Douglas Coupland

Book Pile

Girlfriend in a Coma (1998)

“Girlfriend in a Coma” is a book written by Douglas Coupland that was published in 1998. It tells the story of a group of friends who are growing up in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, during the 1970s. When a man’s girlfriend goes into a coma just after they spend intimate moments together, the man then finds out that she has given birth to their child even though she was in a coma. The Smiths’ 1987 song “Girlfriend in a Coma” was the main source of inspiration for the title of the book.

Richard’s high school sweetheart, Karen Ann McNeil, slips into a coma on a frigid Friday night in 1979, only hours after they had their first sex, with their daughter, Megan, born nine months later. While waiting for Karen to recover, Richard and his buddies then spend the next 17 years working in a variety of professions until ultimately reuniting on a conspiracy-driven supernatural television show.

The Gum Thief (2007)

This book by Douglas Coupland is kind of like a mix of Clerks and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Written as a series of letters, diary entries, and notes, The Gum Thief is an epistolary book. The plot revolves around Roger and Bethany, two “aisle colleagues,” who start an unusual letter-writing relationship while working at Staples.

Through an intricate layering of anecdotes, “The Gum Thief” demonstrates how the luxuries of contemporary life may be both hilarious, lonely, and odd. Bethany stumbles upon Roger’s notebook one day in the staff room, and upon reading it, she realizes that this old guy, whom she had never considered to be a genuine person, has been forging her signature on bogus diary entries, thereby appearing it was she who writes the journal.

Shampoo Planet (1992)

This novel is a continuation of the author’s earlier work. The ideas presented in Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture are carried over into Douglas Coupland’s second novel, Shampoo Planet. Tyler Johnson, who was raised on a hippie commune, is a member of Ronald Reagan’s generation with ambitious goals. Even though he is just twenty years old, he has already achieved stardom on MTV.

The book takes readers on a six-month trip with Tyler as he strives to find his place in the world while also fleeing his communal hippie family’s idiosyncrasies. It’s a trip filled with music videos, hazardous garbage, fried laptops, and felled trees. The book chronicles Tyler’s life upon his return from Europe as well as the events that transpired as a result of his travels.

Microserfs (1995)

The book’s use of the word “microserfs” alludes to a gang of six code-crunching computer whizzes who spend up to sixteen hours a day coding while checking business e-mails to see if the great Bill Gates will “flame” one of them. The novel is set in the early 1990s, right before the dot-com boom, and consequently depicts the technology sector prior to Windows 95.

On an assignment for Wired magazine, Douglas Coupland watched workers at Microsoft in Redmond, Wash., and was inspired to write Microserfs. Originally published as a short story in Wired magazine’s January 1994 edition, the article was later extended into a full-length book.

In the first fifty pages of this book, there are more one-liners than there are in ten years’ worth of Woody Allen movies combined. The author gives readers an up-close and personal view, one that is often humorous, at a way of life that is on its way to becoming the standard in the brave new world.

JPod (2006)

JPod, Douglas Coupland’s other novel, has been hailed as the author’s return to the same thematic region explored in Microserf. This book explores the lives of a group of young programmers rather than Microsoft and depicts their path into the history of extreme contemporaneity. The plot moves quickly, and there are plenty of harsh, unlikeable characters.

Ethan Jarlewski and his team of video game designers, all of whose last names begin with the letter ‘J,’ are the focus of the novel, which takes place in 2005. While they are trapped in jPod—an architectural wasteland on the periphery of a huge video game creation firm in Vancouver, Canada—the story serves as a superstructure for a never-ending stream of inside jokes about geek culture.


Douglas Coupland was born on December 30, 1961, in Canada. He is a writer, visual artist, and graphic designer. Through the publishing of his book “Generation X,” he has positioned himself as a leader and spokesperson of that generation. Since then, he has continued to publish articles and create artworks in which he expresses his highly appreciated ideas on life, art, and technology.

He was born into a military family in Canada, and after initially majoring in physics in college, he switched his focus to art and went on to earn degrees from Emily Carr University of Art and Design in British Columbia, the Design Institute in Florence, Italy, and Hokkaido College of Art and Design in Japan.

Both “Generation X” and “McJob” can be attributed to this prolific author. Under his name, he has published over a dozen novels, multiple collections of short stories, and nonfiction works, as well as a slew of screenplays and stage plays for cinema and television.

Further Reading

Douglas Coupland interview: Meet the man whose writing defines modern popular culture by Katy Guest, The Independent

Douglas Coupland: the writer who sees into the future by Decca Aitkenhead, The Guardian

Douglas Coupland on Being a Visual Artist, the ‘Torture’ of Interviews, and Unintended Side Effects by Boris Kachka, Vulture

Materialising the Digital Era by Chloe Hodge, Aesthetica Magazine

Reasons to be Cheerful: Douglas Coupland and Vancouver by Dom Tetley, The Culture Trip

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