Monday, November 11, 2013

Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland

Worst. Person. Ever. is Douglas Coupland's demented and satirical new novel. The man of the title is Raymond Gunt, a British cameraman hired to film an American Survivor-style reality TV show in the Pacific island nation of Kiribati. He's a boorish horndog adept at offending and alienating everyone around him. Worst. Person. Ever. is as outrageous as it is hilarious.

Imagine every obnoxious person you've ever met, all rolled into one, and you've got the greatest anti-hero ever. I even found myself agreeing with Raymond sometimes, like when he describes processed foods as "overpackaged chemical goatfuckings manufactured in the same factories that make dildos and pesticides." (Not the particular phrasing I would have chosen, but I'm sympathetic to the sentiment.)

The novel rockets along from one misadventure to another. It's entirely in dialogue, counting Raymond's first-person narration.
"I like to think of myself as a giving, caring person who really does think about the modern world -- someone who tries to improve the planet, even though it seems pretty much doomed. As a consequence, maybe I'm not fully qualified to pass judgment on the diet of most Americans. But as I stood there staring at the shit-coated guano logs and repulsive cans of room-temperature weasel piss in the airport vending machines, I was appalled. 'Come on, America, you're living creatures, not science experiments.'
'Ray, I don't think there's anything in there we could actually put in our bodies.'
Still we scanned the grids of toxins wrapped in bright paper and the cans of sugary blight.
'Look!' Neal was pointing, with a heartbreaking note of hope in his voice. 'Look at that bar there -- it's got peanuts in it. That's food.'
'Probably tastes like a pocket calculator garnished with dried herpes juice flakes.'"
I don't think other readers will have wishy-washy reactions -- you'll either love it or hate it. I loved it.
Sporks and knoons are among the newfangled
cutlery featured in Worst. Person. Ever.
(Image from the flyleaf,
Random House Canada edition.)

Readalike (minus the profanity): Beauty Queens (Libba Bray).

See also other books by Coupland that I've reviewed: Generation A; Highly Inappropriate Tales for Young People; and Eleanor Rigby.

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