Thursday, July 14, 2005


10-pages-in book review: Eleanor Rigby

I've just started reading Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland, so here's my 10-pages-in book review, at about 30 give-or-take pages in.

I should admit a bias up front. I have a sentimental thing for Douglas Coupland, and he could write the instruction manual for my sewing machine and I'd read it three times. And because I have such a fondness for him, I tolerate, in the way we tolerate the idiosyncracies of the ones we love, a certain amount of quirkiness that I might not take from an off-the-shelf new author.

The thing about Coupland is that he writes to a me I sometimes wish I were. He writes to a me that is a little more hip, a little more jaded, a little more cynical. His work appeals to the slacker in me that rolls her eyes at the bright-eyed enthusiast who is usually in control. And yet, the same thing that draws me to his work is what makes me impatient with it. Sometimes it is too laissez-faire, too negative, too bleak.

This book seems a little bit less hipster than some of his other work, but his voice is so incredibly distinctive that I'm sure I could pick his style out anywhere. Ironically, voice is my only complaint with this book. The main character Liz Dunn is, demographically at least, quite a bit like me. She's a mid-30ish Canadian working girl. She also happens to be friendless, incredibly lonely, and by her own description, quite fat, three things which I am gratefully not. But her voice lacks the insecurity that a lonely, overweight woman of my age would have. In fact, she doesn't ring true to me at all. Then again, that divergence from what we might expect from stereotypes seems to help keep me interested in what happens to Liz.

It's been a while since I've read it, but isn't She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb also about a lonely fat woman? I hated that book. Found it depressing and pointless. Eleanor Rigby, at least, has some potential. Although I am having a hard time connecting with the protagonist, I at least am curious about her and wonder what her story is. It's enough to keep me hooked.

I need some new suggestions. What have you read lately that you loved? I've requested The Kite Runner and Will Ferguson's Happiness and Yann Martel's Self from the library, but am queued at 302 for the former and 12 for the latter, so I need some instant gratification with vacation time coming up. Any recommendations?