Thursday 25 January 2007

Life After God by: Douglas Coupland

Life After God
Douglas Coupland

Pocket Books

ISBN 0671874330

(Other Editions Available)

This is one of those books that I have wanted to review for a while, but was unsure of how to approach it. I love the book and have read it over a half dozen times in less than two years. Yet it is such an atypical book that it is difficult to review. I can just be blunt and state that the book will grab you and draw you back in again and again.

The book is published as fiction, yet rumors have it that Coupland will admit that it is at least partially autobiographical. It is a collection of recollections, thoughts, memories and drawings by Coupland. It is the recount a man's life, and as we find out he is telling the story to find out how his life got to where it is. He wants a record for his daughter so that maybe she will understand him better. My favorite of the individual entries is:

"Now -- here is my secret:
I tell it to you with an openness of heart I doubt I shall ever achieve again, so I pray
that you are in a quiet room as you hear these words. My secret is that I need God - that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem capable of giving; to help me to be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond able to love." p.359

Every time I pick up this book, I get something more out of it. Sometimes I read it from beginning to end, and then at other times I just pick it up and read at random. This book deals with many of the 'big' questions all of us will have to deal with in our lives. Questions like: How do we deal with Loneliness? Anxiety? Failed relationships? How can we find quiet in our lives? It also deals with the question of being raised without a religion or belief system and how, as we age, we end up struggling with spiritual questions.

If you can track down the first edition hardcover it is worth it. It is in a different format and shape. With the dust jacket off, it looks like a prayer book or bible. If you read it without the jacket in public places people will often ask you what you are reading. This was intentional and the shape and design of this book are part of the art of the book, and part of the complexity Coupland has woven into it. The front cover of the hardback also has an outline of a hand, like a tracing of a child's hand. As we are all reaching out beyond ourselves in search of some greater meaning in life, we are reaching out like a child in search of a parent.

My hat is off to Coupland and this amazing work of art - on all the levels that it is art of the deepest level. Coupland has created a masterpiece that will become a classic, which will survive through the ages.

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