Hey Nostradamus!

I read Douglas Coupland’s latest a few days ago, but haven’t had the opportunity to blog about it. It’s an enjoyable read and extends some of the concerns about celebrity and death that he raised in Miss Wyoming. Nostradamus has four distinct narrators. It begins with Cheryl’s serene desciption of a massacre at a Vancouver High School in the late 1980s, with Cheryl eventually narrating her own death, but rather than focusing specifically on the media spectacle such events attract, Coupland turns to the aftermath of such events in the three remaining sections of the book. Several of Cheryl’s friends from a school religious group–for example–take her doodling the words “God is Nowhere…God is Now Here…” on a notebook as a sign of her abiding faith. Other characters, including her boyfriend Jason, cannot reintegrate themselves into their (religious) community after the shootings. Coupland also avoids focusing on the motivations of the murderers–their crime remains unexplained–instead concerning himself with the characters who survive the tragedy and are forced to make sense of it.

The novel fascinated me in part because of its use of multiple narrators in order to expand on–and then–undermine our perceptions about the school shootings and the story’s central characters, especially Reg, Jason’s fundametalist father, whose faith is tested in complicated ways. Coupland provides each narrator with a distinctive voice and manages to address their attempts to work through the tragedy with humor and sensitivity.

I liked this novel a lot, and I fear that my description isn’t going to adequately represent my enjoyment of it. In an odd way, the novel reminded me of Spike Lee’s 25th Hour, which I reviewed a few weeks ago. Both texts deal with the difficulties communities face when trying to make sense of tragedy. In Lee’s film, the narratives of the American Dream, of the perfect multi-ethnic family, only temporarily ease Monty’s pain. Similarly, in Coupland’s book, the need to believe in a higher power is severly tested–in a variety of complicated ways–for each of the novel’s four narrators.

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