The Gum Thief: A Novel, by Douglas Coupland.
i love douglas coupland’s work. i think i’ve read every one of his books (which is quite a long list at this point). this wasn’t my favorite of his books, but i still completely enjoyed reading it.
the story unfolds through a series of first-person chapters written by the various characters in the story. primarily, this is a middle-aged semi-depressed guy who’s working at staples and stuck in a miserable life of bad choices and waiting for something to happen. his young-20s goth-girl co-worker finds a journal entry he’s written from her perspective, and is both intrigued and freaked by how accurately he’s captured her; and she begins to write back. they develop a friendship of sorts through exchanged letters (while never acknowledging each other’s existence in real life). she becomes a muse to him as he writes an extremely odd and quirky story about some drunk intellectuals (the chapters of this work-in-progress are also included).
ultimately, it’s a story of a few people who are stuck, getting unstuck. it’s about redemption, and about choosing how to respond to life.
here’s a sample of one little passage i really enjoyed, written by the main male character:
it’s amazing how you can be a total shithead, and yet your soul still wants to hang out with you. souls ought to have the legal right to bail once you cross certain behavior thresholds: i draw the line at cheating at golf; i draw the line at theft over $100,000; i draw the line at bestiality. imagine all the souls of the world, out on the sides of highways, all of them hitchhiking to try to find new places to live, all of them holding signs designed to lure you into selecting them as a passenger:
…i tell jokes.
…i know shiatsu.
…i know katharine hepburn.
i don’t deserve a soul, yet i still have one. i know because it hurts.