Literature Coupland, Douglas Hey Nostradamus!

ISBN 13: 9780007162505

Hey Nostradamus!

3.72 avg rating
( 15,544 ratings by GoodReads )
 
9780007162505: Hey Nostradamus!

The story of one family piecing itself back together after a tragic highschool shooting, Hey Nostradamus! is Douglas Coupland’s most soulful, piercing and searching novel yet.

GOD IS NOWHERE GOD IS NOW HERE GOD IS NOWHERE GOD IS NOW HERE

Pregnant and secretly married, Cheryl Anway scribbles her last will and testament – and eerie premonition – on a school binder shortly before a rampaging trio of misfit classmates gun her down in a high school cafeteria. Overrun with paranoia, teenage angst and religious zeal in the ensuing massacre's wake, this sleepy Vancouver neighbourhood declares its saints, brands its demons and finally moves on.

But for a handful of people still reeling from that horrific day, life remains perpetually derailed. Four dramatically different characters tell their stories in their own words: Cheryl, who calmly narrates her own death; Jason, the boy no one knew was her husband, still marooned ten years later by his loss; Heather, the woman trying to love the shattered Jason; and Jason's father Reg, a cruelly religious man no one suspects is still worth loving. Each wrestles with God, self-defeat and a crippling inability to hold on to those they love.

Coupland's most surprising and soulful novel yet, rich with his trademark cultural acuity and dark humour, Hey Nostradamus! ties themes of alienation, violence and misguided faith into a fateful and unforgettable knot from which four people must untangle their lives.

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Review:

Readers of Douglas Coupland's more recent fictions have become accustomed to encountering characters touched by tragedy, whether it be falling into comas, surviving plane crashes or becoming infected with the AIDS virus after bizarre shooting incidents. Hey Nostradamus! is no exception: a novel in four voices. The opening narrator, Cheryl Anway, is the 17-year-old victim of a Columbine-style high-school massacre. Just before she was murdered in 1988, Cheryl had secretly married her high-school sweetheart Jason Klaasen and was expecting their child. The couple were part of a zealously evangelical Christian group, Youth Alive! whose members, immediately after the slaying, falsely accused Jason of masterminding the incident.

Eleven years later, Jason is still coming to terms with Cheryl's death. He is, as he admits to his faithful dog Joyce, a "social blank with a liver like the Hindenburg… embarrassed by how damaged he is and by how mediocre he turned out". (He fits bathrooms for a living.) Jason is also scarred by his relationship with his father Reg, a religious pedant so unyielding that he drove his wife into alcoholism and who genuinely believes that one of his identical twin grandsons cannot possess a soul.

Coupland persistently dissects notions of morality, faith, belief, forgiveness and devotion here. Even Reg, who leads the very final section of the story, is a multifaceted figure whose religiosity is handled with a surprising degree of compassion. Loss, however, is the main theme, exemplified by the fact that its two main characters are absent presences. Cheryl is dead throughout and by the time Heather, Jason's new partner, takes up the narrative, Klaasen has himself disappeared. His vanishing act forces her to engage Allison, the book's dubious Nostradamus; she is a fake psychic intent on ripping Heather off, yet mysteriously in possession of cannily specific "messages" from Jason.

The book's structure, epistolatory in parts, can make the story appear unfocused; some sections certainly err toward the frenetic, incident-wise, but Coupland's tremendous wit, humanity and moral force carry it along. As ever, splutters of dates and pop trivia mingle with profound reflections on life and death; surely, only Coupland nowadays could mark the time of day with a reference to McDonalds breakfasts and pull it off. That said, there's a very slight harking back to Life After God--the cartoon characters that Heather and Jason invent do seem rather similar to Doggles, the Dog who wore Goggles, and Squirrelly the Squirrel. Nonetheless, where those stories were about the "first generation raised without religion" this moving, prescient novel takes a long hard look at those who choose God, or have God thrust upon them. --Travis Elborough

Review:

'Coupland's last four novels are so good and so distinctive that they seem to me to mark a genuine seismic shift in the literary landscape.' Nicholas Blincoe, New Statesman

'Douglas Coupland is one of the freshest, most exciting voices of the novel… He has a wonderful talent’ tom wolfe

'Coupland has passion and pace, intelligence and wit. If you find anything about the way we live now disturbing and wrong, he is your man. (He is my man.)' Daily Telegraph

'Coupland at his best can make a single phrase say more than many another writer's whole novel.' jenny turner, London Review of Books

The Times – 27 August 2003
"Douglas Coupland's novels have steadily moved away from a culturally specific grapple with the Zeitgeist towards an uncomfortably numinous grasp after wider meanings."

Daily Mirror – 29 August 2003
"Four perspectives, one brilliant author.”

Scotland on Sunday – 31 August 2003
"Hey Nostradamus! is Coupland's darkest novel to date. The trademark pop-cultural references are still there, but they emerge in a bleak way, such as when the boyfriend of a girl killed in the massacre despairs: "I can barely get the automotic doors at the Save-On-Foods to acknowledge my existence." And most of the characters are searching for spiritual truth."

Literary Review – September 2003
"Hey Nostradamus! is a novel of unexpected turns, most of them compelling.”

Esquire – September 2003
"The Generation X writer's obsessional interest in the randomness of death reaches a climax in this bleak yet funny novel inspired by the Columbine shootings."

Financial Times – 2 August 2003
"Each of [the characters] is brilliantly realised by Coupland, who has an uncanny ability to depict the kind of bizarre, frequently random behaviour humans are apt to display under the most extreme circumstances… Hey Nostradamus! is a cathartic read, because Coupland is clearly not a writer prone to sitting alone in his ivory tower. His world is a fully interactive one that allows him as easily to slip into the skin of a pretty young girl as that of a stubborn old man."

Maxim – September 2003
"Although it's undoubtedly suffused with great sadness, Hey Nostradamus! also crackles with wit, mystery and profound humanity. A moving and quite remarkable novel."

The Scotsman – 23 Auigust 2003
"It is as readable and engaging as Coupland at his best… It is a book about how ugliness and beauty coexist, about the precious uniqueness of each human being and our ability (if we can do it well) to relate to one another with surprising results."

Scottish Sunday Herald – 17 August 2003
"Finally, the message of this novel seems to be that there is always hope, even in the teeth of life's randomness. It's a leap sideways from the acid irony which has shaded some of Coupland's earlier novels. Instead, from the pen of one of the coolest authors on the planet has come a work of suffusing humanity."

Metro – 1 September 2003
"Coupland's latest novel uses the disaster of a high school massacre as the catalyst for confronting the questions that have haunted his work… namely, whether God exists or not, and how to fill the space left in the wake of meaningless events."

The Sunday Business Post – 17 August 2003
"A writer of genuine and sustained excellence… Coupland is a marvellous writer who has the gift of returning to old ideas – trust, naivety, the brittle cynicism that can only ever come from a disappointed romantic – while still bringing something new to the mix."

Independent on Sunday – 24 August 2003
"Douglas Coupland has surely reserved his place at the top table of North American fiction."
[n.b. – worth noting that the rest of this review is rather negative…]

Evening Herald (Dublin) – 21 August 2003
"Coupland has created a rich novel about faith and alienation."

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