The Gum Thief

the gum thief

Remember how excited I was about reading Douglas Coupland’s The Gum Thief? Yeah, that dried up and blew away leaving a vague sense of disappointment behind.

What we have here is an epistolary (god I love using that word) novel featuring the correspondence between 40-something alcoholic Roger, 20something goth-girl Bethany (both of whom work at Staples) and Bethany’s mom who happens to be a former high school classmate of Roger’s.

Annoying coincidence aside, we get to read the letters that Bethany and Roger write to each other while on break from the mind-numbing job at Staples. Interspersed amongst the letters are scenes from the novel Roger is writing called Glove Pond (which features a character who is writing a book about a guy who works at Staples — so meta).

Though I did not enjoy the entire novel as much as I enjoy those first 40 pages, I didn’t hate it. Like I said, I’m oddly disappointed. The problem is that all the letters, though written by three different characters, all sound the same. None of the characters have a unique voice. The only way to know who is speaking in the letter is by the heading that clearly states who is writing now. Bleh. It’s just such a beginner mistake and Coupland is better than that.

Plus, once again, Coupland has a fatal flaw. During most of the novel we’re unclear of time. We don’t know when certain events of Roger’s life happened all we know is that he’s a mid-40-something dude who got divorced and now works at Staples. A few of the letters in the book are from Roger’s ex-wife Joan and Joan’s new husband Brian. This is all well and good, but at one point Brian announces that Joan’s pregnant.

Yeah. So either Joan is much younger then Roger and they were only married for 10 minutes or Coupland didn’t do the math. Or maybe after surviving spleen cancer, Joan has developed a super uterus. Who knows? All I know is that it caused me to sort of question the timing of everything.

Now that I’m doing bitching I do have to say that I did really love the Glove Pond sections of the book — the novel within the novel is awful and hilarious and moving all at the same time. Sadly, I was more intrigued by the lives of the characters in the fake novel then I was in the real novel I was reading.

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3 Comments

  1. christa 21.Oct.07 at 6:47 pm

    and … i’m still working on nostradamus. ugh.

    Reply
  2. Jodi 21.Oct.07 at 7:05 pm

    Life is too short to read books that you don’t enjoy. I say give it up and go read something else.

    Reply
  3. Wolfdogg 22.Oct.07 at 9:49 am

    Just finished. No thoughts on it right now, other than contemplating a breakfast of scotch and buttered toast.

    Reply

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