I've always been proud of the fact that I come from a family of readers. While out tastes vary - from romances to nonfiction to literature - we all spend a fair portion of our spare time flipping pages. When we get together - at the cottage, say - and all the card playing and talking is done, we all retire to our favourite spots for a bit of reading before bed. It's a comforting feeling being surrounded by people immersed in books.
While we all generally stick to our own interests, a book occasionally comes along that we just have to share with others. The book then gets passed from person to person until everyone has shared it's joys (or heartaches, as the case may be). The best example of this is Alistair Macleod's No Great Mischief, a book that criss-crossed the province from sibling to parent to sibling.
The latest book to make the rounds was Douglas Coupland's The Gum Thief. Don't worry. I'm not comparing Coupland to Macleod. Instead, I'm looking at the experience, that "you have to read this" excitement that took hold earlier this month when we all took our turns with this book.
The Gum Thief is a strange little tale that deals with the lives of some employees of an office supply superstore. The story is told through letters, journal entries and the rough draft of a questionably written novel. The conceits - the book within a book, the notes and multiple voices - work really well, combining to weave a thoroughly enjoyable tale. I had a lot of fun reading this book.
Like most of Coupland's best work, The Gum Thief is tight and fun and smart. Is it great capital L literature? I'm not sure. I think Coupland is a very good writer, but I don't think he ranks among the greats. Truth be told, that's beside the point. I've loved Coupland's books for years because they are both smart and entertaining. Every year or so, he comes out with a new book and, for the length of time it takes to read it, you are entertained by a skilled storyteller.
Sometimes, like on a cool night at the cottage, that's all I ask for.