Hey Nostradamus!

Hey Nostradamus!

4.4 33
by Douglas Coupland

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Pregnant and secretly married, Cheryl Anway scribbles what becomes her last will and testament on a school binder shortly before a rampaging trio of misfit classmates gun her down in a high school cafeteria. Overrun with paranoia, teen angst, and religious zeal in the massacre's wake, this sleepy suburban neighborhood declares its saints, brands its demons, and moves…  See more details below


Pregnant and secretly married, Cheryl Anway scribbles what becomes her last will and testament on a school binder shortly before a rampaging trio of misfit classmates gun her down in a high school cafeteria. Overrun with paranoia, teen angst, and religious zeal in the massacre's wake, this sleepy suburban neighborhood declares its saints, brands its demons, and moves on. But for a handful of people still reeling from that horrific day, life remains permanently derailed. Four dramatically different characters tell their stories: Cheryl, who calmly narrates her own death; Jason, the boy no one knew was her husband, still marooned ten years later by his loss; Heather, the woman trying to love the shattered Jason; and Jason's father, Reg, whose rigid religiosity has separated him from nearly everyone he loves. Hey Nostradamus! is an unforgettable portrait of people wrestling with spirituality and with sorrow and its acceptance.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“He has the ability to take life in his hands, shake it like a snow globe and show us what absurd and luminous complexities are hidden within.” —Rocky Mountain News

“More than a decade after he coined the term Generation X, Coupland still understands youthful angst.” —Playboy

“This book feels like a genuine artifact of the tragedy that swirls at its center.” —Baltimore Sun

“Bring along a seatbelt, because Coupland delivers a fast, furious read.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A remarkable examination of violence and spirituality ... Heartbreaking and horrifyingly real.” —Village Voice

Publishers Weekly
Coupland has long been a genre unto himself, and his latest novel fits the familiar template: earnest sentiment tempered by sardonic humor and sharp cultural observation. The book begins with a Columbine-like shooting at a Vancouver high school, viewed from the dual perspectives of seniors Jason Klaasen and Cheryl Anway. Jason and Cheryl have been secretly married for six weeks, and on the morning of the shooting, Cheryl tells Jason she is pregnant. Their situation is complicated by their startlingly deep religious faith (as Cheryl puts it, "I can't help but wonder if the other girls thought I used God as an excuse to hook up with Jason"), and their increasingly acrimonious relationship with a hard-core Christian group called Youth Alive! After Cheryl is gunned down, Jason manages to stop the shooters, killing one of them. He is first hailed as a hero, but media spin soon casts him in a different light. This is a promising beginning, but the novel unravels when Jason reappears as an adult and begins an odd, stilted relationship with Heather, a quirky court reporter. Jason disappears shortly after their relationship begins, and Heather turns to a psychic named Allison to track him down in a subplot that meanders and flags. Coupland's insight into the claustrophobic world of devout faith is impressive-one of his more unexpected characters is Jason's father, a pious, crusty villain who gradually morphs into a sympathetic figure-but when he extends his spiritual explorations to encompass psychic swindles, the novel loses its focus. Coupland has always been better at comic set pieces than consistent storytelling, and his lack of narrative control is particularly evident here. Noninitiates are unlikely to be seduced, but true believers will relish another plunge into Coupland-world. Author tour. (July) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Coupland's eighth novel begins well enough with the charming, posthumous musings of adolescent Cheryl, briefly and secretly married to her steady, Jason, before she and her unborn child meet random death in a Columbine-style cafeteria massacre. Her widower picks up the narrative a decade later, opining on his lost faith and the death of his brother in a car crash, until he, too, is lost through one of several haphazard plot twists. His snappish girlfriend, Heather, picks up the story with her attempts to reach him in this world or the next before handing the mike to Jason's fundamentalist father, Reg, for the coda. The use of multiple first-person narrators ill befits the sketchily similar characters, who typically serve as mouthpieces for this author's trademark brand of cultural commentary-in this case rather trite meditations on loss, suffering, fate, God, and free will. Coupland's observations show little of the frenetic abandon and cleverness of his antic early works (Generation X, Shampoo Planet), making it hard to sense the point of all this or to enjoy the lack of one. Purchase as needed for diehard fans who haven't yet moved on to Haruki Murakami and Chuck Palahniuk.-David Wright, Seattle P.L. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A quartet of monologues about the aftermath of a high-school mass shooting. Set in suburban Canada between the late 1980s and now, each of Coupland's four sections here is narrated by a person in some way affected by a 1988 Columbine-like massacre. Setting the shooting that far in the past, years before something of its magnitude became a part of the mediascape, is an odd misstep for Coupland (All Families Are Psychotic, 2001, etc.), who normally has his antenna zoomed-in with radar precision on the Zeitgeist. Cheryl, the subject of section one, had just been secretly married to her boyfriend on the day she was killed in the massacre, and her memories leading up to that day are interspersed with the horrific details of the shooting itself. Then we're introduced to Jason, her husband, who heroically killed one of the shooters but ended up being vilified in the media and seeing his life turn to one of aimless dissolution. The book's last half is made up of a desultory slog through the life of the woman Jason later abandons, then of a brief, beside-the-point coda from Jason's ultrareligious father. There's some excellent material here, especially in the parts detailing the Christian youth group that Cheryl belonged to (an entire novel could have been written on the neurotic, cultlike ostracizing and later the near-deification of Cheryl). As an engine for moving a story along, the massacre at first seems a perfect choice but later feels only like an arbitrary and borderline exploitative excuse to link these stories together. It's not that Coupland can't conceptualize with more significance than is on display here; it's just that he seems not to want to. Cleanly written but lacking steam.Agent: Eric Simonoff/Janklow & Nesbit

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Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
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6.48(w) x 8.31(h) x 0.73(d)

Read an Excerpt

Internationally bestselling author Douglas Coupland’s eighth novel explores grief, faith and redemption in the wake of a high school shooting.
Several years after the 1988 Delbrook Senior Secondary School massacre, the television cameras have moved on to the next horror show; but for a handful of people in this sleepy corner of North Vancouver, life remains perpetually derailed.
Coupland writes this soul-searching tale in four voices -- Cheryl, who calmly narrates her own death; Jason, the boy no one knew was her husband, still marooned ten years later by his loss; Heather, the woman trying to love the shattered Jason; and Jason’s dad Reg, a cruelly religious man no one suspects is still worth loving.
With his inimitable style and his eye for the remarkable singularities of ordinary lives, Douglas Coupland masterfully weaves themes of alienation, violence and misguided faith throughout Hey Nostradamus!, creating a fateful and unforgettable knot from which three people must untangle their lives.
“I believe that what separates humanity from everything else in this world — spaghetti, binder paper, deep sea creatures, edelweiss and Mount McKinley — is that humanity alone has the capacity at any given moment to commit all possible sins. Even those of us who try to live a good and true life remain as far away from grace as the Hillside Strangler or any demon who ever tried to poison the village well. What happened that morning only confirms this.” -- Excerpt from Hey Nostradamus!

Author Biography: Douglas Coupland was born on a Canadian Armed Forces base in Baden-Söllingen, Germany, on December 30, 1961. He is the author of the novels Miss Wyoming, Generation X, Microserfs, and Girlfriend in a Coma, among others. His most recent books are the novel All Families Are Psychotic and a book of essays and photographs, Souvenir of Canada. He attended Vancouver’s Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, the Hokkaido College of Art and Design in Sapporo, Milan’s Istituto Europeo di Design, and the Japan/America Institute of Management Science in Honolulu and Tokyo. He lives and works in Vancouver as a novelist, designer and visual artist.

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Meet the Author

On Douglas Coupland’s website, there is a photograph from his art installation, Tropical Birds (2003). The installation includes a scene based on the reports of how the cafeteria appeared to rescuers and officials after the massacre at Columbine High School: backpacks strewn across tables and the floor, chairs knocked over, lunches unfinished. The accompanying audio track plays the sounds of birdsong. The piece was born out of rescuers’ comments that the sound of cellphones and pagers ringing in student backpacks – “like birds chirping” – combined with the gush of sprinklers to seem almost surreally tropical. Of course, the horror is that the phones and pagers announced desperate parents trying to reach their children.

The 1999 Columbine massacre was one impetus for Hey Nostradamus!, as it and other events, such as the École Polytechnique shootings and the attacks of 9/11, prompted Coupland to look at how we collectively deal with horror, grief and faith. Even the epigraph for the book, a passage from 1 Corinthians, is taken from a headstone of one of the Columbine victims. Though he did not have a religious upbringing, Coupland considers himself a very religious person, and over the years has found himself more and more interested in exploring questions of God and belief in his work.

Coupland approached writing Hey Nostradamus! like he does all of his novels: as he would an artwork – for him, the media are the same. As he commented in one interview, “What I do know is that there are certain feelings you can create within yourself and within someone engaging with what you’ve done that you can only get from looking at an art object, that you can’t get from words, and vice versa. And I don’t make that many distinctions in my head, I don’t see them as being very different from each other. I entered writing with words quite literally being arts supplies as objects, through Jenny Holzer and text art, and then the text art became long-form fiction, so in my head, I think of the new book, or the new novel, as being an art exhibition, and it’s different from the books that came before it.”

In fact, Coupland originally set out to be a designer and artist, in the conventional sense. He graduated from the sculpture program at Vancouver’s Emily Carr College of Art and Design in 1984, then attended the European Design Institute in Milan, Italy, and the Hokkaido College of Art and Design in Sapporo, Japan. In 1986, he completed a two-year course in Japanese business science along with fine art and industrial design. After taking on writing projects over the years, Coupland happened upon fame as a novelist when his first book, Generation X (1991), achieved unexpected and meteoric success. Since then he has published fourteen books of fiction and non-fiction, including the novels Microserfs (1995), Miss Wyoming (1999) and All Families Are Psychotic (2001), and the bestselling cultural explorations City of Glass (2000), Souvenir of Canada (2002) and Souvenir of Canada 2 (2004). In all, his work has been translated into 22 languages and published in 30 countries.

Douglas Coupland writes because it is something he simply loves to do. “What I found over the years is that since 1991 we’ve been through massive cultural, social, technological changes, and the only thing that protects me or you or anyone, the only thing that can protect you in all this is figuring out what it is that you like to do, and then sticking with it. Because once you start to do what people expect you to do, or what your parents think you should do, or whoever in your life thinks you should do, you’re sunk.” However, when one interviewer commented on his seemingly prolific writing career, Coupland disagreed. “I’m not the least bit prolific,” he responded. “I look at people with hard jobs and kids, and to me they’re the ones who are fantastically prolific.”

Though he was born on a Canadian Armed Forces base in Baden-Söllingen, Germany, in 1961, Douglas Coupland has made the Vancouver area his home since the age of four, and can hardly imagine living anywhere else. He currently lives in West Vancouver, in a Ron Thon-designed house, where he works as a writer, designer and visual artist. His art has recently appeared in San Francisco, Milan and Vancouver, and will be featured in upcoming shows in Toronto, London and Montreal. He has won two Canadian National Awards for Excellence in Industrial Design, and Hey Nostradamus! was nominated for the 2004 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book (Canada & Caribbean) and won the Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction.

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