2.20.2014

WORST. PERSON. EVER. - Douglas Coupland


A razor-sharp portrait of a morally bankrupt and gleefully wicked modern man, Worst. Person. Ever. is Douglas Coupland's gloriously filthy, side-splittingly funny and unforgettable new novel. Meet Raymond Gunt. A decent chap who tries to do the right thing. Or, to put it another way, the worst person ever: a foul-mouthed, misanthropic cameraman, trailing creditors, ex-wives and unhappy homeless people in his wake. Men dislike him, women flee from him. Worst. Person. Ever. is a deeply unworthy book about a dreadful human being with absolutely no redeeming social value. Gunt, in the words of the author, "is a living, walking, talking, hot steaming pile of pure id." He's a B-unit cameraman who enters an amusing downward failure spiral that takes him from London to Los Angeles and then on to an obscure island in the Pacific where a major American TV network is shooting a Survivor-style reality show. Along the way, Gunt suffers multiple comas and unjust imprisonment, is forced to re-enact the 'Angry Dance' from the movie Billy Elliot and finds himself at the centre of a nuclear war. We also meet Raymond's upwardly failing sidekick, Neal, as well as Raymond's ex-wife, Fiona, herself 'an atomic bomb of pain'.Even though he really puts the 'anti' in anti-hero, you may find Raymond Gunt an oddly likeable character. - Goodreads description

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You will probably hate this book. Or you'll hate yourself for liking this book. It takes a particularly dark, twisted, politically (and morally) bankrupt sense of humour to enjoy a book about a character this loathsome and vile. Raymond Gunt, the protagonist of Coupland's latest work, starts out the book by saying that he's a pretty decent fellow. He tries to be nice to people, he doesn't dropkick puppies out the window or shove old ladies out of the way to get onto the bus. He thinks that, all things considered, he's in line for some pretty decent karmic payout.

He then proceeds to ridicule a fat man into having a heart attack, wish death upon a clingy girlfriend, steal the lunches from a plane full of TV contestants who are about to crash, verbally and physically attack a homeless man and completely objectify every woman he comes into contact with. Thus proving that he does not, in fact, deserve any type of karma - except the bad kind. 



Before I read this book, I read a lot of reviews about it. Most notably the Guardian Books review written by Lucy Ellmann. Her main complaints were that Coupland is "not a terribly careful writer," and that the book is "determined to gross you out, offering a barrage of sexism, homophobia, shit, vomit, sputum, and all the other stuff of adolescent humour." She goes on to tear Coupland a new one for the treatment of female characters at the hands of Gunt, for Gunt's profanity, lack of sensitivity, and being an all-around asshole. 

I get the sense that she, along with many readers, couldn't get past the character to see the humour with which his utter and complete horrendousness was written. Yeah, the guy's a dick. But THE BOOK IS CALLED WORST. PERSON. EVER. What did you expect? Someone who donates all his money to charity, goes to visit his mum on Sundays and sacrifices himself to save a stray kitten? Come on. The character was intended to be unpalatable. 

But for me, that's what made him funny. Had he just been a kinda sorta jerk some of the time, then I would have had a problem dealing with him. But the fact that he's a complete douche canoe all the time just makes it into a bit of a farce. Raymond Gunt is despicably hilarious. He embodies the thoughts we quickly banish from our minds and the actions we'd never allow ourselves to take for fear of embarrassing ourselves and/or ending up in prison. And honestly? He wasn't as bad as I expected based on the reviews. I actually felt sorry for him a lot of the time.


By taking him to the extreme, Coupland creates a study in absurdism - and another book that felt like an experiment. This book played with extreme characterization in a similar way to how All Families Are Psychotic played with extremes of plot. I loved that book because it was so incredibly unlikely. It wasn't very popular, and yet it remains one of my favourites. I admire Coupland's willingness to take risks in his work that will, more than likely, be taken offensively by many who read it. So if you're able to hang up your knee-jerk reactions to some pretty appalling behaviour and speech for awhile and promise not to take anything you read too seriously, give Worst. Person. Ever. a whirl. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Book Title: Worst. Person. Ever.
Author: Douglas Coupland
Edition: Hardcover
Published By: Random House Canada
Released: October 8, 2013
Genre: Fiction, Humour
Pages: 336
Date Read: January 29-February 2, 2014
Rating: 7.5/10

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