to be the follower in a conversation, simply because I love listening to people rattle on. I think it would be fun to hang out with him for a day. He'd probably express disinterest. "Who? She wants to do what with me?"

Does Douglas Coupland hike or play Scrabble? I just don't know. What about Battleship? Now, there's a great game.

Me: Does the book take place in Canada? Or is it just a "Canadian" book because the author is Canadian?

Myself: Liz lives in Vancouver. So, yes, it takes place in Canada, as well as Rome and Vienna.

Me: What is your most prized Canadian possession?

Myself: I have a loonie and a $5 Canadian Tire bill (which was generously donated to me by my eldest son).

Me: That's two items.

Myself: I never can stick to one.

Me: How many books have you read for The Second Canadian Book Challenge, Eh?

Myself: Eleanor Rigby is my third. The first two were Anne of Green Gables and The Best of Robert Service.

Me: What do you think of Canadian writing, so far?

Myself: It's awesome, eh?

Me: That was uncalled for.

Myself: Sorry. You didn't ask, but I will definitely read more books by Douglas Coupland.

Me: Good to know. And, I wish you a deliriously adventurous trip across Canada and a toque of your own. Do you recommend the book?

Myself: Awww, you're just saying that because you're Me. Yes, I recommend it. Coupland has an interesting way of injecting spirituality and meaning into his books -- at least, the two I've read have been pretty heavy on life, death and where we might go when it's all over. I like that.

"It can be so beautiful, you know -- earth, I mean"

"Look, Jeremy --I, uh-- I'm not like you. I have a hard time understanding beauty." I thought maybe Jeremy was lonely like me. Perhaps loneliness was genetic. Maybe, but he tried to make his loneliness shimmer, while my own loneliness flickered like a failing fluorescent tube.

Me: What do you think of the Canadians, in general?

Myself: Excellent neighbors, very tidy and friendly, love the accent. Not the slightest bit inferior to the United States; in fact, I'd say Canada is better because it's cooler, in general, and people are less prone to shoot each other. But, the Canadian border official who didn't want to let us leave Canada with our adorable little dimpled kiddo (then about 4 years old), merely because we'd forgotten his birth certificate? Too uptight.
Other reviews I located by cheating (aka "googling"):

Favorite photo from Saturday's swim meet (I call it "Swimmer Foot Sandwich"):

Currently reading:

Walking Through Walls by Philip Smith
Far World: Water Keep by J. Scott Savage -- Kiddo read this one, over the weekend, and enjoyed it.

Sunday Short Story:

I read "At the Bay" from The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield. I absolutely loved it and feel clueless as to how one would describe the story. I'm not sure it had a plot, but it didn't matter. I loved the characters and used a lot of Post-its. Perhaps I'll just post some excerpts, later this week.

Best Advice My Mother Ever Gave Me:

Use plenty of sunscreen. You won't believe how fast those wrinkles appear.

Weekly Geeks Quote of the Day:

Let Yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. --Rumi


  1. I think what you do is relevant.

    p.s. Your interview with yourself cracked me up.

  2. What a scathingly brilliant post! It must be fun in your mind. I don't have your gift for cleverness and humor, but I have the gift to appreciate it in others. Thanks so much for sharing with us and brightening our days.

    Loved the review with yourself. The quotes from the book and your raves have convinced me to add Coupland to my list.

  3. Nikki,

    Thanks, you're too kind. After the pool run, I came home and changed that whole post because I thought it was too dorky (except, it's still about the same book, of course!).

  4. Booklogged,

    Thank you. I feel so much better, now. Me and Myself were having a fight about just how stupid this post was and I won. I wasn't even involved! But, I changed the post and now none of us know what to think, but we're all relieved to see you and Nikki enjoyed it. :)

    It's possibly dangerous to have a brain like mine. Hope you love Coupland, when you get around to reading him!

  5. First of all, I loooove the review format you used!

    I'm glad you enjoyed this book. It has to be the best book about loneliness I have ever read. Like you, I loved the ending. I love the fact that he ended it on a hopeful note despite everything.

    Girlfriend in a Comma is one of the ones I haven't read yet, but I managed to mooch a copy just the other day. So very soon I will!

  6. Hey! My comment just vanished before it was finished! Crud. If you get two, please use this one, 'k?

    So, to recap -

    I love the quote for the Geeks and the photo is amazing. You get the most amazing shots and I love your perspective...

    As for the quote about the 70's...

    this 70's child didn't have a prayer of doing things without my parents knowing where I was going, with whom, and when I was coming back.


  7. This sounds interesting and not something I would normally read. I checked and the library has it so next time I think I will check it out and see. I love the format too. :)

  8. Did you change the post? *bangs fist* I missed it? This one was pretty good anyway.

    Here's my link for Eleanor Rigby, which I really, really liked. But Coupland doens't disappoint me at all. Reliably Canadian maybe. I'm glad you liked it and all your Canadian reads so far.

    A toonie and Canadian tire money are your most valuable Canadian possessions? I must introduce you to the bottom of my purse.

  9. Nymeth,

    Thank you! And, I so agree. One of the things I absolutely adored about Eleanor Rigby is that he doesn't tiptoe around the subject at all. Even the title makes it plain: it's a book about loneliness. But, he also ends on that nice, upbeat note.

    Oh, good, I'm glad you mooched Girlfriend in a Coma! I'll want to hear your thoughts on that. I don't think I've seen a single review of it!!


    Well, yeah. My parents were over-protective, also, to a point. If they knew where I was going I was usually fine staying there till the sun started to go down (I didn't cause too much trouble; I stayed where I belonged). Woe betide the kid who failed to make it home before dark, though. And, I remember one very noisy chewing-out when I didn't manage to get my parents' attention and they had no idea where I'd gone (Susan and Sally's house -- seriously).

    Oh, BTW, I only got one comment. I guess blogger ate the other.

    Isn't that a great quote? I love it! The photo was such a funny moment. That swimmer in the middle is from my son's team and he's so good-looking (very tall, with curly hair, no less) that the girls are behaving like complete idiots, fawning all over him. They sit in his lap, pet his hair . . . it's wild. The coach keeps walking up to the girls sitting on his lap and snapping them with a towel.

  10. Brittanie,

    Yeah, it wouldn't be your normal reading fare. LOL Douglas Coupland's style is a little off-the-wall, but the two books I've read have had a really fascinating spiritual bent that I think you'd like. Girlfriend in a Coma is that way, also -- truly a bizarre book, and yet oddly spiritual.


    Yes, I changed it. The first post was huge and insanely goofy. Should I change it back? Sometimes I post things and then I think, "Stop, idiot! Undo the damage before they send the men in white coats!"

    I love your review of Eleanor Rigby! Thanks for the link!! I was still waiting for a copy, at the time. See, then, 7 more months passed and I just couldn't take it any longer.

    A loonie and a Canadian Tire dollar, yes. I do have a toonie, too. I'd forgotten about that. The funny thing is that the loonie is just $1 and it's gorgeous but the toonie is worth twice as much and it looks like something you'd get out of a gumball machine. Life is funny that way.

  11. Anonymous6:36 PM

    I liked the interview too. Fun. The book doesn't sound quite my cup of tea but what's that got to do with anything?

    The Rumi quote is nice too. I'd never heard of him bofore I think So Many Books posted a poem the other day.

    This 70's kid didn't go anywhere without my parents knowing who with, where, how long, phone numbers and interested parties and that was pretty much the status quo of all my friends.

  12. That was funny! I hope you only have one personality in there though. I haven't seen a $5 Canadian Tire bill in a looong time. I hope you framed it ;)

  13. Your review was awesome, if I hadn't already read this book, I would definitely grab it after reading your self-interview :)

    Canadian Tire money? Really? That's so weird lol. How would you feel if I told you a grocery store here in Canada used to have the same gimmick - it was called Superstore Dollars - I'm not even joking! Needless to say it flopped :)

  14. Carrie,

    Really? For some reason I thought you'd like this one. I have no idea why.

    I missed that poem; thanks for mentioning it. I have a book by Rumi. Get this: I even know which shelf it's on!!! Whoa!

    I'm sorry you missed your childhood. You should get out, more. Hez won't chew you out too badly. Well, maybe.


    Thanks! I believe there's only one of me, but I have a lot of fun pretending when I'm really sick of writing reviews and need to liven things up. :)

    Oh, dear, really? My Canadian Tire dollar is kind of scrunched up, somewhere. I planned to laminate it and turn it into a bookmark, but I can't keep track of anything. My life is chaos.

    Book Zombie,

    Wow, thank you! I'm sure Douglas and I could not have heard a nicer set of words. Too bad he doesn't have the foggiest idea how nicely I've plugged his books. We'd get along famously if he did, I'm certain. Maybe he'd even play Battleship with me.

    Superstore Dollars? That's not anywhere near as interesting as the sound of Canadian Tire Money. I can see why it flopped.

  15. I've got a bunch of looneys and tooneys saved up as well--can't seem to get read of the darned coins. I do have a few $1 bills from when I lived there, though (yes, they are 18 years old) so that's pretty cool. I love Canadian money--so much more imagination than USD (um, except the coins--could do without them!).

    I love the self-interview format, by the way.

    I'm getting to be pretty paranoid about my skin and can't slap enough of that tanning lotion on when I'm in the sun. I love to be tan, but with fair skin I usually go the red route first. Not fair as my sisters both have beautiful olive skin. Oh well.

  16. Trish,

    I only kept one or two loonies and just got the toonie from my mother's house, but the funny thing is that we used to refer to all our Canadian coins (you know those pennies and dimes that sneak into our cash drawers) "That worthless Canadian money," because the Canadian dollar was so weak. But, now it's not. We're the ones doing poorly. It's a great time for the Canadians to come visit. LOL

    Thank you!

    I took my mother's advice; I'm just like you. I don't tan, I burn (unless I'm out every day at 6am -- amazing how tan you can get by running that early in the morning). My sister has olive skin, too! So unfair! The sunscreen did help, btw. I started using lotion with sunscreen under my makeup at about the age of 17 or 18 and I'm not very wrinkled on the face. My hands show my age. Too bad about that. Blew it. Sunscreen your hands!

  17. LOL! So funny, thanks for that! :P
    You know I've still never read anything by Coupland. I must rectify that one of these days/years....

  18. Oh my goodness, this was the most fun I've had in a good long time! And you sold me on the book to boot!

  19. Nat,

    You're welcome! So far, no men in white coats. Whew. You really should read Coupland. And, next time you're in Vancouver you should hunt him down, tackle him, and force him to pose (playing battleship with a toque on his head would be good). :)


    Well, great, then I've done my job on both fronts. If only someone would figure out I'm selling books and send me a commission. :)

  20. Anonymous9:21 AM

    LOVE THIS! I "can always rely on Bookfool to add a little "bizarre" to your day." yes- thank you! You are a delight.

    Yes, I'm from Kansas - just returned from Wichita where the 'rents live...

    oh - love the Rumi quote, too.

  21. Love your review! lol! Nothing like a good chuckle while I'm supposed to be working.

  22. Care,

    Well, thank you, babe.

    Wichita!!! You were just a hop and a skip from my hometown in OK. I'm from Ponca City and we used to drive to Wichita to shop for basics like shoes. Of course, then, I ended up in the same situation -- small town, have to drive to the big city to find certain necessities.

    The more I read it, the more I love my own quote choice. LOL


    Oh, whoopsie. You can just tell the boss you had to explain how to plug in a computer to one of your clients. That ought to do the trick. It's always so funny when that happens. ;)

  23. Yayyy! Self interview--pure brilliance! And amen to sunscreen. I hate it, but I love my skin and want it to stay around for a very long time.

  24. You crack me up!! What a fabulous post. :)

    And, I'm glad you said all nice things about Canadians. :)

  25. Andiloo,

    Thank you, dear. You always say the nicest things.

    Me, too. I adore my sunscreen and can't understand why some people (my spouse -- who is beginning to look like a bulldog) refuse to use it at all. I'm not in any hurry to age outwardly. Inward is bad enough. LOL


    Why, thank you. I'm quite fond of all the Canadians I know. Every single one of them. Plus, how can you not adore the people who invented the word "toque"?

  26. How could one NOT come over and read that from your September wrap up? GREAT review, I musta missed it the first time through on Reader.

  27. Lisa,

    You must have been really busy, that day, because I accidentally posted this one three times! LOL Glad you like it. It was certainly fun to write, even if it does make me sound unhinged.


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